Event management and event staging: Armistice Commemorations
On the third Sunday of November a counter-stone event of the British public calendar takes place. The Armistice Day commemorations held at the cenotaph in London act as the central event in the public acknowledgement of the sacrifices made by members of the British armed forces, both in the past and in the present day. As such, as a public event, the Armistice commemorations serve as the focal point with which the nation pays its respects to the sacrifices made by countless men and women over many years. Furthermore, in addition to the public connotations of the Armistice commemorations, the event also brings together the leading British public and political figures. As such, the event includes the active participation of the Queen, the immediate royal family, the heads of the major political parties and religions, along with dozens of representatives from commonwealth countries from the furthest reaches of the world (Which Day, 2010).
As such, in terms of event management and event staging, the Armistice commemorations serve as a direct example of the complexities and difficulties which often arise when large and important events take place. In academic terms, the study of event management has increased considerably over recent years. Above all, this increased attention has centred on the theoretical processes which event managers must undertake in actual practice (Berridge, 2006). Moreover, the issues and factors involved in carrying out effective event management are considerably diverse. As such, those responsible for the management of large scale events must conceptualise and account for the potential impact which could result from the event itself. Bowdin et al (2004; 190) point out that event management must fully appreciate the connotations and effects of a particular event in terms of political environment, economic environment and socio-cultural environment. However, in addition to such requirements, it is also essential that event management teams utilise the operational assumptions derived from academic study. These assumptions are diverse and can include issues such as; risk management, sales, marketing or income generation.
Given the above, this essay aims to explore the operational management issues which arise from staging an event like the Armistice commemorations. This assessment will examine the event in question on the basis of the wider issues and factors which arise in event management. However, in order to provide the following assessment with the necessary level of focus and direction, it will be necessary to examine certain issues in detail. As such, this work will address the event staging issues which occur in the Armistice commemorations on the basis of risk management and socio-cultural impact. These two factors have been specifically chosen as they act as central issues of concern with regards to the event in question. Above all, the public nature of the event and the importance to the national psyche mean that ensuring effective risk management is pivotal. Moreover, this public nature also effects the socio-cultural considerations which are at work. In particular, national commemorative events such as that which takes place every November at the cenotaph are designed to be inclusive of the national will. Thus, given that the socio-cultural foundations of Britain have significantly altered over recent decades, it is essential that public events like this reflect such changes, whilst simultaneously ensuring a strong measure of continuity.
In terms of pure operational management, the challenge for the management team responsible for the Armistice commemorations is considerable and diverse. As suggested above, the commemorations include the active participation of all the leading public figures in Britain. However, in addition to such figures, event management practices must also account for the public visitors and numerous military bands, along with the veterans associations and other groups who take part in the ‘march past’ the cenotaph following the conclusion of the official service of remembrance led by the Queen.
Therefore, the first primary issue of concern for those responsible for organising an event such as the Armistice commemorations is to ensure that effective processes and planning is put in place, which is capable of meeting the diverse needs of the stakeholders involved. In terms of risk management, it is essential that the risk planning and risk assessments undertaken for the event are fully in-line with the best practice in event management and event staging (Tarlow, 2002). Bowdin et al (2004; 318) suggest that the risk management undertaken in a particular event must respond to the unique features of the event itself. As such, the potential or practical risks involved in an event will differ considerably depending of the nature of event. Given this, it is certainly credible to argue that the risk management process adopted in an event like the Armistice commemorations requires a measure of diversity which allows for ad hoc decisions to be made on the actual day of the event itself. Obviously, this ability to engage in ad hoc decision making regarding risk must take place in conjunction with concrete risk planning.
The risk assessments and management practices required for the Armistice commemorations are varied. As suggested above, the stakeholders and participants at the event are diverse and thus require individual assessments to be undertaken. Furthermore, the fact that numerous stakeholders are involved in the event means that a strong degree of multi-stakeholder collaboration is required. With regards to risk assessment, it is clearly the case that the event managers would require to liaise closely with various authorities. Naturally, one such authority would be the police; however, it is also necessary that event managers take into consideration the feelings and sentiments of the political establishment, along with any concerns raised by those responsible for the security of the Queen and royal family. As such, although risk assessments processes such as anti-terror activities would clearly be the responsibility of the intelligence and police services, event managers would be required to play a central role in the risk assessment and risk management process.
In addition, Tarlow (2002; 92) suggests that ensuring the imposition of effective risk management needs to account for the potential health and safety issues which could arise from the staging of the event. With regards to the Armistice commemorations, it is certainly possible to see the extent to which effective health and safety planning is essential. Many of the participants at the commemorations are elderly. Indeed, older war veterans or family members are a consistent feature of the commemorations, both in terms of the observing public and the march past. Given this, ensuring that the consequent amount of medical personnel is available for any potential health related concerns among participants is vital. Furthermore, health and safety planning must take account of the structural issues which may arise. Thus, in terms of the Armistice commemorations, structural concerns relating to the number of people involved is required in a way which ensures everyone fully appreciates the health and safety requirements involved.
In addition, Bowdin et al (2004; 329) suggest that health and safety processes require an active understanding of the potential legal issues involved. The degree to which legal matters affect the planning and implementation of event management differs considerably depending on the particular event in question (Yoeman, 2004). In relation to the Armistice commemorations, it is possible to see a number of potential legal issues which could arise and thus must be actively planned for. For example, the safety and security of the area around the cenotaph and the surrounding street is pivotal. In particular, ensuring that effective safety assessments are carried out in relation to structural issues such as surface conditions is paramount. Moreover, this necessity increases depending on the weather conditions which prevail. Thus, event management teams responsible for the administration of the commemorations need to actively consider such potential problems and the degree to which they may affect health and safety issues during the event.
