Event Organisers Update October 2020 ISSUE 191 - 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

A GLORIOUS NOOSE
Some readers may have seen communications from restaurants advising them that the government is allowing gatherings of more than two household members in the higher tiers of restrictions provided that the purpose of the gathering "is reasonably necessary for work purposes." This has been described by food critic William Sitwell as "a glorious loophole."

Sadly, despite encouragements to exploit the perceived loophole from London restaurants in the Corbin and King group, and Veeraswamy, organising a business lunch on this basis, and deeming it reasonably necessary for work purposes could well turn out to be a glorious noose for those who attend to stick their necks in. According to an article on the subject in the Financial Times the lawyers Lewis Silkin say that potential business lunch organisers need to ask themselves the logical question that should always be asked and that is "What business are you transacting over lunch that couldn't be done by other means?" After all, in the first few months of the pandemic all businesses had to get used to boring Zoom meetings rather than slap-up meals so what's changed?

Apparently, our government has been careless in drawing up the letter of the law on this one, but the spirit and objective always remains and that is to cut the rate of infections, hospitalisations and deaths by minimising socialising. And those who don't can look forward to fines of £100, doubling for each further offence to a maximum of £6,400, which could make attending seven free illegal business lunches in a row, and getting caught each time, a very expensive proposition at a total of £12,700, or nearly £2,000 per lunch.

Lastly, according to Lewis Silkin the term "reasonably necessary" is one that lawyers could argue about in court "at great length" And at great cost, of course.

 

GREEDY CANCELLATION
A wedding venue and event organising company, Bijou Wedding Venues of Haddenham, Bucks, has been investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) over its unfair cancellation fees on weddings cancelled by itself or its customers due to the pandemic.

Bijou Wedding Venues own five country house style venues around the UK, including Botleys Mansion in Surrey, Cain Manor in Hants, Notley Abbey in Bucks and The Harper in Norfolk. One customer has reported that the company, whose chief executive is Sam Cutmore-Scott, had cancelled his May 2020 wedding at Cain Manor and insisted that he pay an 80% cancellation fee of £13,600. Since he had already paid a deposit of £13,000 Cutmore-Scott's firm has held onto that and insisted he pay another £600. They also advised him to claim the money back from his insurance company, something that was not possible when the insurers, UK General Insurance, rejected their claim on the basis that the cancellation was due to "government regulation or act."

The CMA investigation motivated Cutmore-Scott to cut his cancellation fee from a greedy and exploitative  80% to a rather fairer 30%, but consumer lawyer Dean Dunham opines that the CMA had ultimately "let consumers down" in allowing Cutmore-Scott to include such charges  as "cleaning the venue" which is part of the fixed costs of doing business, and goes against the CMA's own guidance. Weddings and private events, holiday accommodation and nurseries and childcare providers are three sectors where the CMA has seen increasing numbers of complaints in relation to cancellations and refunds.

In our view those organising events of any kind should remember the name Cutmore-Scott and be careful.

 

COVID ILLEGALITIES

o  Four students at Nottingham Trent University were fined £10,000 each for involvement in a house party. They had told the police that everyone had left, but more than 30 people were found hiding in a kitchen, bedrooms and basement at the house in Lenton.

The students reportedly accused the police of "spoiling our fun" and that they "should be having the time of our lives" at university.

o Twelve members of a local football team in Northumbria, that the police have declined to name, have been fined £200 each for drinking together at the Wetherspoons Wouldhave pub in South Shields.

Pub staff were suspicious when the twelve men took off their jackets and were wearing the same football strip, and called the police.

o  A bride is facing a £10,000 fine after police found more than 200 people attending her wedding in an Old Kent Road, London venue, and no-one making any attempt to socially distance.

o  Police in Greater Manchester have halted at least six illegal weddings in recent weeks.

o  The management of the Greyhound pub in Erdington, Birmingham have been fined £1,000 for allowing a wedding party of more than 60 people to continue after midnight.

o  The male organiser of a christening party in Wolverhampton has been fined after police raided the event and found more than 40 guests enjoying food and drink, and live entertainment in a hired marquee. Reportedly the police were told by the organiser that he "didn't believe in" the virus.

