Live music company, Live Nation, has indicated that it might pull out of staging concerts in London’s Hyde Park because of concerns about the tender process. The comments follow the recent disappointing and unpopular end to the Hard Rock Calling event where Bruce Springsteen and Sir Paul McCartney’s microphones were turned off during a duet.
The abrupt end to the Hard Rock Calling event was attributed to a need to comply with the license by the local authority but Live Nation claimed that it was a health and safety decision, a claim that was subsequently criticised by the Health and Safety Executive.
The current press reports suggest that criticism has been aimed at the tender document for holding events at the park in a letter written by Live Nation. It is understood that they cite concerns about a lack of recognition of the complexity and costs associated with holding large events in central London. They pointed to issues surrounding noise restrictions, crowd safety considerations associated with closing off nearby Park Lane and unrealistic revenue assumptions.
The impact of concerts and similar events upon those living within the vicinity of the park seems on the face of it to be a legitimate concern that must be addressed by those hoping to hold concerts there. Looking back to the Springsteen/McCartney incident it is not difficult to see the sense behind a decision to bring a concert to an end at the agreed time so as to avoid noise disturbance for the neighbours. Similarly, concerns about how to get the crowd out of the park and on its way home before public transport ends for the evening could equally justify such a decision but are the health and safety concerns legitimate?
There can be no doubt that the owner of the park and the organiser of the concert will each shoulder some health and safety responsibilities. That is entirely right and proper. They must look after their employees involved in setting up, running and hosting the event and also those attending. Some obvious issues that the organiser of a concert might have in mind when thinking about crowd safety would be assessing the appropriate number of people to have at any particular event, ensuring safe means of entering and leaving the event and ensuring that the area used by the crowd is in a suitable condition.
Although the detail of the complaint made by Live Nation has not been reported it sounds as though the concern arises from a restriction on the number of possible exit routes. We know from the tragic consequences of events like the Hillsborough disaster that it is absolutely vital that there is a sound plan in place to get the anticipated number of people in and out of the venue in a controlled way so it cannot be said that the complaint is without substance but from the point of view of health and safety alone it is unlikely to be insurmountable. The solution lies as always in risk assessment which would involve identifying where the problems arise and finding proportionate ways to control any risk of harm.
These comments are not intended to belittle what is in fact a heavy duty of care toward the crowd and it is undoubtedly the case that crowd control issues will justify close attention to detail that cannot be described as “elf and safety gone mad”. There have been no criminal charges raised as a result of the Hillsborough tragedy as yet but a loss of life caused by inadequate planning of an event in the current climate of enforcement could result in prosecution of an organiser such as Live Nation for offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act and the Corporate Manslaughter legislation. Being found guilty under either head would attract a substantial fine and extremely damaging publicity.
On balance, the decision to pull the plug on a couple of rock legends may not have been easily justified by health and safety concerns but challenging crowd safety issues for the future may be entirely appropriate.