Event Organisers Update September 2020 ISSUE 190 - an independent information source published by the Society of Event Organisers (SEO).

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Event Organisers Update

The newsletter for organisers of events.

NEWS

COVID BITES HARDER
As well as live events having to be cancelled.in favour of virtual presentations the Covid tragedy is forcing some other changes.

In Birmingham's Hockley district a bar, PBs on Key Hill has been closed for ignoring regulations on social distancing, the same breach that has closed a bar, Blossoms in North Street, Wolverhampton. (TheBusinessDesk.com)

A man from Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, has been fined £1,000 for failing to quarantine following a trip to Spain. He later tested positive for Covid-19 and had been out in Enniskillen. A 26-year-old American woman, who worked at the Edelwiess Lodge and Resort Hotel in Garmisch-Pertenkirchen, Bavaria is facing a 2,000 euro fine for going on a pub crawl whilst showing symptoms of Covid-19, and after she had been told to self-isolate when tested. Her test proved positive and it is estimated she infected more than 40 others in the town.

 A 19-year-old in Nottingham has been fined £10,000 for holding a large house party. The police say the young man was given a number of opportunities to comply with the law but chose not to, and defended the fine as "sending a clear massage" Meanwhile thousands of people are still travelling across the country to attend illegal raves, despite the threat of £10,000 fines handed out to organisers. Nearly 3,000 arrived in Banwen, South Wales for the purpose and another 500 travelled to Thetford Forest, Norfolk for the same reason.

The EventCity venue in Trafford, Manchester is to close on March 31 next year and the plans for a new venue in the city have been scrapped. This followed the scrapping of the October 1 restart date for conferences and exhibitions.

 

COMFORT ZONES
Only one in ten Britons currently say they would feel comfortable booking a holiday abroad within a month of departure, according to a survey by YouGov.

With a 6 to 9-month lead time the figure rises to 26%, with a 9 to 12-month lead time to 41%, with a 1 to 2 years lead time to 57% and with 2 years or more to 63%.

In terms of accommodation 50% would feel comfortable staying in privately rented units while 42% would feel comfortable in hotels. Comfort for places to visit while away is 51 % for a museum, 50% for the beach and High Street shops, 47% for restaurants, 28% for bars and 10% for nightclubs.

In another YouGov survey respondents were asked which venues in the UK they would currently feel "very comfortable" or "fairly comfortable" visiting. Results showed 80% OK with parks and gardens, 65% with heritage attractions, 57% with museums, 54% with art galleries, 39% with cinemas, 37% with live outdoor music events, 36% with theatres and 34% with live indoor music events.

In addition, 57% said the main thing any venue would need to do was to have well-managed and policed social distancing in place.

 

CLEANING UP THE BBC?
Organisers hiring BBC presenters for their events may have to look for alternatives in future.

The new broom at the BBC, director-general Tim Davie, has announced that is clamping down on presenters taking fees, often substantial, from private companies. He feels that they run a real risk of a conflict of interest, and compromising their own, and the BBC's impartialily He has promised more clarity over presenters declaring their earnings for non-BBC work, and who is paying them.

BBC employees employed by private companies include BBC Breakfast's Naga Munchetty, rebuked by the BBC for appearing in a public relations video for Aston Martin, and North American editor Jon Sopel, who has been paid to speak at events staged by US bank J.P.Morgan. Fiona Bruce, the Question Time host had agreed to speak at a company conference but had to pull out when the company employing her was accused of inadvertently assisting the issue of passports to criminals.

Davie has also promised a clampdown on BBC employees voicing their personal opinions in newspapers and on social media, with Newsnight presenter Emily Mathis, its policy editor Lewis Goodhall, and presenter Gary Lineker identified for such breaches.

 

CURFEW REACTION
The reaction of the hospitality industry to the 10.00pm curfew now imposed has not been positive.

According to the Hardens restaurant guide chefs and restaurant owners have described it as "an incredibly stupid idea" pointing out that sending everyone home at the same time, perhaps on public transport, is potentially dangerous, as is the possibility that diners will leave Covid-safe environments in restaurants and bars and socialise in each other's homes. Social distancing becomes more disregarded as people become more intoxicated. and later of an evening when it is cold and dark.

