It’s right to put safety first for the Leon Lai concerts

The innovative and creative stage design is a real draw for concert-goers, but the recent fire at a Taiwan concert show that there is no compromise when it comes to the safety of the audience

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 April, 2016, 9:08pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 April, 2016, 9:16pm

Fans of actor and 1990s Canto-pop star Leon Lai Ming were bound to be disappointed when a concert was cancelled two hours before it was scheduled to start due to fire concerns. The entertainer had chosen the Central waterfront for his first show outside the Coliseum and he came up with a specially designed tented structure with 4D visual effects and surround sound for the occasion. Hong Kong performance venues are so few and far between that any new one is bound to pique the interest of music lovers. But no matter how innovative an idea may be, safety always has to go before creativity.

Some ticket-holders were quick to blame the authorities. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said that no permit had been issued for the show as the material used for the huge marquee did not meet fire safety standards. Fire officers believed that there was a risk the fabric could be set ablaze by high-intensity lighting. The organiser had been informed of the requirements on March 8 and laboratory tests had confirmed concerns on April 12.

Lai took the initiative in repeatedly apologising to fans and admitting fault, in person and on his social media pages. He decided to remove the marquee so that the remaining seven shows could go ahead. In Hong Kong’s politically charged environment, officials are often the first to be blamed for problems or inconvenience. But political blame games have nothing to do with safety. There have been enough tragedies at entertainment venues in the region over the years to prove that.

Among the worst was when coloured powder thrown during a party last June at a Taiwanese theme park ignited, killing 15, while a pyrotechnics mishap at a Shenzhen nightclub in 2008 left 43 dead. A tented show on the Hong Kong Harbourfront is a novelty and the 4,500-seat venue is more intimate than the 12,500-seat Coliseum. But no matter how eager fans are for a favourite entertainer or a new experience, organisers have to always put the safety of patrons first.