In addition to the health and safety concerns outlined above, it is also important to address the issue of insurance. Public events like the Armistice commemorations require the same sound insurance protection as privately organised events. Thus, health and safety in combination with effective insurance provision is undoubtedly necessary in an event where the potential for public liability is significant (Hall, 1992). Once again, risk assessment must be carried out in relation to such liability and thus requires effective planning and implementation. Therefore, the need to ensure active management planning is clearly relevant in this event, as is the case with most other examples of public event management.
As such, the assessments undertaken above have highlighted the various health and safety considerations which must be actively planned for in an event like the Armistice commemorations. However, returning to the issue of diversity, events like the one under discussion engender significant divergence in terms of the requirements of management. One such requirement is the need to actively account for the possible impact in terms of socio-cultural considerations. Indeed, in national publically organised events like the Armistice commemorations, such issues are of greater importance than they would be in other events. Thus, it is now necessary to undertake examination of the socio-cultural issues which affect the planning and implementation of event management strategy at the commemorations.
As suggested earlier in this work, the Armistice commemorations act as one of the key public events of the year. Therefore, the event itself serves as a social and cultural expression of the feelings and sentiments felt towards those who have sacrificed for their country (Which Day, 2010). Moreover, the multicultural connotations of the service undertaken at the cenotaph are clearly considerable. As suggested above, the service involves the participation of dozens of representatives from the commonwealth. However, given the nature of change in socio-cultural terms which has occurred in Britain over the last few decades, there is clear need on the part of event organisers to ensure that such diversity and change is reflected. Once again, Bowdin et al (2004; 439) reassert the importance of planning for socio-cultural connotations. As such, active planning which aims to exemplify social trends and developments is clearly an important consideration for those responsible for managing events like the one presently under investigation. Active planning can involve the assessment of socio-cultural needs, along with potentially outlining the possible socio-cultural impact of an event (Berridge, 2006). Clearly, both these issues are prevalent with regards to the Armistice commemorations. Thus, ensuring that socio-cultural considerations are effectively accounted for in the planning of the event is paramount.
However, although an active understanding of societal changes is clearly important for the event management of the Armistice commemorations, it is important to note the unique qualities of the event which serve to act as unifying cultural force. In many respects the overtly public nature of the event itself requires a strong measure of continuity in order for practical implementation to be undertaken effectively. Therefore, understanding the wider social significance of the event is necessary, in addition to planning the event on the basis of historically founded processes. With regards to the Armistice commemorations, the event is clearly defined and planned on the basis of a legal outline. Therefore, those responsible for the planning of the event need to ensure that the legal requirements are met in terms of certain unchanging practices. Moreover, this continuity needs to be ensured in conjunction with allowing for effective diversity as societal forces and factors change.
Given the above, it is certainly possible to see the degree to which socio-cultural considerations lie at the heart of the event management of public events like the Armistice commemorations. In particular, events such as these often serve to act as a unifying force in cultural terms and the national psyche. Therefore, the management of the event must reflect the paramount social role played by the event itself. Thus, active consideration of the general public assumptions made in relation to the event must be considered in the planning stages and practical implementation.
As such, it is possible to see the extent to which publically orientated events like the Armistice commemorations contain issues for management practice which include the socio-cultural context, in addition to risk management planning and strategies. However, in addition to such concerns, it is important to reassert the wider management issues which also serve to impact upon an event of this kind. Foremost of these is the issue of stakeholder involvement. As with all public events, the question of active stakeholders is somewhat troublesome. For example, to which stakeholders should event managers give priority? In the case of the Armistice commemorations, the considerations of leading stakeholders such as the royal family and senior politicians are clearly paramount. However, the publically orientated nature of the event also means that an inclusive approach is required in the planning and implementation of the event. Berridge (2006; 83) suggests that different stakeholders involved in an event may have differing conceptions regarding how the event is best organised. In order to address such potential conflict, clear and accountable processes of management need to be applied (Berridge, 2006). With reference to the present case study, a collaborative process which account for diverse stakeholder assumptions is evidently a key benefit. In order to meet such objectives, the organisers of the event each year seek to engage with stakeholder actions in a way which ensures all parties can make their opinions effectively heard. For example, in recent years the Royal British Legion has become increasingly focused on the role played by women in the armed forces. As such, this essential role must be considered when the planning of the event is undertaken. Furthermore, the inclusive approach adopted by event organisers must reflect wider concerns relating to effective anti discriminatory practice. Given that the event in question invariably involves stakeholders who have some form of physical disability, this requirement is graduated for the specific event. Thus, planning in both the ethical and practical realms is vital for the event to continue being the success it has been in the past.
Above all, this work as aimed to exemplify the primary event management issues which arise in the provided case study. Above all, it is certainly possible to see the degree to which event management in a public event such as the Armistice commemorations differs considerably from other events. The stakeholders involved in the event thus transcend the socio-cultural realm. Thus, from the royal family, down to ordinary members of the public, the event has significance and relevance for a plethora of diverse groups. Event management strategies are essential in order for the needs of such diverse groups to be understood and actively accounted for. Moreover, the event in question has obvious connotations for health and safety concerns. Once again, in order for effective processes to be in place to address health and safety issues, management strategies and an effective understanding of the processes involved in event staging are paramount. Thus, the example of the Armistice commemorations highlights the diversity and fragmentation involved in event management, and the degree to which a consequent diverse response is required by organisers and managers.
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