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Unobstructed: Precedent for an Unprecedented Situation (EP. 6)

Mike Evenson was joined by Byron Harrison, the leader of Charcoalblue’s global acoustics practice. They discussed Byron’s recent paper, Performance Buildings in the Post-Pandemic World, which focuses on the changes venues will need to consider when artists and audiences return. They take a look back in history at how theaters confronted the challenges presented by the 1918 flu pandemic and what we can learn from their actions.

Topics of conversation also included the increased scrutiny of the health-worthiness of venues, the need to quickly learn from the canaries in the coal mines, the psychology of social distance seating and the increased opportunities to leverage local talent when doors re-open.

We invite you to learn more about Charcoalblue and to follow them on Twitter at @Charcoalblue.

Unobstructed: Precedent for an Unprecedented Situation (EP.6) 

[00:00:00]

Announcer: You're listening to unobstructed your view on the live events industry.

[00:00:10]

Mike Evenson: Welcome to another episode of Unobstructed. My name is Mike Evenson. I'm your host. And I'm excited about this conversation today. I had a chance to catch up with Byron Harrison. Byron is a partner at Charcoal Blue in the acoustics principle. Charcoal Blue, for those who don't know is a theater acoustics in digital consultancy for performance venues. They do work around the world and recently published a paper and Byron was the author on that was focused on venues in the post pandemic world. There was a fascinating paper and it was a fascinating conversation. Hope you enjoy Byron. Thanks for joining us.

[00:00:51]

Byron Harrison: Hi Mike. Thanks for having me.

[00:00:53]

Mike Evenson: So absolutely. So, you are in Hong Kong, correct?

[00:00:59]

Byron Harrison: I am, yes, I moved here in January in sort of at the tail end of protests and come to find out and now dealing with a virus instead.

[00:01:09]

Mike Evenson: So how are things over there right now? Walk us through kind of what you know, from the time you've moved and obviously after the protest and stuff, but specifically with COVID, which probably wasn't even known as that over there. Walk us through the last few months.

[00:01:25]

Byron Harrison: Sure. Well, the first cases here emerged just as we touched down. So, in the first couple of weeks in January and very quickly Hong Kong reacted and by the 28th of January, performance venues here were closed. The reaction of Hong Kong is a specific thing related to the memory of SARS and SARS hit Hong Kong, particularly hard. So, there is a collective cultural memory of that and a way to take it very seriously and a social responsibility around taking an epidemic like this very seriously.

[00:02:12]

Mike Evenson: And so, what is the situation now, obviously over here in the States and in North America, you know we're kind of reaching peak and how are things over there?

[00:02:24]

Byron Harrison: Yes, we still have many things shut down, museums, performance venues are all still shut. There was a brief moment in March where we thought things might open back up and we had our classic second wave. Most of that was related to travel coming into the country. This week we've had all single number, new cases, so things are very much looking up. All of those cases, I think have been incoming infections caught at the airport, so very, very little local transmission. We're hoping that things continue to continue to open up. But I should say all the while we've had restaurants open shopping malls open. There's never been a lockdown. Lots of people are working from home, taking public transit at off hours and that kind of thing, but in some way, Hong Kong has dimmed instead of turned off which hopefully is something that many other places in the world can emulate, you know, after having dealt with COVID that we can find ways to be resilient, to not switch off the economy, but to wrap it down.

[00:03:48]

Mike Evenson: Absolutely and your paper covers that then before we get into the paper that you authored give our audience just an understanding for those that don't know who charcoal blue is, what you guys do.

[00:04:02]

Byron Harrison: Yes, so we were founded in 2004 as a theater consultancy with a few big clients to start with, particularly the [inaudible] company. I joined in 2010 to start up the acoustics practice. Since then we've also started a digital practice within the group. We've expanded, we have three offices in the United Kingdom opened sort of on the back of a project at St. Anne's Warehouse in Brooklyn opened an office in New York and then it stood on the back of a project in Chicago at Chicago, Shakespeare theater opened an office in Chicago and then opened in Melbourne about five years ago. The big client there is a city theater company.

