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BACK CHAT

NIALL HOLDEN VDC CEO and Founder, Niall Holden shares how his company has weathered the economic storm of COVID-19 and his optimism for the sector post-pandemic.

Have you had to diversify the company to stay afloat? We’ve been getting busier as the months go along, with our export business picking up in the Middle East and China. Many businesses have used this downtime to refit and refurb their spaces so thankfully Van Damme has been specified for those kinds of projects. Although rock ’n’ roll often steals the headlines, 10 of our top 30 clients are in the install market. Thankfully, that has allowed us to weather the economic storm of COVID-19.

What impact has COVID-19 had on your business? It was a real shock. All of our jobs disappeared overnight. Although we’ve lived through recessions, ups and downs, nothing could prepare us for COVID-19. Our turnover in April was 5% of our usual income, so we have had to cut our overheads and sadly lose some members of staff. Thankfully, the furlough scheme and certain tax reliefs have allowed us to survive this tough time and come out with a more efficient and sustainable business.

Are you confident that the live events sector will bounce back post-pandemic? I’m confident that the sector will return to full force. Human beings will want to leave the house and experience live entertainment in great numbers post-pandemic. The fact audiences are still purchasing gig tickets despite uncertainty is testament to the public’s confidence in the sector. The challenging bit is the ramp up and to managing the demand as things get back to normal.

How have you fared over the past 12 months? We originally had around 50+ members of staff. However, due to the pandemic, we had to lay off around 30 people, which was an unpleasant experience, affecting people’s livelihoods. We went down to just over 20 core members of staff but now we’re back up to 34, having recruited back staff that we had to let go. We’re now gearing back up in anticipation of the future. The difficulty imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic meant we had to dismantle the business to survive and we’re now building it back up.

What do the coming months look like for VDC? We are putting new systems in place with a brand new website out in July/August which will have lots of additional features. We’re also planning on launching many new products. I can only foresee positivity when we come out of this tough time for the sector, based on the quotes and requests we’ve been receiving over the past couple of months. Ultimately, live music will return and people are champing at the bit to get out when we’re all liberated. 58

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