The Sunflower Conversations

The events industry and the pandemic

February 21, 2021 Hidden Disabilities Sunflower
The Sunflower Conversations
The events industry and the pandemic
Chapters
The Sunflower Conversations
The events industry and the pandemic
Feb 21, 2021
Hidden Disabilities Sunflower

There is no doubt that the pandemic has had a significant impact on the events industry. With Covid Rangers at markets to marshalling at testing centres, Sam Birtwell, from Phoenix Events East, an events company that would normally cover security, stewarding, and traffic management, discusses how they have adapted in response to the pandemic to support their community with the help of the Sunflower and 'Please give me space'.

Hosted by Chantal Boyle and Paul Shriever from Hidden Disabilities Sunflower.

Visit the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower website.

Visit the Please give me space website.

Show Notes Transcript

There is no doubt that the pandemic has had a significant impact on the events industry. With Covid Rangers at markets to marshalling at testing centres, Sam Birtwell, from Phoenix Events East, an events company that would normally cover security, stewarding, and traffic management, discusses how they have adapted in response to the pandemic to support their community with the help of the Sunflower and 'Please give me space'.

Hosted by Chantal Boyle and Paul Shriever from Hidden Disabilities Sunflower.

Visit the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower website.

Visit the Please give me space website.

Welcome to the Sunflower Conversations where we explore the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower and its role in supporting people with hidden disabilities.

Paul Shriever:

It's Paul Shriever and also joining me today is my colleague, Chantal Boyle. Hi, Chantal.

Chantal Boyle:

Hi.

Paul Shriever:

Today I'll be talking to Sam Bertwill about his business Phoenix Events and how it has changed over the course of the last year with the pandemic. Welcome Sam, can you please introduce yourself?

Sam Bertwill:

Thanks, Paul. Yeah, my name's Sam Bertwill. I'm the operations supervisor for a small company called Phoenix Events East, Ltd.

Paul Shriever:

Can you tell me just a little bit about your company and what it does?

Sam Bertwill:

Our company is based in the east of England, covering mainly Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge, and Essex. And we're coming up to our third birthday in May, so that's quite exciting for us. We provide security, stewarding, and traffic management for all types of events.

Paul Shriever:

How has the pandemic affected your business? Has it made events ... I would imagine events have completely changed because they're probably not happening anymore.

Sam Bertwill:

And at the beginning of 2020, we had like 400 events booked. Then we lost a good 350. The event load is significantly decreased with more being canceled this year, as well, just to be safe. So we are having to adapt in terms of what we do. I've been working at a market near King's End, a [inaudible 00:01:29] market, in which we're employed as the COVID Rangers. So we are offering free face masks, sanitizer, helping people to social distance and just making sure that everyone's staying safe in these times.

Paul Shriever:

Can you explain a little bit about the COVID Rangers please?

Sam Bertwill:

Yeah, so a few members in the Council, the Downham Town Council, they are making face masks. They've made well over 12,000 parts in the last year or so. And we are there to make sure that they are available for people to take because masks, for some reason, can be really expensive, unfortunately. And some for people, they can't generally afford them. So with that, I'll just hand them out where people want them and give people sanitizer, and then just be a friendly place in these times because sometimes some people, obviously, haven't been out in months and that friendly face and that little chat is all they need.

               So that's just what we're there for, to make sure everyone's safe and just make sure that everyone's all right.

Paul Shriever:

How has that been received?

Sam Bertwill:

At the start, it was a bit of a rough waters because the market's been running for well over 50 years and people know it one way and it suddenly changes to in a completely different way. It's all received in mixed opinion.

Paul Shriever:

Clearly, it's a great cause. It's a great thing to do. And I'm just interested in knowing what sparked that off, that thought.

Sam Bertwill:

So basically, in the first lockdown, obviously, things were a bit unclear as to what could open, what couldn't. The market was closed for a good few months. And then the Downham Town Council were looking for COVID security in a way that's not security. So we're not there as security guards, we're there as sort of marshals, marshals and stewards. So we saw that and we thought, "Actually, that's a brilliant opportunity to get our name out there, as well as help the local town get back on its feet." These times are crushing so many small businesses and especially with the market traders, it's been really hard. So we're just glad that we can help with that.

Paul Shriever:

I just hope that what you're doing is having an impact and affecting and helping others.

Sam Bertwill:

Quite frequently. We get so many people, member of the public, who come up to us and say, "Thank you so much. You're doing a really good job." Which is really nice to hear from them because it actually shows that we're not just seen as people who are standing there in high-vis. We're actually seen as actually helping.

Paul Shriever:

I'm going to pass you over to Chantal who's just going to ask you a few questions. And we're just going to bounce around a little bit.

Chantal Boyle:

That's really interesting, what you were just saying there, Sam, about being there in a supporting role in the market, supporting the community. So I guess that brings me on to ask, why did Phoenix join Please Give Me Space and Hidden Disabilities Sunflower?

Sam Bertwill:

The company joined Hidden Disabilities and Please Give Me Space pretty much as soon as we started. It's our core belief of our director, Adam, being able to be aware of the [inaudible 00:04:40] like Please Give Me Space and to spread them in the work that we do, because we think it's really, really important. Because not everyone knows what Sunflower Lanyard means or what Please Give Me Space would be. When we're at the market, we have our badges with a sunflower on it and how can I help, which sometimes someone with a hidden disability will say, "Oh, he knows exactly how to help me. He will understand," sort of thing. We think it's really, really important to spread the word out and get it as far as we can.