The curfew makes it difficult to impossible for restaurants to table turn and have more than one sitting in an evening.

 

HOTELS OFFER REMOTE WORKING
Do you work from home? Are you one of the 23%, estimated at more than 4 million, who feel they are less productive because of all the at-home distractions?

If so, and you feel you could do a better job in the peace and quiet of a nearby hotel room there are many UK, and overseas hotels now offering the chance to rent a daytime room at "a discounted rate on the normal overnight rate."

However it might be more economical, in some cases, to book at the normal overnight rate and pay the extra charges for an early check-n and a late check-out As a low-cost example the modern Ibis Hotel in the centre of Stevenage quoted us £39 for a one-night midweek stay on September 30 with a £10 fee to arrive at 10.00am instead of 2.00pm, subject to availability. We could also, subject to availability, check out later on the 1st October, 4.00pm instead of noon.

So, our total time working in the peace of our hotel room would be from 10.00am on the check in day till 4.00pm on the checkout day, including a bed for the night, would be 30 hours, for a total of £59, or a little less than £2 per hour for what would amount to two days working. If we just took the standard timings, from 2.00pm on the check in day to 12.00 noon on the check-out day we would get 22 hours for £39, still less than £2 per hour. Meals would be the only extras and Wi-Fi and tea/coffee are free at the Ibis.

Worth a thought for all that extra peace and productivity?

 

ON-LINE INFLUENCE
Those companies and organisations that feel that their exposure to government ministers, and private conversations with them, will help get them decisions in their financial favour are asked to pay up to £25,500, plus VAT, to take a virtual exhibition stand at this year's Conservative Party conference.

This replaces the traditional fundraiser for the party, cancelled due to the current pandemic. Normally held as a traditional event in Birmingham and thought to be worth around £20 million to the city the virtual event takes place from Sunday October 4 till Wednesday October 7.

 

MEET ON THE NET
The Meetings Show, running from Monday October 19 to Wednesday October 21, will be fully virtual this year, due to the rise in coronavirus infections in the UK.

When it was announced that conferences and exhibitions could start again on October 1, which has since been scrapped, the organisers had planned to run it as a hybrid, with some virtual and some live content.

 

BUSTER KEATON: 3 FILMS (VOLUME 3)
Fans of the stone-faced Buster Keaton, multi-talented American actor, director, comedian, screenwriter and stunt performer, are in for a treat with this latest compilation of his silent comedy films from the 1920's, released by Eureka Entertainment last month.

o  OUR HOSPITALITY made nearly a century ago in 1923, is the earliest of the five Keaton comedies featured in the directory of film reviews "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" Arguably one of Keaton's finest movies this is a fictional parody of the real life and bloody feud that, in the 1880s, killed more than a dozen members of the Hatfield family, mostly from West Virginia, and the McCoy family, mostly from over the border in Kentucky. For Keaton's film these are re-named the "Canfields" and the "McCays", whose main purpose in life is to end that of each other’s.

Keaton plays the lead role of 20-year-old Willie McCay, whose father was killed when Willie was just one year old by a Canfield who also died in the shoot-out. Willie has only just been told about the daft and deadly feud as he announces his intention to leave his New York home and travel down to his Southern birthplace to claim his former family home, his journey being by a train engine based on Stephenson's Rocket pulling stagecoach carriages along a rickety track. In the carriage with him is an attractive young lady called Virginia, played by actress Natalie Talmadge (Keaton's wife, who he married in 1921) and the two have fallen in love by the time the train, after a series of amusing mishaps, reaches its destination.

Here Virginia is greeted by her father and two brothers, who just happen to be called Canfield, and Willie innocently and unknowingly asks one of the brothers where he can find the McCay estate.  This sparks a resolve by the Canfields, now they realise who he is, to kill him, which becomes more of a possibility after Willie meets Virginia again and she, innocently and unknowingly invites him to supper at the family home. The problem for the vengeful Canfields is that it is against their "Our Hospitality" code of ethics to kill a guest while in their home, so while Willie is inside, he is safe, but when he is outside it is a very different matter.

