Abolishment of resident stage manager for Coliseum raises safety risk

Two weeks have passed since the tragedy that happened at a MIRROR concert, and yet the cause of the accident has still not been determined. A theatre arts practitioners union believes that the safety of performers has been compromised by a decade-old policy.

Lee Lam-fung, a representative of the Hong Kong Theatre Arts Practitioners’ Union, stated that the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) abolished the position of “Resident Stage Manager” in the Coliseum in 2008. He believed that had raised questions about increased safety risk.

Currently, instead of a resident stage manager, certain venues such as the HK Coliseum and Queen Elizabeth Stadium now have an “event/production coordinator” who helps arrange performances. Lee argues that the protection of performers is hence not guaranteed, as the role is only responsible for communicating with organizers, and does not require any expertise in stage safety.

Notably, Lee pointed out that performance venues such as the City Hall that operate under the government still have resident stage managers that supervise stage construction and prop arrangements.

According to the job posting, the resident stage manager is responsible for the day-to-day operation and management of stage services; supervising stage artisans and junior staff during fit-up, rehearsals and performances; liaising with venue users to resolve technical problems; assisting in procuring stage equipment, stores and consumables for stage operation; to assist in updating and preparing technical data on stage facilities, stage plans, technical drawings of stage installations, equipment and inventory list of stage production equipment.

The LCSD, however, disagrees with Lee's views. The Department admitted that though the resident stage manager position was abolished for certain venues, their past responsibility was only to assist in the installation of stage and seating facilities, not to supervise stage safety. The department stated that the new position of “event/production coordinator” better reflects the actual responsibilities and workload these workers have.

As shown on the government webpage, event/production coordinator duties included liaising with hirers to ascertain their operational requirements for events held at the Hong Kong Coliseum; co-ordinate the services provided by contractors; being the assistant duty officer when events are staged; performing admission and crowd control duties; to handle public enquiries; and to administer personnel matters including organizing and supervising the work of the operational staff and the ushers.

Moreover, the LCSD mentioned that the rental terms of the HK Coliseum stipulated that organizers should appoint registered professional engineers to supervise any installation work. As “qualified professionals”, these stakeholders would ensure that all equipment was safely constructed.

Lee argues that this interpretation does not fully resolve the problem, as any equipment suspended at a high altitude, such as the screens from the concert, would not be included within the engineers’ responsibilities.