Industry News

A letter from the new UKCMA chair, Eric Stuart

It is now four months since I was elected as Chair of the UKCMA. The ten years Mark Harding served as Chair were without doubt some of the most challenging in crowd management as we moved from worrying about crowds hurting themselves, to those same crowds being deliberately targeted by others. Throughout that period, he steered the Association and maintained links with the staggering number of agencies and organisations who represent the various parts of the events industry. I cannot move forward without paying tribute to him and giving thanks on behalf of the whole association for his work. Thank you, Mark.

Until now I have deliberately maintained ‘radio silence’ but it is time to move forward and move forward we must, and we will. It is with both trepidation and excitement that I begin to chair an association whose raison d’être is to keep people safe in crowded spaces, our most vulnerable areas. Our task seems so simple; ‘The mission of the UKCMA is to improve standards of crowd management witHin entertainment, sporting and public events’. If only the delivery were as simple as the mission statement.

We face many challenges, both big and small. Not least of those is to persuade others that we are not an association of big security companies’ intent on looking after its own interests. One look at the current membership, and that of its board, would, we hope, persuade most that is not the case. If that is not enough, I hope our actions in the coming months will prove it once and for all.

It is always inspirational for me to sit in a room surrounded by event professionals who are actually competitors but come together to share ideas and problems without fearing criticism or competition from the others in the room. That is rare and it is a facet of UKCMA that I most admire. The sense of community and support in the room contrasts markedly from other conferences and meetings we all attend where competition is the focus. It is an amazing bedrock principle on which to build and which we will maintain. We have an industry that agrees on much yet disagrees on perhaps even more. In 2019, I wonder how we can still have such variance as to whether a safe standing density is 2 People per Square Metre at some events (P/M 2 ) yet 4.7 in a sports ground. Of course, it is all about context but so many do not understand that.

In fact, even within our own specialist subject we remain split on how to even express density; some remain with Square Metres per Person (M2 /P) as is given in fire guidance, whilst others follow the Green and Purple Guides expressing it as P/M2 . We cannot even agree how to write it down!

One of my first tasks will be to try to seek consistency within our industry and then argue for others to follow suit and of course we must not forget that guidance is simply that ‘guidance’ and that all crowd safety should be based and assessed on a bespoke risk management plan. Similarly, fire evacuation guidance still insists on a flow rate for crowds leaving buildings of 109 People per Metre per Minute (P/M/M) whilst most of us would agree that the Green and Purple guide figure of 82 is itself optimistic for many of our crowds. More worrying is that so many event organisers simply quote either of these figures without giving any rational thought to the nature of the ground these people will walk on or the people themselves. How can industry professionals’ take a figure from guidance and apply the same numbers to an EDM crowd in a warehouse and an English Heritage crowd on a wet sloping field?

Why, fourteen years (at least) after we started talking about the ‘grey space’ are we still talking about the ‘last mile’ and ‘zone ex’ without some government decision on shared responsibility on safety in public spaces? Why do we still have major events that are not subject to any form of SAG scrutiny to support partners in delivering them safely? Why do we not even have consistency or standards of competence in SAGs? Why are police charges still being argued about two years after Ipswich v Suffolk Police?Why can I tell an organiser that their safety plan for crowds is utter non-sense, but know that within a few hours, someone else will step into the role and ‘sign off’ a plan which is full of holes? And why, oh why, do we still have absolutely no consistency in the application of any powers or policies across the UK?

Scanning back on the above list makes for daunting reading but, it is a list that affects our clients when they are at their most vulnerable; ‘relaxed’, tired, drunk and sometimes drugged. It affects our children, nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters and even our parents. We are duty bound to try our best to remedy as many of these as we can (and that list is by far from complete). Some describe crowd management as a science, others an artform. The truth is that it is all of these and more: Maths, Physics, Psychology, Behaviours and an understanding of Heuristics are all combined with the Knowledge, Ability, Training and Experience (KATE) of the crowd safety manager, the knowledge of the site, venue, crowds, transport network and development of models to help plan for safe crowds all play a part. Yet we undertake a role unrecognised by many in the industry and even those that know the name ‘crowd manager’ vastly underestimate its complexity.

Those skills need to be recognised, formalised and a proper development path made available to those who wish to undertake it. We manage crowds from hundreds, to hundreds of thousands, from festivals to protests, from railways stations to shop-ping centres and from Christmas light events to enormous sporting events. We are responsible, on a daily basis, for the lives and safety of millions across the UK yet are barely recognised by the authorities. That must change and more attention paid to the work we do as ‘competent’ persons under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Anyone fitting the criteria of crowd management who is prepared to take up the challenge and join us within the UKCMA to start to tackle these matters is welcome and those in other organisations who wish to lead with our support are very welcome to seek it; and this will not be limited to the UK. Many of us work in far flung countries where safety standards are poor and sometimes non-existent. We intend to work alongside any country who will genuinely sign up with the intent of keeping people safe!

First steps are already underway to work with the United States and Canadian Event Safety Alliance, but these are first steps with many others to follow. So, this is a rallying call, a call to arms if you like, to you and to your workers. Your staff, your teams and the public alike deserve the best we can offer, and it is your choice. You can be part of the problem, or part of the solution, but we will only entertain the latter as members of the UKCMA.

Bec Baker
Author: Bec Baker

Rebecca is the Editor of The Crowd magazine and Director of Dynamize Marketing. Rebecca was one of the youngest Chartered Marketers in the world at the age of just 26 and has a vast understanding of strategic marketing application in the crowd safety and security industries.