Risk assessments

1st July 2024 | Concerts, Daily Life, Musings | 1 comment

The other day I was part of a coffee gathering where people from various lines of work were talking about their experiences of writing ‘risk assessments’. They described the complicated forms that had to be filled in and the efforts to explain what preventive measures would be adopted in order to avoid the risks from becoming reality.

It struck me then that if we had been obliged to complete risk assessments in the days of Domus, we would never have been able to do anything. For anyone who doesn’t know what Domus was, it was a chamber music group (of which I was a founder member) which in the 1980s travelled with its own portable concert hall, a geodesic dome. We, the musicians, put up the dome in each venue. We carted around heavy boxes of aluminium tubes and metal hubs and used them to connect the metal tubes together in triangles until they formed the dome-shape. As the dome (a glorified tent) took shape we used tripods to haul it up on ropes. We attached a big white plastic cover.

We then pushed our trailer, a sort of horse box, inside the dome and converted it into a stage by letting the sides down (see photo from about 1981; my head can just be seen peeping over the top of the trailer). Inside the trailer there was an upright piano, which remained in place on what was now the stage. We had to rig up lighting. We brought in cushions for the audience to sit on, and sometimes duck boards for them to walk on when the weather was wet (as it usually was). We occasionally made food for the audience. In fact (risk alert!) we even made them sushi. At night, we usually left the dome unguarded because we had no alternative. We got a few surprises the next morning, but nothing disastrous. We never left any instruments inside the dome, except for the piano. Yes, it did get damp.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago when I was organising a weekend of concerts including a workshop for children. Our plan for the workshop was to have a break where the children would go upstairs for juice and biscuits. Because schoolchildren were involved, we had to complete a risk assessment. All of a sudden: stairs! juice! biscuits! What is in the biscuits? What is in the juice? How many stairs are there? Have you got the parents’ permission? and so on.

Risk assessments are obviously designed to protect the vulnerable, and rightly so. But the biscuit incident made me reflect on the days of Domus. We were lucky, I think, to escape that kind of scrutiny, because we and our audiences would have missed an amazing experience.

1 Comment

  1. Mary Cohen

    I’ve often thought about this risk assessment issue when dipping into ‘Beyond the Notes’!


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