That Was The Year That Was

By NEWSUBSTANCE Directors — December 17, 2020

“The light at the end of the tunnel, is the light of the oncoming train”

Half Man Half Biscuit


This is not the end of year review we anticipated we would be capturing when we started 2020 with a Guinness World Record for PyroDrones™, our award-winning temporary structure Spectra all set to enjoy its third year at Coachella and a raft of exciting new projects poised to go live. Back then COVID-19 was an already out of date X-Box game and track & trace was nothing more than a new Royal Mail initiative. Little did we know that within a few months we would find ourselves in the grip of a global pandemic with the live events industry taking the hardest of hits.

NEWSUBSTANCE has always prided itself on being nimble. As Directors we have always strived to ensure that we are insulated, as best we can be, against outside forces that could threaten our operational capabilities. However, even the brightest and the best business leaders have wrestled with the invisible and deadly threat that the coronavirus virus poses.

Nelson Mandela said of leadership “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership”.

NEWSUBSTANCE has long fostered an environment that looks to empower its staff, giving them the tools to lead and shine. COVID however presents a genuine danger to our business and, to Mr Mandela’s point, as Directors we had to step up and take the ‘front line”. There is no manual for what the last ten months has presented in terms of challenges and we have had to dig deep to stay on the front foot. It has led to many late nights, analysing model after model and running spread sheets the size of Berkshire. You learn about each other and discover qualities you hitherto had not seen. In particular though, you learn about your team. Whilst this has and continues to be a worrying period for Directors, it is just as anxious a time for staff, all of whom look to us for clarity, direction and a plan. The silver lining in all this has been the manner in which everyone has pulled together, adapted and remained energised – Stronger Together.

We are not out of the woods yet but there have been many moments through 2020 that have given us reasons to be cheerful. Our drone light show business SKYMAGIC has been shortlisted for, and winners of, a number of prestigious awards. We have been invited to speak at a number of high-profile events including Business of Design Week in Hong Kong. We have picked up some fantastic projects in new sectors and new territories. We introduced a regular Friday speaker slot, inviting luminaries from our world and beyond to share their insights and creative process – including Vijay Mistry (Kaiser Chiefs), Tim Routledge (award winning lighting designer), David Hieatt (Co-Founder of Hiut & Do Lectures) and puppeteer Ronnie Le Drew (Zippy, Sooty & Sweep and Labyrinth).  However, the single biggest reason to remain cheerful has been how we have behaved as a team, we have stayed focused, driven and committed to turning this corner together. We may not have grown our portfolio or our bank balance but we have grown as people, confidents and colleagues.

2021 is already looking brighter in terms of throughput and we are confident that our plan for navigating these unchartered waters is working. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our friends across the industry, suppliers, clients and most all our amazing team for their unflinching support in sticking with us. Wishing you all seasons greetings and great success for 2021 and seeing that tail light of the oncoming train disappear into the distance.

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December 17, 2020

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