Features November 4, 2019

CrewCare: Why Aussie roadies need their own welfare association

CrewCare: Why Aussie roadies need their own welfare association
Photo: Howard Freeman / By Campbell Manderson

New national Australian entertainment charity association CrewCare launched last week, with a number of initiatives in place.

All CrewCare donations and fundraising income will go through the Crew Fund, with both organisations vowing to establish “unified” programs to reach out and educate.

CrewCare’s aim is to link people in need in the live sector to professionals who can help them in medical, mental, financial, crisis relief and all other issues.

Live production people operate as a brotherhood, and are, by nature, loyal to each other and watch each other’s backs.

It is imperative, they say, to comprehend the psychology of the people you’re trying to help so it can be effective – and to encourage them to reach out in the first place.

“No-one understands the relevance of the industry you’re working in, to the problem you have,” live production identity and CrewCare co-founder tells TMN.

He explains that technical and backstage crew pride themselves on how inventive and resourceful they are in getting a show up and running each day, and how they routinely overcome obstacles.

“Or you’re a proud man who worked harder than everybody else in loading in, and you’re viewed as the bench-mark in physicality. Now your body is broken.

“With that kin of mindset, you’re not the kind of person who readily reaches out to others to fix things for them when things go wrong.”

Rough estimates have 12,000 working in the live sector, half of those crews, others in auxiliary services like health and safety, catering and trucking.

It’s an industry of hard work, unpredictable income and social alienation which leads to depression, addictions, and collapse of family life.

The suicide rate, as research has shown, is five times more than the general population’s.

In a recent instance, a man thought of ending it after his business went bust and his wife left him.

The executive friend offered to give up drinking himself if he did – each monitoring the other every morning and night – until his fortunes changed.

The man got a job some weeks later and effectively saved his own life.

Recent horror stories included a man who was caring for his mother until she died, having the family home sold from underneath him by a family member.

He was so sick he needed help to move his possessions out.

A man needing dialysis three times a week had his car motor blowing up, which meant he couldn’t make imperative hospital visits.

How to reach out

Through Brisbane-based national medical service Hemisphere, CrewCare members access a wide array of help like lists of professionals who offer discounts, specialise in mental awareness and well-being, and advise as, say, where to get the best deals on hearing aids.

CrewCare’s priority is to let members know that Support Act has a 24-hour helpline.

An effective strategy is A3-size posters about the helpline posted on the inside door and inside the pan of every truck. Every time they load or unload, they subtly get the message.

All major truck providing company adopted the idea. One went further and added the message on its PayPal invoices.

Another strategy is business card-sized information given to crews when they sign on for work.

“There’s no discussion, no judgement, no stigma,” Freeman explains. “They can put it away or they can use it if they want to.”

Setting up

Freeman comes from four generations in the live business, starting in 1905.

He started working the door at his father’s venues 50 years ago, and went overseas to be part of the Rolling Stones and Prince teams, among others, and was Big Day Out’s production manager for 20 years.

Now his two sons work in the sector too. Freeman is one of the founders of CrewCare, along with Sharyn Moran and Tony Moran.

Sharyn worked at The Paul Dainty Corporation and Richard East Productions in roles covering tour promotion, computer networks, artist manager and music publishing

One-time photographer and graphic designer Tony handled A&R and publishing for Richard East Productions, Bright Spark Music, Image Music and Fable.

Tony says, “Many of our top industry professionals, from all areas of the music business, are now working together to establish this.

“Agents, promoters, publicists, venues, labels, managers, artists … the list goes on, all freely giving their time (and money), working alongside the best crew in the country… the best in the world!”

The founding directors of CrewCare include Haydn Johnston of outdoor events firm Architects of Entertainment, Peter Darwin of Adelaide’s Flashpoint Events who set up the first SA music awards, and Julius Grafton who ran audio and lighting companies and now pro-audio CX Magazine.

There’s Chris ‘CR’ Rogers of Melbourne’s Palais Theatre, Mark ‘Trogg’ Svendsen of Pro Stage Victoria and Gig Power and Camille Symmons who heads Concert & Corporate Productions.

Phil Graham from the University of the Sunshine Coast is helping CrewCare apply for funding to establish research into crew welfare in the live creative industries.

Sebastian Chase, head of MGM Distribution, helped set up a record label, Patchwork Productions, through which to raise funds with sales of live recordings by sound engineers.

A call has gone out for more engineers to provide personal recordings. They will handle legal and copyright processes.

CrewCare organised this year’s inaugural  events which raised over $62,000 for the Support Act ‘Roadies fund’ and will expand in 2020 to more cities.

More fundraising initiatives are in the pipeline.

Crews and supporters are encouraged to join CrewCare.

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