[00:04:41]

Mike Evenson: Very, very cool. Yes, I know it's really exciting to see the work that you guys do. So, it's, it's usually rare, especially in this day and age that you would need to go back over a hundred years to find something even similar to compare to what might be happening in present day, but that's what you did. You went back over a hundred years to 1918 and, and kind of looked at the effect and impact the Spanish flu had on the live events economy and there's a heck of a lot more parallels and reactions and similarities, than you would think. You would think, a century later we would deal with things differently. But it doesn't look like that was the case. Help us understand kind of in your research, looking at this, how similar these two situations may be.

[00:05:45]

Byron Harrison: Yes, well, some of that remains to be seen, but certainly there are definite parallels about things that are happening, and I think the reaction of particularly public health officials and governments is extremely similar. All of that was undertaken in the teens without much of the understanding of what viruses actually are. It was not even attributed that the Spanish flu was a virus for a very, very long time after that pandemic the other. The difference is that the Spanish flu spread much slower than COVID has a part of that is the speed of travel, the amount of travel that we all do. If it was taking a number of days to get across the country at that point instead of a couple of hours, the differences became much more stark. Thankfully, there's a sort of treasure trove of data available to show different approaches to the pandemic. And the classic one is sort of Philadelphia versus St. Louis Philadelphia not having managed it well. And having had a very large epidemic, not having close to theaters. I think my research in this, started when people kept saying, well, Broadway never closed during the Spanish flu and while that's true, many individual theaters did. And that was certainly the outlier within the United States, many, any municipalities all throughout the U S had blanket closures of theaters for three weeks or more. And we didn't see those theaters reopening until, well, after the peak in deaths. So, a week, two weeks after the peak in deaths, which we've, it appears that we may be on the cusp know right at the moment as we're talking. So, we'll see, we'll see how quickly that comes back now.

[00:07:51]

Mike Evenson: And it's interesting because you mentioned it the second wave, you know, through your research and kind of looking back there, there was that second wave and you had two cities in particular, it looks like that had multiple shutdowns.

[00:08:06]

Byron Harrison: Yes, there were particularly in the West, there were multiple shutdowns and the West, and the East dealt with it slightly differently. Either in terms of how quickly they shut down and how quickly they came back, or even just from the public health perspective because the wave in the West was happening slightly later, they might have learned a few things. There are a few cities, I think, Sacramento, particularly and some evidence of that this happened in San Francisco that patrons were required to wear masks in public venues. This is something that we continue to debate today particularly interesting coming from Hong Kong, which is the mask wearing culture especially after SARS. That's a really interesting thing for me, from the Hong Kong perspective.

[00:08:56]

Mike Evenson: Yes, I'm sure and it was interesting not to give your whole paper away cause, cause I would encourage everyone to read it. Even the marketing and positioning around kind of why our theater, was something that, that different theaters were positioning their ventilation capabilities and it's fascinating to think that, content is King, but when things like this happen, you got to look at those other components of what that live event experience is.

[00:09:35]

Byron Harrison: Yes, completely. And the assurances to public that are going to be required are really key. And the evidence from the Spanish flu shows that theaters were competing on their ability to communicate with the public about how safe those venues were and this is an example in the paper of an advertisement for a theater, which is boasting about its ventilation, including the ventilation rates and how it's being done, which is particularly amusing. I don't know that any theater would go so far today, however, I will say that the venues will need to employ some kind of reassurance to their public. And there have been a number of studies saying how likely people are to come back to venues immediately after lockdown. And the numbers are below 40%. So, we will be ramping back up to one of the things that venues will need to do is to reassure public and to get people back into seats and to say that the venues are being managed to be helpful. And that communication process is going to be difficult. And we'll be looking to the types of public gatherings, which emerge first the sort of canaries in the coal mine. Are we able to get people together? What kind of protections are being put in place for the public and other venues around the world, will be emulating them.

