COVID-19 - Chapter 81
March 19, 2020


Words by: Simon Fogal

It seems crazy that only just over two weeks ago I was in meetings where, at the end of said meeting, I was asking if we should be chatting a little more about the potential impact of COVID-19. 

Fast-forward those two weeks (it feels like months), and the impact, the advice, and the mammoth mess has been something that no one could ever have predicted. Nor could they have predicted just how fast everything could change, and continues to change. 

Regular communication is a must, and we have that with C81 and my regular freelancers. Running a business or several is hard enough, but I had to reassure them that where we can, there is work here. Things will change, but we can all adapt and have to learn to do so. We have staff who are going through tough times personally, kids at home dramas, and others who have lost most of their other work. United we stand.   

As a PR company that runs events and supports small businesses, we are 50% hospitality and 50% lifestyle. It is so difficult to sit and hear stories of panic when what people need most is some reassurance. 

It was with that in mind that we decided, straight away, to be a sounding board, and help wherever we can. We’ve been writing statements, pushing people toward advice, and setting up the Leeds Indie Food Directory – and more.

In a previous life, I worked at the Environment Agency and was drilled in being part of the incident room when flooding was likely to happen. This training put me straight into assist mode, and I felt like we could help (and must react as quickly as we can). Our current clients are on the phone as much as possible, and we’re genuinely giving them all the support we can.  

Stay safe and look after everyone.

Leeds International Festival

The team behind this are currently working hard on something very nice. This will be announced as soon as we can, and that is all I can say at this stage.

Leeds Indie Food

Monday 16th March was meant to be the date our first events went on sale. Instead, I quickly switched the festival event pages into a directory. This is a work in progress, and the event pages aren’t perfectly designed for the job. However, we’ve done what we can to showcase what the indie community are doing in this tough time, advertising their opening times (where possible) and ways to support them, including vouchers and online stores. 

Our super designers are changing the pages over to an actual directory early next week (W/C 23rd March). 

We have done interviews for ITV, BBC, YEP and helped other media chat to indies from Leeds List, Radio and more, to make sure the plight of indie businesses is being heard at this point.

Some interesting bits to come out of this:

• We have held talks with the tech community wanting to build voucher pages for small businesses and much more. 

• We have held talks on dark kitchen spaces.

• We have held talks on an incubator scheme to launch later in the year. 

• We have some testing of a website to house a delivery function for small businesses not wanting to be on deliveroo/ uber eats. 

• We are setting up some merch, so we can help give money back to the community and help shout louder than ever before.

• We are looking at a city-wide plan to help (with various meetings taking place)

Our other festivals - Eat North / Chow Down

It pains me so much to spend a lot of time planning these events across the North and then to sit and wait on what we can do. Obviously we want to run these events (events have upfront costs), and the supply chain is massive – but safety comes first. 

With all on hold until we can actually safely put on a food festival, we have started looking at other options, like more events later in the year to help traders who have missed their usual Spring and Early Summer gigs. It’s all to give confidence, keep businesses optimistic and hopes high. We have a network of people all willing to help, and have a warehouse space in which traders can store things for now.

The Wonder Truck

We are working hard on bringing this out into the world as soon as we can. This was meant to appear at events as soon as we could. Keep eyes peeled on this one.

Bundobust / HOME/ The Owl/ Sarto

Sarto have adapted day by day and are currently offering cook at home pasta kits which are available online to order (before 3pm) for delivery after 5pm. Amazing. We are in constant chats and are working on some nice things to be revealed ASAP.

I Like Trains

It seems odd to chat about my band here, but this is the year that I Like Trains could quite possibly release new music in the world. Those plans are up in the air as of right now. Without giving too much away, we have been working on plans for a fair few years and will have an action plan very soon.

“Let’s empower the indies. Let's give them hope at this time. Support Local Business wherever you can. Indies United. ”
Simon Fogal

Share this article

Related Articles

View all (109)