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‘Joke’ Scottish Government fund won’t prevent decimation of events industry says Perth firm

People enjoying the Enchanted Forest in Faskally Woods.
People enjoying the Enchanted Forest in Faskally Woods.

A Perth firm that has helped grow the Enchanted Forest festival and Scottish Game Fair said it had no option to cut jobs as it fights to keep trading beyond Christmas.

The founder of Perth-based marketing firm Volpa has called for more government support for the events industry.

Tricia Fox she was “livid” her business is unable to access the government’s new £10 million Event Industry Support Fund which she said was barely going to scratch the surface of the “widespread decimation of the events industry”.

The chief executive said her company’s income had dropped from £50,000 a month to around £12,000 as events were cancelled and hospitality businesses cut their marketing spend.

Tricia Fox, founder of Volpa

Ms Fox, who employed 11, has made two staff redundant while another has taken an unpaid sabbatical and the remainder, who are still furloughed, have moved to a four day working week at 80% of their wages.

Founded 18 years ago, Volpa has supported events such as Enchanted Forest festival in Highland Perthshire and The Scottish Game Fair. Both events have been cancelled this year.

Ms Fox said: “We can see the writing on the wall. If we don’t start saving money now then we won’t make it past Christmas, it’s that simple.

“It’s a race against maths and the only things that’s going to solve it is grants and funding and the government fund is a joke, £10m to support a £6bn industry? It’s shocking.

“I can’t rule out making further redundancies but I’ll fight tooth and nail to avoid it.”

Sarah Petrie (6) from Kirkcaldy feeding the sheep at Scottish Game Fair in 2019.

The comments come as another Perthshire events company, Catalyst, has made the majority of its staff redundant.

Firms that have previously accessed government support, such as rates relief, are not eligible for the new fund which gives businesses £10,000 grants.

Ms Fox said she had exhausted every possible avenue for government support.

She has written an open letter to Fiona Hyslop, the cabinet secretary for economy, fair work and culture calling for the Scottish Government to reconsider their approach to the events industry before it collapses.

It states: “I am extremely disappointed my company will not be eligible to apply for this fund.

“Not because our income from events hasn’t been sufficiently dented (it has) but because we have had the temerity to provide office accommodation for the staff we employ, who deliver our multi-award-winning work.

“Sadly because we have already received the much needed (and now used) Small Business Support Grant back in April, which helped cover some (but not all) of the ongoing costs of our business against the immediate downturn in revenues we saw as a result of the cancellation of mass gathering back in early March.

The Enchanted Forest

“However, like a great many operators in the events supply chain Volpa has been hit badly by the wholesale cancellation of these large scale events and, I don’t mind disclosing this, has lost significant revenues over the last five months as a direct result.”

Ms Fox said the Enchanted Forest drives 80,000 visitors to the Perthshire area and contributes almost £7.6m value to the region.

The Scottish Game Fair has around 30,000 visitors, with an economic impact of £4.6m.

Majority of staff made redundant in Perthshire events company’s ‘darkest day’

Ms Fox accused the government of a “spray and pray” approach to supporting the events industry.

She added: “It astounds me that our government is presiding over a recovery programme that is seeing so many excellent, market leading companies facing complete ruination because the support they need to get through this is simply not there.

“It seems to me that the government’s strategy is, from what I can gather, ‘give each business £10k and see how many can survive’.

“It’s a spray and pray approach that strikes me as lacking in genuine understanding of how markets and economies actually work.

“If you think £10,000 will cover our wage bills and overheads for months, then you are greatly deluded.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “We understand this is a deeply difficult time for those in the events industry and that the restrictions necessary to suppress Covid-19 have been particularly damaging and we are taking a careful and measured approach to the resumption of live events.

“We know this is a sector which will face difficulties for some time to come which is why we announced additional funding of £10m for those in the events industry, on top of £2.3bn of business support.

“The Events Industry Support Fund announced this week was created with  input from the newly formed Event Industry Advisory Group (EIAG) and specifically designed to support event industry businesses which have not received any of the existing Scottish Government sponsored Covid-related funding schemes.

“Given their significant borrowing powers which the Scottish Government doesn’t have, we continue to urge the UK Government for additional funding, such as the continuation of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which will be crucial for the sector’s long term recovery.”

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