 

GLOSS OFF FOREIGN TRAVEL
A Yougov survey of Britons has found that only 11% of responders intend to travel internationally in the next six months, a 30% drop from the 17% recorded on July 3rd. .If international travellers had to self-isolate for two weeks when coming back to the UK nearly 60% wouldn't travel, with 74% cancelling their plans if they had to self-isolate for one week at their destination and 80% cancelling if the self-isolation period was two weeks.

Domestic travel was more positive with 34% of respondents planning to go, although this was also down around a third from the figure recorded for July 3rd.

 

BREDBURY HALL FOR SALE
One of North-West's most famous venues, the Bredbury Hall Hotel and Country Club, Stockport, Cheshire, is up for sale from its administrators. (TheBusinessDesk)

The 148 room three-star hotel in the Goyt Valley has a 16th century barn that has been converted into a nightclub, but has been closed since March 2020. Of the 93 staff, 91 have now been made redundant.

 

DEATH IN VENICE
Beauty abounds in this 1971 classic, directed beautifully by Luchino Visconte, featuring the beauty of Venice, the beautiful Adagietto from Mahler's Fifth Symphony, the lovely Grand Hotel des Bains on the Venice Lido and some of the beautiful people who stayed there during the very ugly sixth cholera pandemic which infected the city in 1911. These included a composer, Gustav von Aschenbach, modelled partly on Gustav Mahler and beautifully played by Dirk Bogarde in arguably the most heartbreaking performance of his career, and the beautiful, knowing and flirtatious 14-year-old Polish boy, Tadzio, who von Aschenbach sees and yearns after, played by the 16-year-old Bjorn Andresen.

Once von Aschenbach has exchanged loaded glances with Tadzio, whose eyes are sometimes augmented with blue shadow, he is smitten and spends his time watching the boy cavort in the sand and sea from his chair at his beach hut, eventually stalking him around Venice when out with his family. Tadzio's attractive and stately mother is played by the 41 year old Italian actress, Silvana Mangano in a very different role to those she had in 1951 when she was 21, as the sexy dancer turned nun in Anna, or the heroine in Bitter Rice in 1949 for which some critics wrote that the stunning 19 year old "oozed sex from every pore"  In flashbacks to von Aschenbach's previous life we view his lovely young wife, played by Marisa Berensen, and Esmerelda, a very pretty prostitute he failed to cavort with at a brothel, played by the 19 year old French actress Carole Andre.

Fortunately, Visconti spares us the graphic details of the deeply unpleasant effects of cholera. The disease is caused by poor sanitation, crowded living conditions and ingesting contaminated food and water, and produces extreme loss of body fluids and fatal dehydration in victims. However, von Aschenbach finds that staff at the hotel are playing the situation down, claiming that, despite public notices all over Venice warning about the disease, and the all-pervading smell of powerful disinfectant everywhere it's all malicious rumours spread by foreign newspapers to hurt the lucrative tourist industry in Venice. Finally, von Aschenbach does get an honest travel agent to level with him and he is strongly advised to leave the area and return home, which he decides to do.

Sadly, it is not to be. As he relaxes in his chair on the beach the next morning, his last, he sees Tadzio being beaten up in the sand by an older boy, and as he rises to get up and help Tadzio his heart, never his strongest organ, gives up and he slumps dead as the Adagietto playing reaches its crescendo.

Death in Venice is based on the novella of the same name by the highly-regarded and influential German novelist Thomas Mann (1875-1965) When Mann's diaries were opened after his death they recorded his struggles with his homosexuality, not least of which was his infatuation with an angelic 10 year old Polish boy who was staying with his parents at the Grand Hotel des Bains when Mann went there for a holiday in the summer of 1911. Mann always maintained his writings were not autobiographical...

