First to Close, Last to Reopen. We are the #ExcludedUK

By  Steve

Note from Steve, owner of Your Business Journey. This is a guest post from Natalka Antoniuk, a content writer for quadrant2design.com. All images used with permission from Universal Live.

We are the events industry.

We have a massive pool of talent under our wing that includes over 600,000 full-time employees. Hundreds of thousands of freelancers top up this figure. There are millions of us.

Furthermore, we contribute over £70 billion to the UK economy each year. We support many industries. Hospitality thrives when events visitors are in town. Aviation and public transport benefit from increased demand. Perhaps most importantly, local economies grow due to the money that millions of event visitors spend each year.

Despite the powerful numbers listed above, the events industry has been excluded from government support packages.


First to Close

The events industry was the first to close its doors back in March. You will recall football being played behind closed doors for the first time. Then the government banned mass gatherings.

It made sense to us.

Large groups couldn’t gather in the same space. It would be a huge risk. We wanted to help where we could. Of course we obliged.

Our venues became NHS Nightingale hospitals in days. Our exhibition stand contractors built wards overnight. And it was our freelancers who made all of this possible. Event industry suppliers began scrambling to produce PPE and hand sanitiser when the government reported a shortage.

At no point did we demand attention. We didn’t cause a scene. We didn’t stomp our feet.

But then again, we’ve always been the behind-the-scenes type.

Thousands of Businesses

This closure didn’t just effect the venues, organisers and artists. It affected thousands of businesses involved in the supply chain.

My business, Quadrant2Design, design and build exhibition stands for over 600 customers each year. We work with companies that deal with:

  • Furniture rental
  • Curtain rental
  • Promotional material manufacture
  • Audiovisual rental
  • Catering
  • Carpet rental
  • Lead capture software
  • Event staffing agencies
  • PR teams
  • Event organisers
  • Venues
  • Logistics

This is everything that is involved in one exhibition stand, at one event. Taking the International Food Expo (which has 1,350 exhibitors) as an example, you can imagine how many people and businesses are involved in the supply chain.

And this is just exhibitions. Festivals, weddings, conferences, award ceremonies, sports tournaments… these are all events. And the all have their own massive supply chain.


Last to Reopen

As mentioned, we accepted our closure. At the time, it wasn’t just events. Travel, retail, hospitality and tourism were all closed.

The furlough scheme supported all of the businesses who had lost revenue due to Covid-19. We worked with government officials to develop a strategy to bring events back safely. And then we were given a restart date and it felt like everything was going back to normal.

Many businesses, including my own, saw inquiries start to pick up. After having no work or revenue since March, an entire industry breathed a sigh of relief.

And then Boris Johnson did another U-turn.

We understand that the health of the nation is top priority. What we don’t understand is why we aren’t allowed to open when we have worked with government officials to bring events back safely.

You will reopen pubs, restaurants, and non-essential shops. You will allow family holidays and encourage people to eat out to help out. Gyms, bowling alleys and cinemas are open. You are doing what is necessary to save our economy.

Meanwhile, you will stand by and watch another industry burn.

No Access to Support

While the furlough scheme and CBILs loans helped a vast majority of our businesses keep their doors open, it wasn’t enough.

The events industry has had zero income since March. No events means no revenue. Thousands of businesses and employees unable to do their jobs.

Many businesses have been able to access additional support. Rishi Sunak kept putting his hand further and further into his pocket to help hospitality, tourism, retail, small businesses and anyone who appeared to be struggling.

At one point, we thought he had noticed the events industry. Sunak announced a £1.57 billion support package for the arts. A handful of our venues were able to claim some of this money, but the majority of our industry were not eligible.

This includes the largest exhibition venues, event organisers and suppliers in the UK. Despite everything that we achieved to support the UK up until this point, we were told we could not access any of this financial assistance.

Not Viable

And the most recent, devastating blow?

We have been excluded, again. Rishi Sunak’s latest job retention scheme requires employees to work one third of their normal hours. But our industry remains closed. We cannot go to work.

And that, according to Mr Sunak, makes us unviable.

What’s even more heart-breaking is to hear Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, announce plans are being put in place to help us get “better jobs”.

We don’t want “better jobs”. Our employees and freelancers are highly skilled workers with years of experience who have achieved record-breaking year-on-year growth for the events industry.

Notice us. 


Let me remind you. We are the industry that built hospitals in our venues in two weeks to protect the NHS. We didn’t gain any financial benefit from this; we did it to support our country in a crisis.

Now, our industry is facing a crisis.

600,000 jobs are at risk.

Where is our support?

Kind regards

Natalka Antoniuk
Thanks to "Universal Live" for permission to use their images


A Tennis playing father of two. The two in question are at an age where everything they do is correct and anything I suggest is stupid!

Luckily business is a tad easier... Once I start to understand the challenges and your vision, I can usually plot a way forward. Understanding and Discovery are my two watch words.


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