SHETLAND’S primary arts venue is currently unable to stage any standing events due to difficulties recruiting enough trained door supervisors.
Mareel’s main auditorium has not played host to any standing concerts since the original Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020 – and operator Shetland Arts has now cancelled a series of such events that had been due to take place this winter.
This included a show by a party band on the Scottish folk music circuit that was not due to take place until March 2022, indicating that it could take some time for the problem to be resolved.
Promoter of that show Davie Gardner said he was “hugely concerned” by the situation, which meant Shetland was left off the map of a national tour.
Other events to have fallen by the wayside include a pre-Christmas “cloo-up night” First Foot Soldiers gig on 17 December.
Shetland Arts chief executive Graeme Howell said the latest issue was a result of supervisors’ licenses lapsing during the pandemic combined with wider hospitality staff shortages.
He said the organisation required Security Industry Authority (SIA) accredited door supervisors to ensure customer safety at standing events.
“The situation is an upshot of a number of SIA licence holders either deciding to let their licence lapse during the pandemic or deciding to no longer work in the industry,” Howell said, “combined with the island-wide staff shortages that Shetland is currently experiencing along with staffing challenges that the hospitality industry is facing nationally.”
He said the SIA had revised requirements for the qualification and now require at least 44 hours of face-to-face teaching which is “not currently available in Shetland in a way that the very part time nature of the jobs available would encourage anyone to study for”.
“It is also not currently possible to get your documents validated at a Post Office in Shetland, requiring anyone applying for a licence to travel to mainland Scotland,” Howell continued. “I have recently made progress on this point, but the issue is not resolved.”
He added: “This is obviously not a good situation for the events sector in Shetland to be in and we are working with relevant organisations locally and nationally to resolve the issue.”
It comes as a further blow to the Shetland gig-going public in a year when the entertainment scene has struggled to get going again following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many regular fixtures on the calendar, including festivals, have yet to resume with many voluntary committees, organisers and promoters mindful of continued uncertainty over the future shape of Covid-19 rules and guidelines.
Gardner, who had been working with Beyond Promotions on the prospective show for early spring, said he appreciates the difficulties around having enough certified staff.
But he said he has been forced to temporarily suspend any discussions with national promoters keen to bring acts to Shetland until the issue is resolved – and guaranteed not to become a problem in the future.
“I understand this situation currently relates to larger and/or standing gigs in the Mareel auditorium – and perhaps in other local venues too if the security problem extends to there as well – but to not have these type of events as an option in Shetland for the foreseeable future would be a huge loss to the community in general,” Gardner said.
“Equally it would presumably have significant impact on Mareel too in terms of effectively delivering their public and community services remit, their overall position and prestige within the musical and cultural community and income related issues too of course.
“I have spoken to Graeme Howell on this and understand and appreciate the current difficulties and cost implications of their being in a position to effectively resolve this situation sooner rather than later – their desire too of course – but remain concerned that there appears to be no ‘quick fix’ solution to this situation at present.”
He added that “we simply can’t be seen to be in the position of booking bands or artists, often as part of national tours, and then cancelling simply because we cannot deliver the logistics to safely and effectively promote them when the time comes”.
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