24/09/2021

LIVE 95

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The LIVE direct team had fewer than six people throughout the year, but at site the team grew – temp staff, floor managers, H&S, noise boys, stewards, security… I always felt it valuable to get the team comfortable with other members before going to site and asked one of our floor managers, John, to run one of his other activities – a Jack the Ripper guided tour of the East End. We had a full coach for the evening. Jeremy Beadle had also been a guide for these sorts of tours and was keen to join up with us.

I have to confess I hung back with Jeremy during the tour. He did nothing to upstage John’s presentation, but quietly added further facts for the few who were close. It was interesting to see him with those who recognised him. Outside one pub a motley crew of children, presumably their parents were inside, Jeremy knelt down and chatted with them all. It was a good evening and the larger at-site team had relaxed in each other’s company so that there was a lot of goodwill for when things would inevitably become tense at site.

Live 95 Tube Poster
ASIDE: We came up with deal with the Tube’s District Line that gave us poster sites in all 270 station ticket halls and they offered to sell admission to the show for the first time ever. So travellers could buy their tube ticket and entry to Live! To help promote this further we were allowed to apply stickers on every turnstile, in the location just below the ticket insertion slot, that much later became where Oyster Cards are swiped.

This third event had a strange beginning at site. On the first day of tenancy we only invited in those who were erecting steelworks and otherwise spent the day getting our facilities, banners and signage set up. But the new CEO of Earls Court, Doug Littlejohn, was lying in wait for me and his first words were ‘I will need you to certificate all your stands are safe, or else I won’t let you open in six days’ time’ – he had not even offered a ‘Welcome to site’.

He was a Navy ex-submariner who privately claimed to have sunk the Belgrano, but Kit on my team had been a subaltern for the SAS, and established that Doug had been nowhere near that sinking. However, Doug’s advice to Tom Clancy on The Hunt for Red October had him enjoined in a court case in the States suggesting secrets had been divulged in the book. This was never proven, and Doug would later work directly for Clancy as an advisor. But at Earls Court he became known as a bit of a panicker.

At the show prior to ours, Doug had walked around it with the Licensing Officer for the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. Shows need a certificate from the licensing officer before they can open, and this show had been issued with one. Doug unwisely said to the officer that he was surprised he had approved the show, one triple-decker stand in particular looked a little ‘naively’ constructed. The officer pointed out that he had not approved anything, he pulled out his copy of the certificate that clearly stated he had ‘raised no objection to the stands’, no hint of approval, certainly no suggestion of responsibility.

LIVE ’95 business card
Blenheim business card for ‘96

I palmed Doug off, saying I would come and see him later and we set a time. I wonder what might have happened to our industry if he had encountered an inexperienced organiser at this show, who might have signed off on something as requested. Instead I argued against his demand by saying how was I in any position to make any assessment of what was safe – and anyway how do you define safe? Had he asked me two or three decades earlier I might have said they are all made of asbestos, they are safe, and how stupid would I look today. We had a series of meetings across the early days of the build without reaching agreement.

Eventually we pulled out the Yellow Pages and looked up a local structural engineering firm. We quizzed them about the extent of their professional insurance and asked them to come and certificate our show. For future events they would get to see plans before arrival at site, but in this instance, they had to do their best with stands half-built. They agreed, and this meant we could all hide behind their professional insurance. I note that this same firm enjoyed a deal with most large shows for decades after this, they never once approached me to say thank, buy me a meal or give me a bottle or three of malt whisky. Still time!

Crowds queuing at Live ‘95

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