[00:11:09]

Mike Evenson: Yes, it's fascinating. I think the different kind of attributes and criteria that were traditionally and have traditionally been identified when, you know, when looking at going to a show or a concert or a sporting event now there's a few more that likely will be layered on. And if you think about even that hotel, shopping experience and browsing experience, the number of attributes and amenities is got to be, you know, over 50 now. And so, you know, we're going to be looking at which theaters have the most public space, which theaters, you know, all of a sudden, the number of restrooms that are available is fundamental as new innovations come forward. There's going to be those kinds of attributes and maybe even ventilation, like we saw in, in 1918. So, you guys help venues all around the world, think about these things. So, what have the conversations been at your organization around kind of where you think the headspace is at for these, these organizations right now and how quickly you feel like they need to start implementing some of these changes?

[00:12:24]

Byron Harrison: Yes, great question. And we've been trying to reframe that question a bit with our clients who are, we're interested in the topic, and we've already had some conversations with specific clients about either their existing buildings or buildings that are under construction now where there's still a bit of a chance to, to make some changes. And part of that reframing is to not make it specifically about COVID. COVID is going to be a moment in time and we're going to get through it, but we also want to be make our venues resilient for whatever the next thing is. And if we respond specifically to COVID we might miss some opportunities to make the news even more resilient than they might be. The thoughts of do we have protected performances for the elderly, that's great, and that will be something that we can perhaps quickly employ for COVID, but the profile of who this virus is affecting most is going to change before the next one.

And so, we can't entirely rely upon COVID to make the buildings resilient, we need to actually think a bit broader. So, we've been thinking about ways to make our buildings more resilient for all of these things. Some of the conversations are about staggered performances, staggered arrivals, what to do with ticketing, the things that we've become used to in, in venues being able to present a barcode on our phones and not have a transaction. Great. But if you're the usher who's coming in very close contact to hundreds of mobile phones that could be seen as a threat. So, there are a whole array of those kinds of things that we're talking about, whether it's temperature sensing. I think the venues that have that see this as the biggest threat are ones that literally don't have the space to implement anything new inside their lobbies and foyers

[00:14:37]

Byron Harrison: We've done a whole bunch of work on the West end in London with venues who just literally don't have enough toilets. The ladies loos are the most debated aspect of London theater, really. When we look at these other existential threats, like terrorism and security, and what venues went through to implement security checks and how difficult that was for venues that were space constrained queues down the street in the London rain to get your bags checked, those kinds of things. And if you, if you layer on either temperature checks or health check questionnaires, vetting, you know, people coming into venues, that's going to create a, like a whole different quantum of interruption to the public experience. And we don't want to interrupt the public experience in the venues. You know, we still want venues to be fun and engaging spaces where people can relax and enjoy being with other people. And we don't want to take that out of the theater going practice, because that really is what's different from going to theaters versus watching something from your sofa.

[00:15;54]

Mike Evenson: Yes absolutely. Making that in person experiences as great as possible, if we start layering on complexity and longer wait lines and more frustration, it will be interesting to see how much of a deterrent that is in people choosing, Netflix and Disney plus. I think all of us are going to be ready to get out there. And it'll be fascinating to see, not only what the venues do to create that public trust, but what's mandated. I'm curious, because of where you live in Hong Kong and kind of the SARS background is going to events different over there? Are there additional checks or things that are, that were put in place over there that aren't maybe over in North America?

[00:16:51

Byron Harrison: Well, we don't have our performance venues open yet, so we'll see what happens. We'll see what happens with that. However, something as simple as going to a restaurant, which thankfully we still have them here is very different now. I went to a restaurant last night and I had my temperature checked twice upon entering once at the entrance to the building. Once upon entrance to the restaurant, I had to sign an affidavit that I had not been out of Hong Kong for the last 14 days that I've shown no symptoms that I don't live with someone who's been out of Hong Kong for the last 14 days signing my name, signature and mobile phone and email address and that's as an affidavit for myself, but also for contact tracing. So that if someone in the restaurant last night comes down with a sickness, I can be contacted and then tested.

[00:17:44]

Byron Harrison: And that level of contact tracing that's happening over here in Hong Kong is very sophisticated. Certainly, there are different technologies for that, that are happening. Singapore has this app, which is a contact tracing app that if you've been in contact with someone, it's using mobile phone data that can be anonymized, but also can contact you to let you know that that has occurred, right. So, lots of innovations and technologies happening here. And I think there are that those kinds of things will emerge. There may be here a different attitude towards privacy and whether Western audiences in the public are going to be amenable to that kind of checking in and oversight, it remains to be seen. Yes.

