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They are the folks behind concerts such as Sundown Festival, and have brought in stars like EDM powerhouse DJ Laidback Luke and K-popsters iKon to our shores. But these days, the team at Red Spade Entertainment are organising Covid-19 swab tests instead. 

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K-pop boyband iKon at Sundown Festival 2019. 

The company, which has been organising gigs since 2009, pivoted the business to start providing pre-event testing (PET) since December 2020. They now provide onsite PET for organisations and at sports events, such as One Championship and the Singapore Tennis Open, as well as weddings.

In the new normal in Singapore, pre-event testing is required for large-scale events to resume. Currently in Phase 3 (Heightened Alert), PET is required for events where there are more than 50 attendees, including weddings solemnisations, live performances, spectator sports events and congregational and worship services.

It makes perfect sense for Red Spade Entertainment to pivot to provide PET services, as it leverages on the team’s experience in events planning.

Speaking to 8Days.sg, its director, Kelvin Goh, 43, explains that his team doesn’t do the actual swab tests, but is in charge of site planning. This includes working out the flow of human traffic, the registration process, ushering attendees around the test area, up to the point where people receive their Covid-19 test results before entering the venue. A medical provider does the swabbing and a lab that processes the tests. “[My team] will work out the layout and workflow and other necessary information that they require to submit to the Ministry of Health,” says Kelvin.

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The medical team at a pre-event testing facility at Suntec City. 

That said, the Red Spade crew is trained to do swab tests if the need arises as they have undergone swab test training with an approved medical provider. “We all went for training so that we know what’s going on. And in case anything happens, we can do the swab tests too,” says Kelvin. 

They are also certified to be safe distancing officers, having also attended a safe management course. “I understand that if events open up, you still need to have safe management officers at your event [to ensure that safe distancing is maintained]. So when events open up and the government says you need to have a safe management officer [at events], my team is already prepared and certified,” he explains.

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Tough times started even before circuit breaker

Kelvin lets in that things started getting rocky for his entertainment and events company as early as last January, even before the circuit breaker in April. “Many events were already being cancelled or postponed, and my team started to worry," he recounts.

As 2020 wore on, the company found itself in the same predicament as many other businesses: adapting to the ever-changing Covid-19 restrictions as they were tightened, then eased, and tightened again along the way. So despite receiving jobs during this period, plans were constantly scuppered.

“Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre appointed our company to organise the Sing Lang gig, but the concert was cancelled and postponed last year so there was a lot of paperwork and shuffling of artists’ schedules. During the circuit breaker, we [adapted and] did an online performance series by local artists. When we opened up gradually in Phase 2, we moved on to do some small campaigns for brands.”

“Business was definitely very badly affected by the pandemic. During good times, we could be doing events every weekend, and concerts once a month,” Kelvin says, looking back on the past year.  

Was there a time where he was worried that the company would have to shutter?

“Of course,” he answers without hesitation. “The company’s cashflow comes from the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) and we’ve also had to touch on the company’s reserves to keep going. We’re almost on the line already. But we pulled through and managed to fight through until now.

“I’m quite fortunate that the team understands the company’s situation and are willing to take pay cuts so that the company can survive. I’m grateful that we can fight through this pandemic time together.”

There was a glimmer of hope back during Phase 3 when Sing Lang was slated to take place at the Indoor Stadium last month, but that was snuffed out when Singapore entered into Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) and the gig was cancelled.

But all’s not lost. Sing Lang 2021, which features local stars like Kit Chan, Benjamin Kheng, Yung Raja and Joanna Dong, will instead be livestreamed on meWatch on June 19 at 8pm, and telecast on Ch 8 on June 26 at 7pm.

However, hinging the business on one concert isn’t enough, and no one knows that better than Kelvin. When the opportunity to offer pre-event testing services presented itself at the end of last year, he jumped at the chance and pivoted to keep the business afloat.

“I was first approached by the medical lab to do PET, and I thought it was a good opportunity to pivot. My main objective was to find things for my team to do. We’d already been discussing what else we could do, and when the chance to do PET came along, my team was very supportive.”

Kelvin continues: “Doing PET is not about profits — we’re just trying to cover overheads. While [PET alone] isn’t sufficient to cover overheads, I think Singapore is fortunate that we have the government helping us with schemes like JSS. And the company is surviving based on that also.

“But my main motivation to do [pre-event testing] is to show the people and the government that actually entertainment and events companies are ready to do this moving forward.”

Even as things gradually and eventually open up, the Red Spade head honcho is confident that they will continue to do PET in the long run, especially as it looks like PET is here to stay for a while.

“Even if things open up now, people will need the service and we’d be able to provide that service. A lot of big entertainment companies that do concerts or events at the Sports Hub or Indoor Stadium know that we’re already providing this service," says Kelvin. 

Despite the current uncertainty, he remains optimistic about what lies ahead for the entertainment and events industry. “I hope when more people are vaccinated, we should be able to see some light at the end of the tunnel,” he muses.

“We’re already mentally prepared for the fact that we will not be able to have full-scale festivals with 10,000 or 20,000 people like pre-Covid times. But we are working with the Singapore Tourism Board to see how we can start the ball rolling with approved capacity numbers, and are working with them to see if they can use the Sundown Festival as a pilot.

"We’re trying to make it happen in the later part of the year. But of course, it’s all still depends on the situation.”

Sing Lang 2021 will be livestreamed on meWatch on Jun 19 at 8pm, and telecast on Ch 8 on June 26 at 7pm.

Photos: Red Spade Entertainment

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