The subsequent chase around the countryside gives Keaton the chance to showcase one of the many dangerous stunts in his films he performed himself, in this case swinging on a rope into a waterfall and grabbing Virginia before she can be carried over it, a sequence that many viewers will be winding back and repeating.

o GO WEST (1925) With this one Keaton showcased pathos as Friendless, a touching Chaplin type figure who is introduced in the film with: "Some people travel through life making friends where ever they go, while others - just travel through life."

Selling all his worldly goods to a greedy storekeeper for a hunk of bread and a large sausage Friendless follows the reported advice of New York Daily Tribune editor Horace Greeley to "Go West young man, go West and grow up with the country” and stows away in one of the goods trucks in a train going to Arizona He offers himself as a cowboy to a rancher, who gives him a job trying to milk a cow that is not giving any, Brown Eyes, played by herself. Unsuccessful at this Friendless notice that Brown Eyes has a painful limp, owing to a sharp rock caught in one of her hooves. Friendless removes the rock and makes his first friend for life as the grateful animal follows him everywhere, even protecting him from an attack by a wild bull. In return Friendless gives her his blanket to keep her warm at night and scares away some wolves, by jumping away in fright through an open window.

Things get really sad for our hero when he learns that his beloved is going off to be slaughtered, along with a thousand others, at the Union Stockyards in Los Angeles and he resolves to save her, first offering the rancher back the pay he has earned and told it is only half of what Brown Eyes is worth, as a carcass  Friendless then tries, without success, to win some money in a card game with two cheating cowboys, and finally ends up on the train taking the cattle, and his beloved, to be killed.

In Los Angeles Friendless leads all the animals in a stampede through the streets of the city, and in its shops, amusingly terrorising the locals, until he delivers all the doomed beasts to the stockyard, excepting Brown Eyes of course.

If a chubby faced lady in the department store scene looks familiar to film buffs it is because it is the famous director and star of silent comedies Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in a small bit part. Keaton and Arbuckle had been good friends since Arbuckle gave Keaton his film debut in The Butcher Boy in 1917, eight years before.  And Keaton spoke up for Arbuckle at the 1921/1922 trials of his friend for allegedly causing the death by violent sexual assault of a 26-year-old actress and model, Virginia Rappe at one of Arbuckle's San Francisco parties. Arbuckle was acquitted at the April 12, 1922 trial with the jury handing him an unprecedented written apology for the ordeal a corrupt legal system had put him through, but his career and personal life were badly damaged. Ten days after his acquittal his good friend Keaton signed an agreement to give him 35% of the profits from Buster Keaton Comedies Co. 

o COLLEGE (1927) Though Keaton did dozens of stunts that expensive stars today would not be allowed to do, the one known time he hired a double to assist him was in this film.

College features Keaton as Ronald, a very serious and gifted high school student who believes that indulging in sports and games during education is a waste of time. This puts him at odds with other students at his new college for whom athletic prowess is just as important as academic, if not more so, this also being a view held by his love interest from high school, Mary Haynes played by Anne Cornwall. Accordingly, Mary dumps Ronald and takes up with athletic college jock Jeff.

Stung by this rejection Ronald resolves to win her back by becoming proficient in the sports and games at Clayton college. His efforts are doomed to failure as he displays his ineptitude for baseball, hurdling, hammer and javelin throwing and pole-vaulting, much to the cackling amusement of Jeff and his cronies. However, he does score some points with Mary, who admires him for trying. Finally, he is given a chance as coxswain of the college rowing team for a boat race, which his team wins, despite their boat sinking before they can climb ashore.

At this time Ronald takes a part-time job as a waiter, another disaster for which he disguises himself by going blackface to keep it from Mary. In 1927 the blackface element was not thought offensive but is today, and there is an appropriate warning at the start of the film.

Finally, Ronald's luck starts to turn as Jeff is expelled from Clayton and kidnaps Mary to leave with him and marry him. This gives Ronald the chance to race to her aid, sprinting and hurdling like a champion on the way to her dormitory where the evil Jeff is holding Mary locked in an upstairs room. Fortunately, there is a small window to the room which is open and viewers see Ronald grab a long washing pole from a line of washing and pole-vault through the open window, to then throw household objects at him to defeat Jeff, in the process demonstrating his mastery of javelin throwing and shot putting.