Dirk Bogarde reveals that some white cream they spread on his face for his death scene began to burn very painfully and was not, according to a reading of the pack, intended to make contact with skin. In 2003, when Bjorn Andresen was 48 he gave an interview to The Guardian in which he stated that he was unhappy with the image that playing Tadzio had given him, and with the subject of adult love for adolescents. The Grand Hotel des Bains, one of the world's great hotels closed in 2016 and is still boarded up, reportedly awaiting being turned into luxury apartments. 

Following Death in Venice with some similarities was the well-regarded 1997 film Love and Death on Long Island, made 26 years after. This features the obsessive infatuation that a fogeyish British writer, played with dignity by John Hurt, develops for a good-looking American male star of puerile college movies - played with his tongue firmly in his cheek by Jason Priestley - one of which he sees by accident. After Hurt's character travels to Long Island to be with his love interest, it all, perhaps predictably, ends in tears.

 

ISHIRO HONDA
Fans of Japanese science fiction from the 1950s and the work of the celebrated director, Ishiro Honda (1911-1993) will welcome the three films being released on Blu-ray by Eureka Entertainment in November and added to their Masters of Cinema series. In all three the colours are impressively vibrant and bright, the special effects impressive for the period, the acting serious and the scores rousing. And all are entertaining and fun.

o  THE H-MAN (1958) is released as part of a Double Feature pack on November 16 and like Honda's most famous production, Godzilla (1954) reflects Japan's understandable fear of the hydrogen bomb, which creates the giant lizard in the first film and the deadly blue-green slime creatures, dubbed the H-man (for "hydrogen man") in the second. These kill by dissolving human flesh and bone on contact, just leaving their victim's clothes, and can creep under doors as glutinous puddles to attack and consume. The puddles can also re-form in the shape of humans for their attacks, and live in sewers, coming up for their meals. Fire is the only thing that can effectively kill them, so gasoline is pumped into the sewers and set alight for their immolation.

This one plays like an entertainingly good film noir, and is an early example of the Japanese "tokunatsu" film, that is a heavy use of special effects. The pack contains both the original Japanese and the English versions, as well as two brand new audio commentaries.

o The other feature in the pack is BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1959). a fast-paced “tokunatsu" featuring techno-savvy, mind-controlling aliens from the planet Natal setting up a base on Earth's moon and using it to attack us with their flying saucers.

Following a series of unexplained disasters on earth, which include a railway bridge levitating off a ravine and a train plunging into it, an ocean liner destroyed by a waterspout in the Panama Canal, severe flooding in Venice and a manned space station blown up, a conference at the Japanese Space Research Center called by world powers to discuss the happenings is attended by a Dr Ahmed, who is under the alien's control. After he fails in his mission to sabotage the heat-ray experiments he is vapourised by his caring controllers, but a tiny transmitter planted on him survives the process and its transmissions lead us to the alien's base on our moon. Cue a massive space battle between Natal's flying saucers and deadly ray guns and our rocket fighter planes and our atomic heat cannons, and lots of blown up scenery representing our cities...

The pack includes two audio commentaries and a collector's booklet.

o  MOTHRA (1961) is, like films starring Godzilla, an example of a Japanese kaiju movie, that is featuring a giant strange beast that wants to destroy mankind, usually as punishment for letting off the bombs that gave it life. However Mothra is different, being a giant female moth that only destroys by accident.

Her story starts on the remote Infant Island in the South Seas where she exists as a giant egg, worshipped as a goddess by the natives and guarded by them, as well as tended by two beautiful 12-inch-high fairies, called Shobijin. When Japanese humans invade the island two nasty ones realise that the lovely little fairy beings will make them a lot of money if they take them back to Japan and exhibit them as an exciting curiosity. The audiences that pay to see are entranced by the Shobijin, and in particular by their sweet singing, that nobody realises is actually summoning Mothra to come and save them. Accordingly the egg hatches and Mothra's gigantic caterpillar larva swims across the sea, forms a cocoon and then hatches out into its giant moth stage, all the time impervious to the bullets, explosive rockets and deadly ray guns discharged towards her. The beating of Mothra's massive wings inadvertently causes widespread destruction below her, as she searches Tokyo for her beloved fairies, finally finding them in New York, where they are reunited at an airfield and fly back to their home on Infant Island.

