'Nowhere is immune from the possibility of an attack': ILMC examines concert security, post-Manchester

'Nowhere is immune from the possibility of an attack': ILMC examines concert security, post-Manchester

Concert security was brought back under the microscope on day two of the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in London.

In the wake of last year's attacks in Manchester and Las Vegas, and the Bataclan atrocity of 2015, the panel - Security: Rock and a hard place - followed on from October's inaugural Event Safety & Security Summit, which was organised by the team behind ILMC. 

Chair Chris Kemp, a former promoter and venue manager, now of Mind Over Matter Consultancy, said: "To put it in perspective, last year there were 4.3 million major events across Europe and I can count the attacks on those venues on one hand. But the actual devastation they caused was huge.

"Manchester's kind of a watershed," he added, "and it's changed everything that we'd ever considered as safe practice as an event."

Pascal Viot, of Switzerland's Paleo Festival, warned against focusing too much on the method of attack used in recent incidents. "Human psychology makes us stay focused on the last event and the last modus operandi and this stops from thinking about all the other possibilities of attack," he said, "Terrorism history has shown that attacks have been always in response to security strategies, so it's probably a mistake to stay focused on the last attack.

"Probably the main problem is that we still consider security and safety as several simple tasks to be done. Nowadays, it's a complex situation and we need people reflecting and seeing the whole picture."

Mark Logan, of event security specialist Showsec, questioned whether the new measures implemented at concerts post-Manchester were sustainable. 

"We as an industry in the UK are still reactive to what happened in Manchester and beyond in other places in that we threw the kitchen sink in terms of counter-terrorism at events to make events safe to get the ticket buyers back out coming to concerts again," he said. "I'm unsure how sustainable it is in that there's a financial element to it, there's a comfort element to it in terms of customers coming to an event, and how much that they will be compliant with the checks and the regulations that we put in place.

"So I don't think we're at the point yet of being able to define what the change is. I think we've been very reactive, and positively reactive, to guard the assets and the industry and the economy of the industry and the people coming to the events."

Logan pointed out the potential conflict between counter-terrorism and crowd management.

"One side wants to look after the safe flow in and out of the customers, whereas counter terrorism can be seen as an inhabitant element that's there to stop movement," he said. "So it's getting that fine balance and ensuring that both those elements are dovetailed from a strategic point of view."

However, he was confident any issues could be resolved. "Their ultimate aim is to allow people to come to events safely so they both have the same aim - it's ensuring that they're tied up together," he said. 

Andy Smith, of West Midlands CTU, said: "Firstly it's important to emphasise and realise that nowhere is immune from the possibility of an attack. I regularly will get asked about is it likely to happen again and the answer is, being realistic, yes of course it is. I can't tell you where and I can't tell you when or how but I can with some conviction say yeah, it will, and we'd all be naive to think otherwise. 

"If they can see what your procedures are and they can see that your procedures might be lacking, they will spot those and they will maximise the opportunities that they present. 

"Again, to reiterate what's already been said, we tend to follow on from the last attack and expect that's what will happen. That is not necessarily going to be the case."

ILMC 30 continues today with its third and final day at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. To read our day one report, click here.

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