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  • Writer's pictureYumi La Blanca

Who Make Events? - Red Alert on the River Thames

(Photography: Mykadelica, Videos: Yumi)

It was time for the backstage to take the spotlight.

London’s beloved River Thames transmitted an alarming message ‘Throw Us A Line’ in beaming red flashlights. This showcase was organised by PLASA (the Professional Light and Sound Association) as a part of #WeMakeEvents campaigns on 11th August 2020.

From where we live in London, my husband and I could walk up to the Millenium Bridge, and witnessed the event in front of the Tate Modern, which was flashing the red light from its body too.

Prologue - behind the scenes

Around 6.30pm, the group of people wearing red tops was already eye-catching on the summery riversides. Some passers-by curiously asked us why many people, including ourselves, were wearing red.

Red is the colour to symbolise the art industries going into ‘red alert’, meaning they need an urgent, additional support from the government. Despite the 1.57bn emergency aid package announced in July to protect theatres, galleries and museums, they’re still afraid of being missed out, especially smaller venues and freelancers - hence the message ‘Throw Us A Line’.

The main participants were events sector workers who are usually ‘invisible’ backstage. Though not as loud as actors, musicians, dancers, who perform on stage, they’re the ones who make such events possible: lighting engineers, sound engineers, stage managers, constructors, logistics, ushers, cleaners, security guards, etc., etc.,… Without such people we can't have entertainment, and remember - when they appear in public, it’s when there is a problem in the scene...

It’s said that 70% of such ‘invisible’ job roles are filled by freelance workers, who aren’t entitled for the government’s furlough scheme. To raise awareness of their situation, their ‘stage’ was prepared along the River Thames.

The show - turn the light on

For a change, they were the performers. Those who registered were asked to wear red, and designated their socially-distanced spots in the areas covering London Eye, Royal Festival Hall, National Theatre, Tate Modern. Then, they downloaded an app to activate red flashlights from their mobiles, which not only painted the scenery red but also worked as a sort of spotlights on their existence.

Around the area where we were, the ‘show’ itself started approximately at 9pm. The bankside venues including Tate Modern, Shakespear’s Globe, even Oxo Tower had already been flashing red lights. Lining up on the Millenium Bridge and on the both banksides, the red-wearing team made the colour even more intense by activating the flashlights from their mobiles, showing solidarity.

The only flashy thing was the colour red: (as far as we know) no physical conflicts, no unnecessary shouting. It was rather a peaceful, educated protest, which reminds us of their professional organisation skills to support the otherwise hustling entertainment industries.

After their message-carrying boat passed under the Millenium Bridge, we heard their chant from a distance - ‘Throw Us A Line’...

Epilogue - the shows must go on in colours

Off the Thames, other London landmarks such as Royal Opera House, Royal Albert Hall, also showed their solidarity in red. Outside London too, including Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, numerous art venues have joined in similar styles.

In the art sectors, the stars are not only on front stage but also backstage. Those behind-the-scenes stars are the ones who make the entertainment industries alive, and their life stage should be more colourful than just red.

Walking home from the Millennium Bridge, I was wondering, while waiting for a response from the government, if there is a way we can make a little more support for such people.

So far, I’ve found these, but if you know other trustworthy sources of charity to benefit these people, please let me know.

#WeMakeEvents T-shirts for charity

To benefit the activity of Backup, the Technical Entertainment Charity (financial support to industry technical professionals working in live events, theatre, TV and film)

Direct donation to Backup

PLASA and ‘WeMakeEvents’


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