JR Richardson of VenueTech, Tony Lilleby of CognitAV, Micaela Blackman, Grant Ellis of Rage Noise, Nick Davidsen, Giles Burton, Sand McDougall and Wendy Clease are integral to Nelson’s events scene and now they are making their voices heard. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Local production staff plead for recognition


They usually are dressed in black and behind the scenes of our beloved local events but now they are turning red to let Nelsonians know they are out there and need support.

‘We Make Events’ is a global campaign started by the events industry which calls for greater recognition of producers amid the uncertainty of a Covid-19 pandemic.

“There are people in this industry that are suffering greatly,” says Wendy Clease.

“We are not used to speaking up because we are behind the scenes. But now it’s time to say that we need help too.”

So, to that end, next Wednesday venues around the city will be lit up red to remind people of those who work hard to make sure locals have events to go to.

Producers of festivals, theatre shows, grassroots venues and business events have all been in limbo without much support and say the entire supply chain is at risk of collapse.

JR Richardson, of VenueTech, says that if companies and people start leaving the industry, then, when events do start coming back, it will be difficult to put on projects for the public.

“No one is annoyed that we are in this situation,” he says. “We are an incredibly risk adverse industry, we are used to having the responsibility of our crew and audiences on our shoulders. [Level 2] has been the right thing to do but, because we agree with that, we have probably stayed quiet a little too long.”

Sand McDougall says that she has invested 30 years of her life into the industry and all of a sudden it was gone.

“It messes with your head. My sense of purpose has gone.”

Even though Nelson is now in Level 1, JR says the fear is the jumping back and forth between levels and the uncertainty that creates.

“It’s been a difficult gamble for people to say ‘yes’ to work not knowing what would be permitted to go ahead.”

Tony Lilleby, of CognitAV, says he still remembers in March when Level 4 was announced and how he watched email after email come through cancelling their shows.

In Level 1 there was a sniff of normality but that was all snatched away again.

“It’s pretty grim. I know some big AV companies that have been around for 30 years have dropped from 60 to 10 staff.”

Producer Giles Burton says the pandemic coincides with Nelson City Council slashing events budgets, which will now be very hard to get back.

But investing more in local productions would be one thing to help the local industry survive.

Sand says September 30 is about making people aware that they are here.

“We are always the people in the black, but we need to say we are here and we are worth something.”

More than anything they want people to come out to events when they are put on to try and pull the industry through this time.