Perspectives is a series of features that looks to document how the creative industry has been affected by the ongoing pandemic.
Doug Wood – Liverpool Band Vans
Tell us a little bit about your profession and how many years have you been practicing professionally.
I’ve been a full time theatre and concert tour manager for 10 years. I got my break working as a driver for a prestigious artist transport company back in 2010. At this point I was just the driver, responsible for getting artists from A to B on one-off or short-term engagements. I carted around lots of pop artists like Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Little Mix, The Wombats, Madness and 10CC on radio tours and festival shows.
After a few years I managed to establish myself as a tour manager and worked on album campaigns for various artists like Dan Croll, Spring King, Aquilo, Amber Run, Bears Den. It’s at this point I started my own events transport company, Liverpool Band Vans, with fellow tour manager and sound engineer Kevin Mooney, to enhance our touring operation. We’ve since grown the company to a four van fleet and up until this point have been going from strength to strength, supplying drivers, crew and self-drive vehicles to all manner of live event artists and productions. I’m still lucky enough to work with some really great clients on some fantastic shows all over the world including Glasto, Wembley and the O2. Last year I had 10 weeks of touring America in the sleeper bus Outkast and Public Enemy used to use! Like a lot of freelance work, it’s an all-consuming lifestyle but very rewarding.
To what extent has your work been affected by the pandemic?
The vast bulk of my work, both as a self-employed tour manager and as a director of a limited company, is in the planning and executing of live events. Summer festivals, concert tours, arena support tours, community outdoor events, commercial expos and productions have been cancelled or (very) optimistically postponed until late 2020.
If your work has been postponed or cancelled, are you hopeful for rescheduled dates? Do you have any capacity to work from home during the intervening period?
I’m hopeful that very small events like weddings will be allowed to recommence before the end of the year. I don’t expect any recreational gatherings of above 100 people before the 2021 winter flu season has passed. The large-scale, multinational concert and live events industry will be one of the last to resume.
What has been your overriding emotion(s) since the industry went into lockdown?
Grumpiness (but that’s no different to normal), caution.
Do you think there are enough support structures in place for artists, creatives and other freelancers in the industry and would you like to see any changes once the lockdown is over?
I can only speak for the live music touring industry, but no there is no real support structure to speak of outside of a few very small professional organisations. I think everyone in the live touring industry is looking at what is happening here and realising that the only people who can make this whole industry more accountable, secure and professional for its members in the future are its members.
The financial and professional support currently on offer from the government and national bodies seems to be helping, so far. It needed to in order to support the country during the first few months of economic shock. Whether it continues into the next 6-12 months of this pandemic is up for debate. I don’t think there is enough support available full stop, certainly not to keep the live touring industry essentially in an incubation period for 12 months. Support structures will need to be rethought, but many are already pivoting heavily towards more secure and immediate employment.
What are your predictions for the touring landscape when things return to some version of normality?
I’m hoping there will be a lot of new voices asking important questions through art: “Adversity is the first path to truth”. Professionally, I think we will see a much reduced touring workforce as a lot of self-employed professionals previously working in the arts will need to find work in other fields and may decide to remain there.
View other pieces in our Perspectives series here.