Education and training in the staging and production industries is a world-wide issue. This was borne out at the March International Live Music Conference (ILMC) held at the five star Royal Gardne Hotel In West London.ILMC is the annual gathering of professionals involved in the global touring, festival and live entertainment industries.  It was equally clear from the discussion points that the success stories of the initiatives within the staging & production’s private sector is paramount.

The session chairman Bryan Grant of Britannia Row Productions said that when it came to education, his company had taken matters into its own hands when preparing for the future by setting up its own training school last year.

Backing up the importance of onsite training, David Hughes explained that the Backstage Academy offered students a foundation degree course, but took them away from university to place them into a working venue. “That way they get hands-on training in a venue, rather than theory in a college,” said Hughes.

Grant commented, “Kids come out of colleges with a sound engineering qualification, not having been taught anything about the live side of the business. Then you have to tell them the sad truth that they might have to load a truck or push boxes, when they thought they’d just be there to mix the Rolling Stones.”

However, Rachel Haughey of the Youth Production Network (YPN) pointed to the approach of a possible solution to such situations. “Every live event needs young people and there are some incredible young people out there,” she said, citing some of the people YPN has worked with in the likes of Burkina Faso, Mali and other part of West Africa. “You can find talent in every corner of the world and I’m totally blown away by the massive events that the young people we deal with are organising.”

Roger Barrett of Star Events Group noted that, “Putting up a stage requires a small amount of people who know what they are doing… Anybody can buy a stage roof, so it’s very easy to get into the temporary structures business without any knowledge at all.” He said that his company supports a number of university courses, but admitted that it struggled to find crew. “The people that go to university for three years don’t tend to be the people who want to get their hands dirty.”

South African delegates from the likes of Stageco, Gearhouse and Upstaging spoke about their training programmes and the problems of high levels of turnover among crews, while there were also questions about who was mentoring crew chiefs when it came to the likes of new technology. And delegate Freddie Nyathela, from the South African Roadies Association, concluded that ‘if the industry leaders do not change their attitude to training, the business would not be able to grow and ultimately would not be sustainable’