[00:18:35]

Mike Evenson: So totally agree. So shifting gears a little bit because venues are kind of your life and I've often talked about how venues are really one of those key centralized community gathering places you've got, you know, as, as Ray Crock said, you've got schools, you've got churches and you have McDonald's. But to me, these live entertainment venues have that, that opportunity to kind of be in that category. I think that in a lot of ways, they're underused in that regard, when you think about, the fact that usually a performance or an event needs to be happening in order for that to be in use what we're seeing, and I think there's a big opportunity. And I'm wondering if the COVID situation might catapult organizations to start thinking a little more creatively around the kinds of ways their venue is used , adapting outdoor spaces, you guys look at, and as you think about, how you help these organizations think differently about just traditional, butts and seats and, and, and live events, do you think there is an opportunity for the owners and operators of these venues and then the patrons and the visitors to start seeing it as more than maybe what it's kind of seen as today?

[00:20:15]

Byron Harrison: I definitely believe that the performance community is going to be creative to this response. We're going to see lots of really interesting things happen with buildings and performance coming out of this. We, we can speculate on some what some of those are going to be. I think that the highly flexible venues, will be able to get people in earlier. They're going to be able to change their seating arrangements and still make comfortable theaters, not to continue to go back to Hong Kong restaurants, but to go back to Hong restaurants, one of the stark differences here is that restaurants are only operating at 50% capacity. And the restaurants who have who have the ability are able to take away the extra tables and chairs and store them elsewhere. And if you're a small restaurant, you might not have enough storage to do that.

[00:21:12]

Mike Evenson: Sorry, I just to jumping but my head, goes to dynamic pricing are the meals, are the meals the same price, or have those increased.

[00:21:19]

Byron Harrison: They appear to be the same price. There have been a couple of special sort of special offer things happening, which might have changed that value proposition, but things appear to be the same. Yeah. The same prices, but just 50% capacity. But the restaurants that you walk into, which have whole bunch of empty seats have a palpably different field than the ones where you go in and there's not an empty seat, right. It kind of feels like the old days, which makes everyone at ease. Some restaurants literally have barriers in between bar seats like temporary plywood or barriers. Those are the ones that don't quite feel right. We tend to avoid. So, you can, you can apply that thinking to theaters.

[00: 22:14]

Byron Harrison: Yes. We could put empty seats between every patient we could put empty, every other row seating. We could do that, but what's it going to feel like for the audience? And what's it going to feel like for the actors, if you're looking out into a house that's 40% full, but you've sold all the tickets. Right. And that's not the kind of public experience that is going to encourage people back into venues. Right. And so, well, yes, we can give you open venues that way. Do we want to, and I, you know, I don't think the economics work particularly favorably for it. There's also this the sense of community that we want to get back to and filling half the seats is not doing that.

[00:22:59]

Mike Evenson: I agree. I think it's going to be demotivating for the performers. It's going to be demotivating for everyone. We see that in the sports world and in baseball and some of the major league teams just can't bring enough, you know fans and it's just a cavernous experience. And that's the reason why, sports free agents leave, leave those, leave those teams, and go play somewhere where it's more competitive and the fans are more engaged. So, it's definitely a symbiotic relationship there between the performers and the audience. So, I think you're spot on. And obviously that's going to take a ton of time to be able to build a theater, like you said, some have space challenges and obviously these buildings have been around a long time. That's not going to happen overnight where you're going to be able to just make seats disappear and up here, like magic. So, what do you think kind of the transition experience could look like? Or do you think we're just headed for a bit of an era of deal with it while we, while we figure this out?

