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Sandy Park and Westpoint turn red

Sandy Park, Exeter, bathed in red (courtesy: Sandy Park)

They join public events' campaign

Exeter’s Sandy Park and Westpoint Arena have joined hundreds of events' venues throughout the UK, including Plymouth's Theatre royal, to light their buildings red to raise awareness of the sector’s plight due to the covid-19 crisis.

Since March, Sandy Park - Exeter’s largest conference venue - has been closed along with other events' hosts. The industry, which up to the start of the pandemic was worth over £100 billion a year to the UK economy - is now being neglected by the government.

The red light project seeks to spark dialogue with politicians about measures that could be introduced to protect businesses and over half a million jobs across the country. Ideas include making grants available to companies in the events supply chain, extending the furlough scheme until the industry is back to work and lengthening the duration of the self-employment scheme via a tailored approach to the sector. By simultaneously illuminating buildings and structures across the UK, the group is looking to utilise social media platforms with pictures and the #LightItInRed hashtag to maximise exposure and support.

Working alongside Exeter-based Stage Engage, Sandy Park and the nearby Westpoint Arena were cast in red with pictures that were then circulated across social media and the internet highlighting the plight of businesses affected.

Tony Rowe OBE, chairman and chief executive of Exeter Rugby Club, is as frustrated as everyone in the events sector at the lack of support shown during these testing times. “Since March our doors at Sandy Park have been shut to everything,” said Mr. Rowe. “Already we have already had to cancel over £1 million in corporate business from banquets, conferences and dinners and right now I can’t see when they will come back.

“Because we have been commercially sound for many years, we’re fortunate we’ve been able to lean back on some of our assets to help raise the funds we need to keep going. However, all of this is eating into our reserves pretty quickly!”

He added: “When you look at what has happened since the start of the crisis, we were the first industry out and we’ll definitely be the last industry in. Consequently, we’ll have the longest period of non-trading and we need to know there will be some kind of financial help.

“The Light It In Red campaign is about highlighting venues like Sandy Park which, through no fault of it’s own, are having to do their utmost to get themselves back to some kind of normality. We have already done so much work behind the scenes to ensure that we are ready to go once we get the green light to open again.

“Further work will continue over the coming weeks and months to ensure that Sandy Park remains a venue that is not only of the highest standards, but also a venue that will keep all of it’s customer safe and well.”

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