In fact, the pole-vault was one of the few items in the range of athletics that Keaton had failed to master, and he used an Olympic pole-vault champion to do the deed for him. This was 21-year-old American Lee Barnes who had won gold at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris three years earlier when he was just 18 years old.

BUSTER KEATON: THREE FILMS (VOLUME 3) has been released as a 3,000 copy Limited Edition Three Disc Box Set as part of Eureka's Masters of Cinema Series. The pack includes new audio commentaries, new video essays, a documentary, one of Keaton's last short films, the Railrodder from 1965 and a collector’s booklet.

 

FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO 
Director Billy Wilder's second film is his well-regarded black and white espionage thriller of 1943 set in the Egypt of WW11 and based on the 1917 play Hotel Imperial.

The 17 room Empress of Britain hotel in the North African desert is run by owner Farid (Akim Tamiroff) assisted by his feisty French maid Mouche (Anne Baxter) his cook having fled and his club-footed waiter Davos, secretly a German spy, having just been killed by German bombing, with his body still buried under rubble in the basement. Into the hotel stumbles Corporal Bramble (Franchot Tone) the only survivor from a British tank crew attacked by Rommel's Afrika Korps Suffering from heatstroke Bramble is treated by the kindly Farid and Mouche and hidden as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (Erich von Stroheim) with Lieutenant Schwegler (Peter van Eyck) and their men arrive to take over the hotel as their headquarters.

Realising his predicament Bramble retrieves the special shoes worn by Davos from his body in the cellar and poses as the waiter/German spy, who the Germans are unaware has been killed. Rommel, who Bramble plans to shoot at breakfast the next day tells him he is to be transferred to Cairo the next evening. Meanwhile a group of captured British soldiers are brought in for a lunch with Rommel and one realises that Bramble is not Davos. The two men agree however that Bramble will not kill Rommel but will gather military intelligence instead. At the luncheon Rommel cannot resist showing off how clever he is to have established a string of five secret supply dumps across Egypt to aid in its conquest. In fact, unbeknown to the British Rommel spent time before the war disguised as an archaeologist and excavating five tombs - the five graves to Cairo - to then fill with supplies. Bramble listens to Rommel's cryptic bragging and correctly works out where the five locations are.

Mouche has her own reasons for wanting to keep Rommel alive as she has a young wounded brother held in a concentration camp that she is hoping Rommel can free. When it is obvious this is not going to happen Lieutenant Schwegler convinces her he can help and then shows her telegrams to and from Germany that he has faked, to earn her gratitude and win some physical reward. Meanwhile Schwegler finds the body of Davos in the cellar and, after a fight, is killed by Bramble, a murder for which Mouche gets the blame, leading to the sad conclusion.

We personally enjoyed all the excellent performances by the cast, and particularly that of Peter van Eyck in his early debut as a nasty Nazi, as well as Erich von Stroheim's turn as the arrogant Rommel, Anne Baxter's beguiling French maid and Franchot Tone's urbane hero.

Five Graves to Cairo was released on Blu-ray last month by Eureka Entertainment as part of its Masters of Cinema Series. The pack contains an audio commentary, an interview with Billy Wilder on this and some of his other early films, the "Five Graves to Cairo" episode of Lux Radio Theatre starring Franchot Tone and Anne Baxter and a collector’s booklet.

 

OLD GRIT'S DIARY

Saturday
We enjoyed a recent article first published in the Financial Times, and then in the i paper headed "Is this the end of corporate entertainment as we know it?" by Katie Martin.

In this Martin, a journalist in the financial sector, tells of financial schmoozing thus. "The deal is this: The hosts dish out tasty snacks and booze, you chat to bankers and investors, and the PR people nervously hang over your shoulder in case anyone says something interesting, always ready to swoop in with a reminder that the evening's proceedings are strictly off the record. Executives pretend never to have met you before when in fact they have been feeding you tips for years. The flacks stay sober all night and can hear a banker telling you something juicy from 50 paces" She goes on to say however that there are some useful benefits from the events, not least of which are that the chit-chat often leads to stories or ideas,  that you get to gossip, at someone else's expense, with other journos and former colleagues and that posh canapes are "God's own food", although "they never fill you up".

