Letter: Ben’s spent 20 years building up his live events business. Read his heart-felt plea to Bob Seely to help the sector

Ben Wilbee has spent the last 20 years training and learning skills, investing in a career that really makes peoples’ lives better, only to be told by the Chancellor that his business is not considered ‘viable’ . He asks Bob Seely MP for help

a higher sound equipment at festival

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This open letter to Isle of Wight Conservative MP, Robert Seely. Ed


Hi Bob,

I’d like to thank you for being among first to draw attention to the plight of the festival and events industry at the start of the summer.

As a provider of sound and lighting systems for festivals and events on the Island it meant a lot to know that our industry was being represented.

Working as sound engineer for 15 years
I have always been passionate about music on the Island. My dad was a conductor at the IOW Music Centre, I attended Platform One music college on the Island, then went to Leeds College of Music to get a degree in music production.

After Uni I returned to the Island and for the last 15 years have been working as a sound engineer at events and festivals across Europe; and investing the money I earned into equipment which I hire out on the Island.

My business is small, but provides me with a living. I employ a lot of casual staff over the summer, but most importantly feel that I give something back to the Island – enabling high quality cultural events to happen on a scale and budget that suits the Island’s situation.

Difficult summer
This summer has been really hard.

I pay rent for a storage unit with a ‘cash in hand’ agreement and my lack of a rateable business premises or lease agreement has meant I’ve been ineligible for any business grants, but still have the overheads of rent, vehicle, public liability insurance, employers liability insurance etc to cover.

The SEISS gave me two small grants, which were worked out as a percentage of my profit for previous years. These were totally eaten up by my aforementioned overheads. The continuing 20 percent offering won’t cover these overheads.

Forced to sell equipment to survive the winter
Over the summer I have been doing a variety of gardening jobs and working on peoples’ boats to earn enough money to feed myself and pay my rent – However, winter is coming and I am worried that I won’t be able to afford to heat my house.

I’m now considering selling some of the equipment I’ve worked very hard to build up, just so I can survive the winter.

My life falling apart
It kinda hurts when Rishi Sunak says my business is ‘unviable’, because really what I’m looking at is my life falling apart – I’ve spent the last 20 years training and learning skills, investing in a career that really makes peoples lives better. And now it’s unviable.

In many ways I’m lucky. I’ve never built up debt so don’t have that hanging over me – I have the opportunity to choose a new career if it comes to it.

But I really do think that the things that I – and many like me – do are valuable to our society and should be supported by this government in these difficult times.

Can you help?
We need a decent support package for the live events sector.

Could I please ask that you do all you can to help?

Kind Regards, Ben Wilbee

Image: © A Higher Sound

Wednesday, 7th October, 2020 6:28pm

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Filed under: Island-wide, Isle of Wight Jobs, Letter to the Editor, Music, The Arts

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6 Comments on "Letter: Ben’s spent 20 years building up his live events business. Read his heart-felt plea to Bob Seely to help the sector"

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Barefoot
I would ask IW Lottery if they would consider giving you a grant. Last time I looked (Companies House accounts ) they had around £430,000 in the bank. When it was set up, the idea was to help start ups with interest free loans, then it went on to support existing businesses who were struggling and/or wanted to expand. Interest rates were higher than they are now,… Read more »
Barefoot
PS I realise this doesn’t do anything to help the approx 250,000 other freelance/self employed in the music & events businessess – while government have said they will dish out money to big theatres & venues like the Albert Hall the ‘little guys’ have been left to fall on the mercy of the benefits system. If you can get help writing the application, you might get some… Read more »
Fenders
The very sad reality is some people will find it very difficult to continue business in the same vain, certainly in the immediate future. Given you skills, there might be opportunities say in film and TV, which require lighting and sound engineers, alternatively a complete change of career might be on the cards, one that utilises your organisational skills. Receiving taxpayers money to mothball your career is… Read more »
benwilbee
Hi Fenders, I totally see where you are coming from – I’m not adverse to a change of career myself. Personally I have many opportunities.. The issue that I am trying to raise is that there are only a few companies on the Island offering the services I provide – and I expect some of those companies are finding it much more difficult to continue than myself.… Read more »
Fenders
Fair point. Either we will recover, or find a new way of working. If opportunities to revive industries and occupations that are particularly hard hit at present arise in the future, then I am sure people will respond. People like yourself, with your skills may then decide to re-enter the market. I recall when the first recession hit, many people lost their jobs, but other opportunities arose,… Read more »
benwilbee

Indeed. In that case there will be a prime opportunity for those with capital to sweep up the liquidated assets of the many people in my position, and then sell them back to us at an increased cost once the restrictions, made necessary by the shambolic actions of this government, are lifted.