[00:24:10]

Byron Harrison: I think there's going to be an interesting moment when particularly theater companies. And to some extent orchestras as well, opera companies, especially where the production gestation period I'll say is extremely long booking international artists ahead for months or years, the design and production period for sets and costumes. All of those things are timetabled very precisely months, even years in advance and in order to protect their, their work and to guarantee their employees, the projection of what's going to happen in the future someday needs of canceled work all the way through November at this point. And we're at the end of April, right. But I think we're going to be opening venues to some extent before then. And I think the question then is going to be, what are these organizations going to do to what I call backfill their program, to get people back into their venues when they're not doing their traditional program, and whether that's using local artists who don't have to travel in whether that's creating different seating arrangements, whether that's creating alternate types of work, is it instead of a full opera with full sets and costumes?

[00:25:39]

Byron Harrison: Is it some kind of short presentation, excerpts, scenes, you know, those kinds of things with where they have the sets and costumes already built, or they're working with the artists that they're able to work with those kinds of things. I'm going to be fascinated to see how creative these organizations are in getting people back into venues before they resume their regular schedule, looking even further ahead. I think there will be a reset about how resilient the production schedule is. These sort of Swiss watch, production schedules, if one thing goes wrong, the whole thing falls apart. Can we make those production schedules more resilient? Maybe that's relying more on storage of sets and costumes, maybe that's thinking more about going into a rep season instead of a single production for a number of weeks. It's that mindset that might allow venues, in the future when something like this happens and we, and we're affected by it, but it's not a lockdown. Those are the venues that are then going to be able to continue to get audiences in seats.

[00:26:57]

Mike Evenson: Yeah, it's like a chain link too when you have productions that are touring around the, around the country and the continent, and you have this just domino effect where things get pushed postpone, and it's like, well, how are we going to, how are we going to reschedule this tour? There's just too many variables and it's challenging enough to schedule that 18-month tour. All of a sudden, you're throwing in cities where maybe they stay open. Some cities may have to go into that second wave and shut down. And so, I think you're right. I think that finding a way to create, curate content locally and keep it local is a great opportunity and that is exciting to think about if you have to go national that's where all of a sudden there's competition everywhere.

[00:27:51]

Mike Evenson: So, I think like for a couple of weeks, the live streaming, buzz was, everyone was trying to think, how can we take this online? And that's great, and there are opportunities for that but then you realize that you're going up against literally everyone in the world. And when people only are going to, spend a couple hours every night, engaging in content or spending, you know, discretionary income it's tough to stand out. I think that's a great point. You also mentioned again, kind of the blending of using outdoor spaces or are moving around within a region that's something that stuck out to me in your paper.

[00:28:41]

Mike Evenson: So, you kind of looked at three phases of returning to normal. You looked at crisis management, which were well within, but I think that a lot of organizations are trying to figure out kind of where they stand. Are they viable? Will they survive this? We hope absolutely. Yes. Let me talk about kind of ramping up to normal. And I think a lot of these things that you, you spoke about kind of fit into that and being, being nimble and being flexible, you know, like you said, with the gestation period is probably a challenge for some of these organizations. Wouldn't you think?

[00:29:17]

Byron Harrison: It's a huge shift in thinking especially for very large organizations who are aiming for top tier artists who travel right. The opera world, especially right when you're trying to get European artists into the States headlining productions. That's going to be difficult for a very long time. So, it's a huge shift in thinking and to keeping it local aspect I think is going to, is going to return. I've been trying to keep up with where tickets are on sale for things. Then looking here in Asia about if I wanted to buy a ticket for anything in the region, where would I go? I think as of last week, at least there were there was a community symphony in Seoul who was still selling tickets for the end of May, likewise in Taiwan.

[00:30:13]

Byron Harrison: It sounds like baseball is going to return in Taiwan very quickly in May. I think it's accurate that with American announcers broadcasting to us for fans to get their baseball fix. So, while there's also, keeping it local, there's also opportunities for organizations to create new audiences as a result and being able to, harness the enthusiasm for digital streaming that has happened. I think it's going to be important, the digital streaming phenomenon that has occurred. It's fascinating to watch. I think it's a particularly slick, slippery slope. I think the conditioning, the audiences that they don't need to pay for this content is very difficult and it's a very, very fine line to walk between continuing to engage audiences. And so that they don't forget about you and giving all of your content away for free.

