PUTTING ON A SHOW
John Lickrish, CEO FLASH Entertainment, reflects on the growth of the Yasalam Festival and looks forward to the afterrace concerts at du Arena this month
What are the most time-consuming elements – securing the artists or setting up the du Arena? There are so many moving parts involved in putting on any large-scale event, from securing the artists and working with management teams, to venue operations and ticketing. Confirming an artist is a lengthy process and there are a number of considerations involved for example tour dates and routes, stage production set up and shipping and of course negotiation of fees. No part is more important than the other; you need great artists, of course, but you also need a stand-out marketing campaign and a venue experience that is second to none.
Can you describe the dynamic between the four After-Race concerts – is the objective to always create four different acts, or ones that complement each other? The Yasalam Festival has grown and evolved hugely over the last eight years. In 2009, the first year of Yasalam, Beyoncé, Jamiroquai and Aerosmith played to thousands of excited race fans. Each year we’ve pushed boundaries to make sure the acts cater to the diversity of the audience that travel from within the UAE and from all over the world for the Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. At this year’s After-Race Concerts, for example, each night has a distinct personality. Kicking off the weekend on the Thursday night is electro star Calvin Harris, and Friday moves on to the beats of rap legend Kendrick Lamar, followed by a night of folk energy with Mumford & Sons’ on Saturday. The weekend will close with what is sure to be an incredible performance by P!nk.
What would you say have been the most memorable acts or weekends in recent times? With nine years to choose from, it’s hard to pick just one performance. I’m sure for those who were there for the first Yasalam Festival, Beyoncé in 2009 would be a real highlight. Prince in 2010 was a personal favourite of mine – he gave a surprise performance for fans at the SkyBar after his main show at du Arena. Sir Paul McCartney, Pharrell, Eminem, Kylie Minogue, Jay-Z, The Who, Amr Diab, Muse, Kanye West – the list of incredible performances from some of the music industry’s most iconic artists goes on. I think if you ask every one of the tens of thousands of people who’ve been at a race weekend, you would end up with tens of thousands of different stories of incredible moments.
Are there new concepts you’re working on – perhaps in concrete or digital – to enhance the off-track experience? The Yasalam Festival is very close to our hearts at FLASH as it really is a chance for Abu Dhabi to celebrate the race and come together as a community. With that in mind, we work hard to make sure we’re raising the bar in terms of the entertainment on offer. Four years ago, we introduced a grassroots fitness programme, Get Driver Fit (GDF). In partnership with Daman’s Activelife initiative, the programme has provided free fitness events and classes to thousands of UAE residents and helped promote an active and healthy lifestyle across the capital. This year we’re excited to be bringing the first ever GDF Fitness Festival to Abu Dhabi. On Friday, 10 November, du Forum will be transformed into a complete fitness experience featuring everything from intense challenges to kids’ fun. We’ll also be crowning an overall winner of the GDF Fitness Challenge and naming Abu Dhabi’s Fittest Person, who will take home an amazing prize of AED10,000. At this year’s After-Race Concerts, we are making it possible for fans to get an exclusive front row experience with Golden Circle upgrades available for purchase with race tickets.
How do you think Yasalam compares with other entertainment on the F1 circuit? I think what really sets us apart is the way in which the energy and the entertainment takes over the entire capital. Each year, we offer a diverse lineup of fitness, music and fun with programmes that run across the entire city and beyond.
How is access to and from the du Arena? We’re now in our ninth year of the Yasalam festival and each year provides new opportunities to learn and deliver the best concert experience possible. Having a long-standing partnership with du since its naming rights agreement in 2011 has allowed us to shape the consumer journey to and around the arena. Multiple entry points to a concert, smooth parking, better traffic management and transportation all work together to enhance the over-all experience for ticket holders to all of our du Arena events.
John Lickrish, CEO FLASH Entertainment