• Bg Chatsworth House Library

Security: Rock and a hard place

Security: Rock and a hard place

Chair: Chris Kemp, MOM Consultancy (UK)

Guest speakers:
Coralie Berael, Forest National Arena (BE)
Tony Duncan, U2 (UK)
Mark Logan, Showsec (UK)
Andrew Smith, WMCTU (UK)
Pascal Viot, Paléo Festival (CH)

Last year, there were 4.3million events in Europe, and you can count on one hand the number of attacks, chair Chris Kemp of MOM Consulting reminded the room.

“But the impact on us has been huge,” he added.

Tony Duncan from U2's security explained the band was filming not far from the Bataclan when the attacks happened. “We had to enact not just artist evacuation but 100 crew members and HBO filming crew too,” he said, explaining that good pre-planning and a good command and control structure were key to success. “The artists suddenly saw their security team change from affable to very abrupt people. We had to do things very quickly and efficiently.” He said artists don’t always respond in the way you might want them to when you tell them what to do, with no argument. And immediately after the fact, artists often want to use social media to communicate. But that’s not always the best thing to do.

As a result of their experience, he said a set of procedures was developed to make things quicker and more efficient. They now have a code word, which, if used, means the band member doesn’t argue and just does as they’re told, and social media is limited.

Paléo Festival’s Pascal Viot from Switzerland said the attacks on Bataclan and Manchester have left event organisers facing unexpected issues. The industry leapt into action and put into place measures to reassure crowds. But, he cautioned, we need to remember not to focus on the last method of attack, at the expense of focussing on other types.

“High levels of crowd control create huge congestion before security, which makes for an easy target,” he said.

He added: “Festivalgoers don’t need to know everything about our strategy. We need to lower the anxiety levels and make [counterterrorism measures] less visible.

Mark Logan from UK security company Showsec said: “We, as an industry, are still really active to what happened in Manchester. We took off at 100mph to do something and threw the kitchen sink at events to show ticket buyers they’re safe. I’m not sure how sustainable it is because of the financial element and customer comfort.

“Promoters need to show customers it’s safe but don’t want to go over the top and frighten people.”


Coralie Berael, from Belgium’s Forest National Arena, recounted her experience of the terrorist attack in Brussels. She said police warned them the terror threat was high. The band heard about what was happening in the city and didn’t want to perform, but the venue managed to persuade the act to go on. But towards the end of the gig, Brussels went into lockdown and the venue was told it was the target for the attack.

“We learned it’s important to know your stuff. Have a safety plan. And that everyone knows about it. But the key thing was the relationship we had with the police and how we communicate with each other,” she said.

“We’ve used various styles of communication from military style and informative, to persuasive and reassuring.”

Her advice: Plan what to say in advance, and how to say it in different contexts.

She also said she’d been given good advice by a lawyer and an insurance expert: “because you have to make snap decisions there might not be great documentation. You can’t say, ‘I’ll send you an email.’ We’ve started to log more during concerts.”

Andy Smith from West Midlands Police Counter Terrorism Unit told the room it’s important to emphasise that nowhere is immune from the possibility of attack. “Realistically it’s likely to happen again. We don’t know where or how or when. We would be naive to think otherwise. You can’t second guess thoughts of spectrum of terror groups.”

One of the best things you can do is to have high-quality staff, he advised. “It comes down to attitude and quality of staff you use. They make a huge difference. Do you want them to be helpful? Yes, of course. Should they be polite? Yes. But you also want them to be robust.”

What impact has the attacks had on artists and their rider demands?, Kemp asked.

Berael said American artists are terrified of playing Brussels, explaining that their riders asked for a small army of security. So it’s up to the venue to explain its security measures.

Duncan said: “The simple way I put artists at ease is proving people are communicating and that they’ve done pre-event planning,” he added.