[00:31:27]

Mike Evenson: I couldn't agree more. And I think that's why the crisis management phrasing is so appropriate because I think that, when you're a venue and you're so reliant and I would say passionate about people coming into your venue and spending a night there, that literally just ceases to exist. You do want to stay top of mind, you do want to create engagement opportunities. And I think that, you know, giving content away for free, I get it as a short-term strategy. I'm not sure it's viable long term. What I will say though, is that the other thing that a lot of these organizations need to figure out is, is how their monetization strategy changes and again, so used to selling tickets and that being kind of that primary revenue stream.

[00:32:30

Mike Evenson: But if you start attracting a national audience or international audience, the reality is a lot of those people are never going to be candidates because they don't live in your region and it's not always going to be a live stream. I've talked about this for a long time, but diversifying kind of your products and what you offer and how you can monetize and engage with audiences regardless of where they live. That's always been a problem. It's just now it's one of those things that it's a new revenue stream that you need to consider immediately while your doors are shut, otherwise, you won't be a viable organization.

[00:33:09]

Byron Harrison: Yes, absolutely. It's one thing that the performing arts world should look to the sports world for guidance on the broadcasting and the sophistication of broadcast of live events is extremely sophisticated and the performing arts world is coming up to that. Particularly in the last decade has improved through things like the Berlin Phil Digital Concert Hall, National Theater live streaming to cinemas, those kinds of things. There's lots of great examples, but the penetration within the marketplaces is much less than it is in sport. There's a lot to learn there.

[00:33:59]

Mike Evenson: A hundred percent. Yes, I agree and there's a lot for the sports landscape to learn from the arts. It's one of those back and forth where you have opportunities to learn from each other. What has stood out to you personally kind of during this time period as a lover of live events, I'm sure. I mean, it's what your entire job is and career what has encouraged you during this time that maybe you've seen out there that gives you hope that not only in this industry is going to come out of this, but it's going to come out of it stronger?

[00:34;36]

Byron Harrison: Yes the perspective of having dealt with a number of crises and coming out of them stronger is particularly encouraging, you know in the work we did in researching what happened during the 1918 flu, the decade after the 1918 flu was the biggest boom that theater construction ever seen since before or since right. Half of the seats on Broadway were built let's say in the decade between the Spanish flu and the great depression. So, it's actually a huge opportunity here to continue to engage the public also purely from our perspective, we're looking at a construction industry, which has been running fairly hot and especially in some parts of the world. And we hope that building in general is going to be more economical in the near future. And some of the venues who have been planning to, everything from small scale refurbishments to new buildings might find value if they're able to do that quickly. And I think the projects to go back and use an Obama era term shovel ready that project, that the venues that have shovel ready projects might come out ahead. People with, you know, a sack of construction drawings, ready to go, might find extraordinarily good value to build right now.

[00:36:17]

Mike Evenson: So, your expertise is in acoustics. And I'm curious. A lot of us can hear, we have ears and we have the ability to hear things just like a lot of us like wine, but we're not Sommeliers, is that like, do you have a quality or a capability as an acoustics expert to know what great sound is? And can you just enlighten me on what you think you can hear that I wouldn't be able to hear?

[00:36:51]

Byron Harrison: I think part of that is having the vocabulary to describe what we hear and that's very often what I tell my team is, you know, it's not necessarily what you're hearing, it's how we are describing it and describing something that is not visible is really difficult, you know, and the wine example is extremely good. [inaudible] One of the leaders in our field always used the wine example when talking about acoustics. That's very apt, as it relates to as it relates to COVID, you know, and we talked about audience capacity in rooms, one of the things that makes live events so special is not actually just the sound of the performance itself, but the sound of the audience. Right. And whether it's the hush of the sound when something exciting happens, or when the curtain, you know, when the curtain goes up or, you know, something, or whether it's laughter rippling across an auditorium especially in the news where they have different perspectives on the stage where someone on the, across the room, might've seen something first, right?

