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Brussels event sector struggling with staff shortages ahead of festival season

Illustration picture shows the first day of the Couleur Cafe music festival in Brussels, Friday 28 June 2019. (BELGA PHOTO LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ)
06:11 29/04/2022

Just like the Brussels hospitality industry, the event sector is suffering a severe staff shortage as more festivals than ever before prepare to be staged in the capital, Bruzz reports.

The pandemic caused a loss of employees and freelance workers within the sector, according to Stijn Snaet of Event Confederation, the sector’s ‎umbrella organisation, which represents approximately 748 organisations, companies and freelancers.‎ "We have a clear shortage in a number of organisations and for scheduled events. We now face a big challenge in terms of organisation, creativity and flexibility."

Snaet claims the shortage amounts to at least 700 people. "But fortunately, the sector is known for being creative and not being paralysed by the problem. Everyone is trying to find solutions." The Event Confederation has since launched a call for a new workforce. Everyone is welcome: permanent and temporary profiles, students and volunteers.

Summers without festivals were a huge loss during the time of severe health restrictions, so it's not surprising that more seasonal events than ever are planned this year in Brussels. This is also partly the cause of the problem: new initiatives create extra demand.

It's a sentiment echoed by Bert Schreurs, director of Brosella. He notices that the problem mainly arises with the suppliers. "When it comes to building stages, construction, lighting and security, the knowledge and manpower has disappeared. Suppliers also say that they can come, but due to the high demand, prices have risen enormously. We see that the price for sound and amplification has almost doubled," he explains.

Gilles De Decker, the organiser of Paradise City, confirms this. "The situation is especially difficult in terms of suppliers for, among other things, sound and decor, because they lost a lot of staff. That has repercussions for our festival, which is still small-scale," he says.

Horst Festival, which takes place this weekend, is also a smaller festival. Jochem Daelman, the organiser of the festival, agrees that the search for support staff has been a challenge. "Even though we're smaller, it's not easy. Last year there was a real shortage. This year we notice that it is especially difficult in regard to support staff. For example, for light and sound, experienced people are often no longer available."

Staff shortages at the festivals themselves are less of a problem. Brosella can count on a loyal permanent team of volunteers and the organisation works together with organised youth projects in Brussels.

Couleur Café also relies on its many regular volunteers. A spokesperson for Couleur Café said that the organisers do not foresee any problems for this year’s event. "We are looking for volunteers every year, and we succeed every year. Hopefully this year too."

At Paradise City, the search for volunteers has even been easier compared to 2021. "We're still a small festival, which is why we can also fall back on a fairly strong community," says De Decker. He says Horst Festival can count on a mix of volunteers and professional workers, both before and during the festival.

Written by Nick Amies