Chantal Boyle:

With people feeling more isolated at the moment, only being able to go out once a day. So a trip to a market to get your shopping and just feel a little bit of connection with people, I would imagine makes people feel a lot more uplifted. And if you have a hidden disability, knowing that the people in the market are going to give you a little bit more kindness and some understanding would be really reassuring. When did you join Hidden Disability Sunflower, Sam, and when did you join Please Give Me Space?

Sam Bertwill:

With the Hidden Disabilities, we joined pretty much as soon as the business was started. In regards to the Please Give Me Space, I believe that was fairly recent. We just want to get the both of them as far as possible and spread the word out there because it is really important.

Chantal Boyle:

With Please Give Me Space, which is the social distancing awareness campaign, what led you to join that initiative and how do you plan to implement that within your organization and how do you see it translating to your customers?

Sam Bertwill:

We think is really important, not only from a COVID perspective, but also because some people generally need their space for their own reasons. So even after this is over, after we're in the clear, then we're still going to be implementing the Please Give Me Space because, as I said, it is really important for some people. All of our staff are going to have specific training on this so that they're all aware. And then our customers will be aware, as well. So we'll make sure that it's out there and that we support it.

Chantal Boyle:

One of the great things about Please Give Me Space and Hidden Disability Sunflower is that the training is all there ready for businesses, such as yourself, who really want to be proactive, particularly during this pandemic to support your staff, as well as your customers. And like you said, there's a lot of different reasons why it's really important that we help people maintain a safe social distance, particularly with the virus increasing with its transmission rate at the moment. So I think it's really great that you have taken this on board.

Paul Shriever:

How many staff have you trained for the Please Give Me Space initiative and the Sunflower?

Sam Bertwill:

We have around about 50 staff or so and management, which are trained in the Hidden Disabilities. And we are rolling out new training to staff, sort of ongoing, with the Please Give Me Space. From my point of view, training is never complete. You've always got something else to train. And so we're just continually rolling out as it comes.

Paul Shriever:

How do you roll that out? Is it something that you just share? Do you share a link with them? Can you just explain that a little bit, please?

Sam Bertwill:

We're rolling out the online resources to our staff to complete, and then once it's complete, we'll then receive the training complete screenshot to then show that it's all been done.

Paul Shriever:

And so Sam, is that something that is sent via an email, that is shared, and then you just simply click on it and you ask your colleagues, your work colleagues to watch and then that's their training, essentially?

Sam Bertwill:

At present, yes. Yeah, but not a lot ... When things can get back to normal, I suppose, then it will be done in a more regular setting where we can all just get together and all do it at the same time.

Paul Shriever:

Okay, great. And can I ask, the feedback from the staff, your colleagues, what is that like for the Please Give Me Space scheme and the Hidden Disabilities scheme? Can you just tell me a little bit about how is that received?

Sam Bertwill:

We've received quite a few compliments on the fact that we are training in this because we have got a few members of staff who do where a Sunflower Lanyard. And all we've heard is thank you for rolling this out and thank you for making people aware because it is important and we'd like everyone to know about it. And if all of our staff are trained, then it means that, as a business, then we can say that all of us are aware, all of us know, and all of us can display that at any event.

Paul Shriever:

Do the schemes work for you?

Sam Bertwill:

Absolutely. From my experience, it's all been absolutely a hundred percent positive.

Chantal Boyle:

Would you say that, by you being members of Hidden Disabilities Sunflower, which you've been for awhile, and now Please Give Me Space, that demonstrates to your customers that they will feel more supported and encourage repeat visits to your events?

Sam Bertwill:

At the market, we've got little posters with a brief explanation of what it is, what it does, and why it's there. And I've had a few members of the public who don't wear Sunflower Lanyard, with no idea what it was, who said, "That's really good. Thank you for doing that. I had no idea what that meant, and now I do," sort of thing. So for our customers with hidden disabilities and with those problems, then they can feel confident that coming to our event, that they will be well looked after and that we will listen.

Chantal Boyle:

Can you tell us a little bit about the [inaudible 00:10:37] and NHS testing program that you guys are involved in?

Sam Bertwill:

Recently, we have been able to step in and help staff a few testing sites around Norfolk and Suffolk. We've managed to get this because if we didn't do it or someone else didn't do it, then it would be doctors, nurses, paramedics, and they've got so much more important things to be doing at the minute. And so we're just really proud to be able to be involved in that, to help do that and to help role out the mass testings.

Chantal Boyle:

Would you hope to use Please Give Me Space at those testing sites?

Sam Bertwill:

We think it will be absolutely crucial to display that, to show that we do understand and we do support that and that people can feel comfortable coming in and to know that they don't have to explain themselves.

Chantal Boyle:

How do people who want to get in touch with Phoenix Events and your company, how do they reach out to you?

Sam Bertwill:

Yeah. So if anyone wants to get in touch with ourselves at Phoenix Events, we have a Facebook page. If you type in Phoenix Events in the search bar and tap on our icon, we have a telephone number which is 07592-739-928. Our website, which is PhoenixEventsEastLtd.co.uk and via email, if you wish to get in contact with our director, that is A-Harding@PhoenixEventsEastLtd.co.uk.

Chantal Boyle:

Sam, it has been an absolute delight and pleasure to talk to you today. It's been really interesting to hear how your business has had to adapt for the pandemic and how Hidden Disabilities Sunflower and Please Give Me Space is part of your strategic approach to make customers feel more welcomed and confident to come along to the events that you're organizing.

Hannah Wilson:

If you'd like to share your Sunflower story or conversation, please email conversations@hiddendisabilitiesstore.com. Find out more about us, or listen to this recording again, by checking out our insights page at hiddendisabilitystore.com. You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Please help, have patience, and show kindness to others and join us again soon. Making the invisible, visible with the Hidden Disability Sunflower.