Events industry ‘paints town red’ in protest

Kobus van der Berg, Sonique Productions founder

Local members of the events industry are going to paint the town red. This time, however, they are coming together to organise a campaign to highlight the toll that lockdown has had on the industry since it began in March.

#LightSAred is a nationwide campaign with very local connections as businesses continue to suffer throughout the city. Almost 200 sites around the country will be lighted red between 18:00 and 20:00 on Wednesday 5 August 2020, including five commercial buildings in the Bloemfontein CBD. People can show support for the campaign by following the #LightSAred on social media platforms.

GigCulture’s Lesley Jennings expressed that entertainment was among the first industries to be restricted by the lockdown, but for organisers of live events, the situation has worsened as there is no relief in sight.

GigCulture’s Lesley

“The live events industry will light up buildings, monuments, landmarks, empty theatres and spaces across South Africa in “emergency red” as a warning that the sector needs urgent assistance to survive the next 100 days,” she said.

“Our livelihoods are in danger and the industry cannot survive another 100 days without income,” she added.

Kobus van der Berg of Sonique Productions agrees as the 2020 events calendar has mostly been cancelled. Small businesses are the likeliest to be affcted in the long term. He started the company in 2011 and explained that seven people were retrenched during lockdown, with a loss of income that impacts about 32 people.

“Our busiest season is from September to December but we’ll probabaly miss it this year. When life goes back to normal, and we hope that it will be soon, we are going to have to start all over again. This is an industry that has been shut down and rattled so much that even if a company began 10 or 15 years ago, they still have to start from scratch,” said Van der Berg.

Jennings added that the shutdown of live events affects not just musicians and performers but background staff who make these functions possible, many of whom don’t have access to relief funding. “We simply can’t work. Venues are closed, so we can’t create our own opportunities and people are scared because even if gatherings of 50 people are allowed, the regulations are too vague,” she explained.

Nomaqhawe Mtebele