x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Call to improve safety at UAE concerts and events

Concert promoters across the UAE need to form an industry association to share best-practice ideas, says Thomas Ovesen, chief operating officer at Done Events.

Katy Perry preforming at the closing ceremony of the World Parachuting Championships at the Meydan Arena in Dubai on 8 December 2012. Razan Alzayani / The National
Katy Perry preforming at the closing ceremony of the World Parachuting Championships at the Meydan Arena in Dubai on 8 December 2012. Razan Alzayani / The National

DUBAI // As the UAE gears up for a weekend of big concerts and events, one of the emirate's major promoters has issued a call for industry-wide collaboration to improve safety standards.

Tonight, thousands are expected in Abu Dhabi for the Kanye West concert and thousands more will be in Dubai to see Slash perform.

This week, the Dubai Desert Challenge is drawing crowds of golf enthusiasts and many more will descend on the Sevens Stadium with animals in tow for the Dubai Pet Show on February 8.

The national calendar is packed to the seams and event season is in full swing.

Having hosted such major acts as Usher, Katy Perry and the veteran singer Joe Cocker, the chief operating officer of Dubai's Done Events, Thomas Ovesen, knows more about the events industry than most.

His company is organising the Bruno Mars concert in April and Justin Bieber's appearance at the Sevens Stadium in May.

This adds extra weight to his call for the creation of an event organisers' association that would improve standards and assist in designing industry-regulating legislation.

Many other countries have detailed laws governing concerts, covering all aspects including crowd safety, evacuation and emergency planning.

But in the UAE, decisions about these essential provisions are left to the individual promoters.

"Live entertainment has been a bit overlooked, not necessarily from a standards point of view but from a legislation point of view," said Mr Ovesen.

"There isn't a set of laws or rules and regulations covering live events in place in any of the emirates.

"It's our responsibility that the industry gets together, because only if we have a governing body will it be possible for the Government to implement legislation that is optimal.

"If there's not a counterpart to discuss these things with they might put legislation in place that might not be appropriate here."

Mr Ovesen, who has been staging events in Dubai for 13 years, said the low number of problems that had occurred at concerts showed it was a very safe industry.

"But we, being able to look behind the scenes, know there are a lot of improvements that can be made," he said.

"Some people are not experienced. You can buy yourself an event if you can find the money to buy the talent.

"If you can book yourself an international star you're in business - that's where there's no safety net right now protecting the audience."

Flash Entertainment in Abu Dhabi declined to comment, but another UAE events manager, who did not wish to be identified, said anyone wishing to stage an event in Dubai had to obtain permission separately for different aspects of the operation from a number of police departments and other authorities.

"Crowd safety in the UAE is a very, very grey area. There is no central cohesion," he said.

The Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment (Depe) has been given the responsibility by the emirate's Government to support and develop the events sector.

The body did not comment specifically on the idea of an industry group, but said various Government bodies - such as Dubai Police and the Roads and Transport Authority - were involved in the concert-planning process to ensure they ran safely.

Last year, Dubai received an International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA) World Festival and Event City Award.

"One of the key criteria for Dubai receiving the IFEA award was the Dubai Government approach to manage safety and security risks at events, through a multilevel approach in line with the international best practices," a spokesman for Depe said.

"Dubai Government is constantly reviewing and upgrading its safety and security measures to mitigate future security or safety threats."