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Reeperbahn Campus: What can be learned from The Love Parade tragedy?

By | Published on Friday 24 September 2010

More should be done to share crowd management knowledge and experience across Europe, both within the live entertainment sector, but also with those in local government who regulate large scale events. That was the conclusion of a session at the Reeperbahn Campus in Hamburg today discussing the possible implications of the tragedy at The Love Parade in Duisburg earlier this summer on the live music industry in Germany and beyond.

“With a tragedy this size, of course there will be a reaction, with people and government calling for new rules or regulations”, admitted Jens Michow, the boss of German live music promoters trade body BDV. “But in reality German law is already quite extensive in this area, and a lot of the new regulations being informally called for post-Duisburg are already there in the law”.

“That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement”, he conceded. “Especially regarding the way venues and promoters agree security arrangements; but it’s important people don’t get hysterical here and overlook the protection that already exists in Germany”.

Even if you don’t share Michow’s faith in the German laws covering safety at large-scale events – and not everyone present at the Reeperbahn session did – there was some consensus that the real problem wasn’t a lack of rules and regulations, but a lack of knowledge among the live industry and, even more so, at local government licensing offices who, in Germany at least, have become noticeably more cautious since The Love Parade incident.

“There is a lot of great knowledge out there across Europe about how best to manage large events”, Roskilde’s Henrik Bondo Nielsen told the session. “But most of it is hard to find, and in a local language when you find it”.

Nielsen was part of the team who reviewed crowd safety at Roskilde after the fatal crowd surge at the Danish festival back in 2000. “We did a lot of work, and a lot changed at Roskilde and at other Danish events as a result” he said. “But not a lot of that new knowledge and expertise was exported to other European territories”.

The work and teaching of the crowd safety unit at Bucks New University in High Wycombe – where Nielsen now teaches – was also noted as a valuable hub of knowledge on this issue, and one utilised in the UK by local authorities as well as promoters, in particular those police forces who oversee large-scale events. But, it was felt, Europe-wide not enough is being done to utilise this intelligence.

Nielsen and his colleague from the Safety Focus Group, Chrissy Uerlings, used the event to call on the mainstream live sector and European governments to do more to facilitate the sharing of this knowledge. It was a call answered, to an extent, almost immediately by the aforementioned Michow, who vowed to support and if necessary fund the pooling and translating of advisory reports on crowd safety from around Europe.

It was a heated debate about an emotional event in Germany’s very recent history, but with Michow, Nielsen and Uerlings pledging to continue discussing what could be done once the session was over, and a wider call for knowledge sharing sent out to the live industry at large, this could prove to be one of the more successful sessions at the Reeperbahn conference in terms of practical outcomes.

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