University at the festivals

Festival Friends and Fellow Workers

Last month, a member of university staff was surprised that the Festivals Office was only comprised of four people. I responded by explaining that although the official Festivals Office is just 4 people (Lorna Brain, Anastasia Bishop, Kate Lindey, Gwen Orr), there are a LOT of people that we liaise with throughout the university and beyond that help us make these festivals run smoothly on the university campus.

Today I wanted to highlight and introduce you to the two people without whom things would not run so smoothly.

Susan Leven

Brian Cleary is the Health and Safety Advisor for the University of Edinburgh (Events).  His company is Sygma Safety & Events Ltd trading as Safetygeeks and he has been working with us since 2009.  Brian works for us year round with a particular emphasis on June – September. 

Tell us about Safetygeeks?

Safetygeeks are event safety & event management advisors across the UK. We work solely in events and work with clients to provide documentation, advice and on site services to create and maintain a safe work environment.

What does your job at the university entail?

We work with the Festivals Office and Estates team to monitor all tenants who hire University land and buildings; give advice on plans and proposals and help with low-level enforcement issues across the venues. Our job is as enablers wherever possible – we are not the type of H&S Officers (we don’t call ourselves officers) who stop the creative process.

Why is your job so important at festival time?

We’re just small cogs in a big wheel – we try to pull together simple safety messages for those working on venue sites and ensure that their plans include thoughts about public safety. Our ethos is “Don’t say No; say How?”

How has the job changed over the years?

We get a lot more help from festival tenants and ALL those working have increased their professionalism. More people are interested in what goes on and standards are constantly improving.

What other events do you work on outwith the university?

Hogmanay, Edinburgh’s Christmas, Boomtown, Stonehenge Summer & Winter Solstices, Rave events for LWE, Racing events for Silverstone Woodlands, West End Live, Leicester Square Christmas and a whole host of corporate work for specialized clients.

What would be your ultimate event to work on?

Manchester City in the European Champions League Final – failing that, Edinburgh Fringe!

What would you say to anyone interested in working in Event Safety?

Choose your specialism, get experience, hone your common sense – remember it’s about people.

 

Susan Leven works for the University of Edinburgh Estates department as Festival and Events Coordinator.  She has been in the Estates Department for 12 years and in this role for the last two years. 

Susan Leven

What does your job entail?

I provide technical guidance and assistance regarding the use of the university estate for events & exhibitions, ensuring events are held safely and the university estate is preserved.  I am the main communication/liaison point within estates for buildings/services related issues.  I ensure that university compliance documentation is up to date and provided to our festival tenants.  The festival occupants reciprocate with their compliance documentation which I review and check. 

Why is your job so important at festival time?

The festival get in/out happens at such a pace that any issues must be dealt with swiftly so for Estates having a dedicated person helps with the reactive part of this job.

What other events do you work on outwith the festival season?

I work on various events throughout the year such as Hogmanay events, Xmas tree installation, Pride, Meadows marathon, Edinburgh marathon, graduations, ECA degree show and Masters show, filming requests, sporting events and several art exhibitions and installations  for the Talbot Rice Gallery.  

What do you find exciting about the job and what are the biggest challenges?

It is exciting to see the launch of an event/exhibit that you have played a part in enabling.

The biggest challenge is ensuring I find the balance between enabling events/exhibits whilst equally preserving our estate and keeping an eye on health and safety. 

What would be your ultimate event to work on and what kind of event would you love to see at the university?

‘David Bowie Is’  is a travelling exhibition that has been touring globally for the past 5 years that I would love to work on or see in Edinburgh.  I also love events that have lots of lights and projection so anything like that would be great.

 

The Festivals Office started up more than 20 years ago at The University of Edinburgh.  We deal with the hire of space on the university campus for a variety of creative and cultural events such as concerts, plays, comedy shows and dance performances of all sizes.