It was a show-stopping moment for Stagekings co-owner Jeremy Fleming when he got to hand over more than $20,000 to Support Act, the charity raising funds for Australian music industry folks currently out of work. Only six weeks ago, that unfortunate number looked like it would include Fleming and all of his employees.
Like most folks in the entertainment industry, he thought it was all over when ever-tightening restrictions banned big gatherings. Given Stagekings build large-scale platforms for major music, arts and sports events, the company shuttered overnight.
It was a Friday the 13th horror show in mid-March. Fleming and his employees found themselves in Melbourne’s Albert Park, staring at the stage they’d just built for a Grand Prix concert featuring Miley Cyrus and Robbie Williams that would never happen. “It was devastating,” he recalls.
They’d also built the obstacle course for gameshow Ninja Warrior at the Melbourne Showgrounds. But Sydney’s Vivid and the Royal Easter Show were gone. As were Melbourne music festivals Knockout Outdoor and Ultra Australia.
A lucky phone call with an Irish mate changed everything. The friend suggested pivoting to suddenly in-demand work-from-home desks. Just a few short days after Fleming made the painful decision to let all his staff go, he was summoning them back to their Kurnell warehouse. With the 2000sqm joint ensuring socially distanced workstations, they got to building birch-ply IsoKing desks, computer stands and other office furniture.
“At first I thought my business partner Mick and I would keep ourselves busy with our CNC operator, sanding and delivering desks ourselves, but we couldn’t believe how quickly it took off,” Fleming says of the instant sales hit. “We’ve now got 56 crew back on board and it’s such a positive place to be. Everyone’s loving that they’ve got something to do, because sadly it’s just not the case for so many in the event industry.”
Stagekings built partnerships in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, and there are plans for Perth to follow, with international rumblings about New Zealand and Singapore joining in too. As far as Fleming's concerned, he had to repay this stroke of good luck. For every one of the 3,500 orders placed so far, Stagekings is donating $10 to Support Act, which supports out-of-work musicians. After one month, Fleming handed over the first cheque for $22,000.
“The guys at Support Act are so grateful for the support,” Fleming says. “It’s a real help for them at this time, because there’s not a lot of money getting around.”
Fleming’s keenly aware it could have been so different for him and his staff. “It was a horrible week, letting all the guys go after the Grand Prix. I can’t believe this is where we’re at six weeks later. With over 600,000 event workers out of work and Support Act helping those guys get by, it’s amazing we’re in a position where we can help them.”
You can check out the IsoKing desks here, and donate directly to Support Act here. Then read about the digital gig trying to keep the music going in Sydney.
This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.