Of course, the high risks of networking with other people in Covid times has killed off such PR events, along with conferences and exhibitions. Like many journos though we are now looking forward to these things happening again, whenever it is so we can have drinks, canapes and the event industry grapevine to enjoy.

See you there?

 

Sunday
Restaurateurs, presumably looking for a way to turn a profit in these challenging times, are going down the gimmick road, it seems.

In Brussels diners are suspended at a table for four, socially distanced, 50 metres above the pavement opposite the city's Metropole Hotel. There are eight tables available on the nine-ton metal structure suspended from a crane at the new Dinner in the Sky 2.0 New Generation restaurant. Dinner in the Sky is a Belgian concept from 2006 and the company has restaurants on 60 countries, including one in London, near the Eye. Lunch prices range from £138 per person, with dinners from £169.

Silly question perhaps but what if you, or any of your guests need the loo whilst suspended?

And those who like avocado are well looked after at The Avocado Show, a restaurant that has avocado in almost every dish. Three have been open in Amsterdam for the last three years and is now tipped to open soon in London, Paris and Madrid. Apparently, we currently scoff around 100 million kilos of the fruit.

Sadly, not everyone is a fan of dedication to one ingredient when they go out to eat, with some who have been to one of the Amsterdam eateries describing it as "A marketing stunt" and "A restaurant built for Instagram."

 

Monday
Sad to see another group hell-bent on dangerously protesting during the pandemic, following Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter is calling itself We Do Not Consent.

This one is unhappy about following government rules, many made law, to slow the current exponential spread of Covid-19. Thousands of demonstrators have packed into Trafalgar Square for the last two weekends and more than 20 police officers have been injured in angry clashes. The police have had to disperse the demonstrators owing to their refusal to socially distance and the organisers took no action to ask participants to comply with the rules

FOODIE NEWS

o Those looking to buy good quality beef steaks from an internet supplier can check out two that we have bought from and will be going back to.

One is the Warrendale Wagyu company in Yorkshire where we took advantage of a special offer of a box of 10 x 227g rump steaks for £50, delivery included. These we gave a score of 7 out of 10 for tenderness and flavour in our home tasting trial, which was the same score as we gave to the special Aberdeen Angus ribeyes from Aldi (see Foodie News, July) The only sample that did better was the wagyu ribeye at more than twice the price which we scored at 8. Currently a box of 10 x 227g wagyu rumps is £70 delivered.

The other is Donald Russell from Scotland where we bought two boxes containing their Signature Steak Selection. Each box was £35 delivered and contained 2x centre cut 160g fillet steaks, 2x 230g sirloins and 2x 230g ribeyes. On a subsequent tasting we scored the fillets at 7 and the sirloins and ribeyes at 6, as for our money they were very good but not quite as flavoursome as the wagyu meat which has a lot of fat marbling.

 

o Given the above we were intrigued to note that a company in Israel, Redefine Meats, is marketing fake steak made from plant-based proteins and cut on a 3D printer.

Apparently, the ingredients include protein from soya beans and peas, with coconut fat and sunflower oil and are all plant based and vegan. It seems there’s a race on to bring fake steaks, which will cost around the same as the real thing.

If anyone, gets a chance to try the fake stuff for taste against a juicy piece of dead animal we would love to hear from them, and try it for ourselves, for publication.

NEXT ISSUE

Gary Lineker leaves the BBC, telling the press "I should have stuck to something I'm good at, like selling crisps"... The Conservative party reveals the lucrative financial gains that have been made by companies taking a virtual exhibition stand at the party conference... A new vegan restaurant opens in London serving dishes based on pea protein. The owner comments "I'm proud to say that every dish enjoyed by our valued customers has got pea in it"... Demonstrators for We Do Not Consent say that they defend their right to catch Covid-19 and die from it, as well as infect and kill others… Following a number of Covid deaths tracked and traced back to We Do Not Consent demonstrations the organisers are made responsible for medical and funeral bills, and put on trial for manslaughter... and much, much more...

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