[00:38:00]

Byron Harrison: Those kinds of reactions, those are the kinds of things that I thrive on in live venues. Right. And it's, it's how people are communicating and whether it's a gasp or a titter, or maybe it's a sore right. You know, all of those things allow us to read the room. Right. And the, and that's how I sort of see the threat of this thought about community building and theater being, because it will change the calculus in how, how exciting things are, and, you know, and working as an exhibition within a charcoal blues, traditionally been a theater consultancy one of the things that we as theater consultants also do is try to get people as close as possible within the confines of comfort because it's just more exciting that way and some of the historic venues have a lot to teach us about that from an actress perspective, looking out into a sea, literally a sea of faces with every surface paper, with the face versus looking out and seeing, you know, strips of heads, it's a very different experience.

[00:39:06]

Byron Harrison: And similarly, for the audience, you know, we, we want to feel like we're in a collective community. And I think coming out of the other end of COVID, there will be an enhanced sense of community. And I think that there's going to be an enhanced sense of community responsibility, right. And the Hong Kong perspective right now is that we've that after SARS, there is the sense of community responsibility about this thing and wearing masks to protect yourself is not really the story. It's a brewery about protecting others. And there is this community response and I'm so hopeful that the West is open enough to come out with that collective responsibility, whether it's wearing masks, not sure whether it, but there, there will be something that will be special about our communities, once we're through this.

[00:40:08]

Mike Evenson: I'm happy you have that perspective. I know you've done a lot of projects, so you probably leave a few out, but what are some of you can't miss venues around the world? What are some venues that you just love going to every chance you get.

[00:40:31]

Byron Harrison: The theater bar at the end of the Wharf at Sydney theater company is the most spectacular theater bar in the world. They're under construction right now on a project that we've designed, and construction continues to plow ahead in Sydney. We hope to be standing at the theater bar at the end of the Wharf to see a show and drink a glass of bubbly in January. So, I'm very hopeful about that. So, don't go to Sydney and only go to the opera house. I guess from a from a music perspective, there are some certainly in the last decade, there have been some spectacular spaces to see and hear the couple of times that I've been able to go to the new Paris concert hall, the Philharmonic. I've just been blown away by the excitement of that room. And I'm not one that's sort of bowled over by, in their own concert halls and vineyard concert hall experience. But I'm just so impressed by what everything that room offers. I won't say any more about the foyer spaces, but I like the room.

[00:41:41]

Mike Evenson: Well, thank you for that and if live events came back on tomorrow, what would be the first thing you would do?

[00:41:51]

Byron Harrison: Well, it is Beethoven year. I feel like the, the music community has had its Beethoven heart ripped out of it because we've not had been able to celebrate the Beethoven year. So, the Hong Kong Phil started a Beethoven cycle. I got to hear simply one and then the venue shuts. I think the music community has all sort of cravings and Beethoven, so that's probably number one.

[00:42:18]

Mike Evenson: Well, for those who are listening, I highly recommend that you go to Charcoal Blue's website download this paper, have a read it's a combination of looking backwards and looking forwards and Byron, I think you did a great job of spelling that out. And for those that want to learn more about charcoal blue. Again, they've worked with clients such as the national theater, [inaudible] opera house in London, Hudson Theater in the lyric on Broadway, regional theaters, like the Chicago Shakespeare theater, Theater Square in Arkansas, and the Sydney Theater Company in Australia. Byron, I hope you stay safe out there. Thank you so much for coming on Unobstructed to talk to talk COVID and how it's impacting venues in this post pandemic world. And hopefully it will get there sooner rather than later.

[00:43:09]

Byron Harrison: Great. Thanks Mike.

[00:43:12]

Mike Evenson: Thanks Byron. Thanks once again, to Byron Harrison from Charcoal Blue for stopping by Unobstructed and spending some time with us talking through how venues are not only dealing with the Covid crisis today, looking back a hundred years ago and what came out of the so-called Spanish flu, as well as the innovation and great things that came out of it. We can only hope that that our industry you know, comes out of this crisis the same way. So, really was a great conversation. Hope you enjoyed it. Looking forward to a future episodes of Unobstructed. If you liked this episode, make sure that you check out the other podcasts we've recorded. We've got some fantastic guests on, and we hope you like what we are doing. Thanks. Have a great day.

[00:44:09]

Announcer: Thanks for listening to Unobstructed your view on the live events industry. Subscribe today, wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

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