The training of technical crews, or 'roadies' who travel with live events and other related industry jobs such as filming is key to the successful hosting of the forthcoming Confederations Cup and the World Cup 2010.

So says Freddie Nyathela, the President of the South African Roadies Association.
"It is our aim to train personnel that go on to boost the live event industry and filming so that these industries grow with knowledgeable technical crew. Arts centers in various communities also continue to benefit."

He was speaking shortly on his return from a European visit undertaken to strengthen networking and seek support for further training and knowledge exchange with the best industry experts internationally.

"In Germany, we found lots of opportunities regarding training as well as seeing some of the latest equipment in the industry. This is key as we would not want to be found wanting, come the Confederations Cup and the mother-of-all events, the 2010 World Cup," says Nyathela, at his Newtown, Johannesburg offices.

"Our association was well received and we managed to secure further excellent opportunities to train our technical crews with several companies in Europe."

He says overseas companies are willing to assist with their knowledge and experience.

Links were forged with Electro Voice, owned by Bosch, a leading technical equipment supplier in Europe. As a result, four SA youths will be trained there between October and November this year while Electro Voice personnel will visit SARA for a month long training session.

During his visit to Prolight + Sound Expo, Nyathela was able to acquire assistance and support for SARA from NEXO (France) and Quest Engineering (Australia) in the form of sound equipment and training materials.

With a 500 strong membership, many in permanent venues specialising in equipment service and hire centers, SARA forms an essential component of the AV industry.

SARA has embarked on setting up satellites throughout the country's provinces as demand for its members' services pick up. "Currently we are in Gauteng but we are expanding to reach outlying provinces. If we get support from our government, especially the Department of Arts and Culture, we will roll-out our programme to needy areas. We are talking here of skills that will enable our members to work anywhere in the world. We are serious about creating employment and we have been doing that with excellent results."

Talking about the forthcoming Confederations and 2010 soccer showcases, Nyathela says that his organisation is more than prepared to handle the expected influx of regional and foreign production and media houses that will come through. However, he says, as a country we might still be found wanting in terms of personnel if previous experience is considered. "During the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in the country some years ago, South Africa had to import over 50 technicians and several tons of equipment from Europe."

99% of support for SARA, formed in 1992, comes from overseas organisations, where an increasing number of international friends have come to know its existence and have been able to help tremendously over the years.

Nyathela says overseas organisations regard the issue of technical crew training as critical, unlike here in South Africa where many in the industry are yet to realise the importance of training.

"However, our involvement with the Department of Arts and Culture has been very good and other local players have been supportive too. But the live events industry in South Africa has a long way to go in terms of getting most of its personnel receiving up-to-date knowledge as is happening in Europe."

Overseas support, in the form training for youths, exchange programmes, donation of equipment and management know-how, has come from Ireland, Holland, Denmark, France, Norway and the USA.

"We have been sending youths for training to these countries and the project has churned out quite top class technical crew who now work in some of the top entertainment venues, film production houses and arts centers in Gauteng and other provinces."

Since 1998 SARA have sent over 120 young people to train overseas. "We are proud to have created sound working relationships with Holland's leading tour organisers, for example during the Rolling Stones Tour of 1998, we managed to send 4 youths who trained during the tour. Some of our youths also train at Europe's largest music festivals where they receive training on state-of-the-art equipment."

Since 2001 SARA has been sending between 27 and 30 youths annually to the United States where they have been training-while-on-tour with the world famous UniverSoul Circus, an African-American Circus event.

Nyathela concludes by stressing that a good number of these youths have returned home with valuable skills as well as state-of-the-art equipment to work in the industry or set up their own equipment supply companies.