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

Business Traveller (Middle East) - - UAE events -

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

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