Mothra is released on November 16 by Eureka Entertainments as part of their Masters of Cinema series, and the pack includes both the Japanese and English versions of the film, audio commentaries, a reversible poster showing both the Japanese and US artwork, an interview with film critic and author Kim Newman and a 60-page perfect bound collector's booklet with an essay, an interview and an extract from a Honda biography.

OLD GRIT'S DIARY

Monday
Top hotelier Sir Rocco Forte has called for Health Secretary Matt Hancock to be sacked. According to Sir Rocco this is because Hancock has presided over "the current shambolic handling of the (Covid) crisis, with policies marked by indecision, U-turns and blindness to the devastating impact of (the government's) actions."

Sir Rocco also claims that he will have to make 80 of his 450 UK staff redundant when the furlough scheme ends, and that the government's virus response is turning the UK into "a totalitarian state."

Tuesday
Cheered to hear that more than 865,000 have signed a petition calling for an end to subsidised or free lunches for MPs.

This follows Parliament's voting not to extend free school meals for under-privileged children, a decision that our government is under pressure to reverse.

FOODIE NEWS

o  Those who have enjoyed trips to the Netherlands will have noticed the national passion for coffee - the Dutch are the world’s biggest fans of the caffeine hit, to the tune of 8.3 kilograms per head.(source: Statista)

In the UK, despite the marketing efforts of Costa and the like, and the mushrooming of coffee shops over the last decade we only drink 1.3 kilos per head, or less than one sixth of the Ditch consumption. However, coffee is still (just) the most popular UK drink with 64% saying they drink coffee regularly, against 63% nominating tea, 59% for soft drinks, 40% for bottled water, 34% each for beer and wine and 28% for spirits.

Scandinavians are also serious coffee drinkers with the Finns second to the Dutch with their consumption of 7.8 kilos per head, the Swedes with 7.6 and the Norwegians with 6.6.

 

o  Interesting to learn that airline Finnair, anxious to make up losses caused by empty seats and cancelled flights, is planning to offer its business class meals to all classes of shoppers in supermarkets across Finland. This follows a pilot scheme at one supermarket near Helsinki where 1600 dishes sold out in days.

This echoes the efforts of some airline caterers in the UK to grow their meals business with deliveries of luxury dishes direct to people's homes (see Foodie News, Issue 186, May 2020, One Fine Dine review) It's a trend we can see continuing as the lack of business travellers sustains. It will be interesting to see if other airlines can exploit what some see as withdrawal symptoms through lack of plane food. Ryanair sandwich anyone?

The Finnair range includes lots of dishes that go down well in Finland, including those featuring reindeer meat, which might not enjoy quite the same popularity if Finnair expand their scheme to UK supermarkets as the Christmas season approaches and consumers are offered the chance to tuck into prime cuts of Rudolph...

NEXT ISSUE

Restaurants enthusiastically encouraging organisers to run possibly illegal business lunches at their venues go strangely quiet when asked if they will be covering any fines imposed on the organiser and/or attendees... Dozens of organisers are fined for running risky business lunches that could have been replaced by a safe, but much less fun, virtual meeting... Heavy new fines are introduced for venues that host risky business events... Sam Cutmore-Scott reveals how much profit his firm, Bijou Wedding Venues have made from unfair cancellation charges... Another 50,000 vulnerable people die in the UK  as a result of  disobedience of restrictions... Matt Hancock calls for Sir Rocco Forte to be sacked... Money for school meals for under-privileged children is taken from MP's salaries... and much, much more…

ANNOUNCEMENTS

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Publisher's Note
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