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Taking the ‘Long and Winding Road’… through lockdown 2020, and back to the summer of 1970


As many people have found, having a landmark birthday during a lockdown year has meant that celebrations in traditional style have had to be put on hold. Not being able to celebrate the 50th year of our company as we had planned whilst in lockdown, really highlighted to us the things that we missed most. So we thought about the things we enjoy, the events that we would usually attend, the trips we would take and took a look back to the summer 1970 to see what they may have looked like in the year that our company was born. What we found was really interesting…


Music 50 years ago in June 1970, the Beatles hit ‘The Long and Winding Road’ from the ‘Let it Be’ album was number 1 'in the hit parade', it marked the final single released by the band, which had split up on April 10. As one ‘Fab Four’ disbanded, another group of four fresh-faced friends (with equally dodgy haircuts!) were getting together with plans to take the Market Research industry by storm… from a flat in West Norwood (well you’ve got to start somewhere!). On June 17th 1970 Plus Four Analysis (later to evolve into Plus Four Market Research) was formed.


Not only is a song about ‘looking back while looking forward’ a very appropriate soundtrack as we reflect on our journey through five decades as an independent agency, but is also apt for all of us as we navigate our way through the Global Covid-19 pandemic and safely the other side towards our ‘next normal’.


In a similar vein, Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ composed by Paul Simon and performed as a solo by Art Garfunkel - won the Grammy for song of the year in 1970. The title track of the duo’s final album together has brought comfort to many in 2020 as an anthem for online choirs which became a feature of the 2020 lockdown. The words of the 50-year-old song about providing comfort and help for someone in need have perhaps never been more appropriate – indeed Plus Four and our viewing facility The Qualitative Lab has certainly witnessed the research industry pulling together more than ever before with a 'together is stronger' mentality.


Events, Exhibitions, and the Arts play an important part in the life of the Plus Four team, both for work (audience research/event evaluation) and for leisure. So it’s appropriate that we share our 50th birthday year with Glastonbury Festival! Now the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world, ‘Glastonbury’ started life in 1970 as Worthy Farm, Pilton ‘Pop, Folk and Blues Festival’. Attendance was 1,500 and the entry price was £1 ‘including free milk from the farm’. In 2020, 2.4 million people registered to be able to buy tickets and the ticket price exceeded £250!


The 1970 Isle of Wight Festival was estimated by the Guinness Book of Records to have been attended by approximately 600.000 people over 5 days... contributing to the record-breaking attendee numbers was Plus Four’s own MD Peter Allan and wife Mary! It was rumoured to be one of the largest recorded gatherings of people at the time – so not a chance of social distancing! Artists performing at the event that year included Jimi Hendrix, and it was to be his last UK performance prior to his death.


As with Glastonbury, the 2020 Isle of Wight Festival was ‘Covid-cancelled ‘, but the line-up has already been announced for the 2021 event... it would be interesting to have the ability to look into the future and see how a festival may look in June next year – what safety measures will be in place, or will social distancing measures be a distant memory we wonder?


Sports The same question could be asked of all sporting events that draw large crowds, and of course, professional football has been a major lockdown discussion point globally, with countries coming up with more and more inventive ways of safely watching a football match. There have been cardboard cut-out crowds, recorded crowd noise and people watching big screens in their cars ‘drive-in movie-style’. Plus Four interviewed supporters in ‘fan domes’ at the last Euros, this feels somewhat removed from the reality of 2020. It remains to be seen when exactly the premiership will allow spectators, so for the time being the UK must make do with supporting from their sofa. Meanwhile, back in 1970 fans were enjoying a World Cup year which saw Brazil win their third World Cup with Pele as captain.


Several of the Plus Four team are keen sportspeople/runners, and throughout lockdown it was a way to keep heads clear, weight down and mood up. MD Peter Allan has completed the New York Marathon in the past, so we were excited to learn that this huge fixture on the running calendar was also established in 1970. The New York City Marathon is the largest marathon race in the world, attracting thousands of runners from all over the world. It wasn’t so big 50 years ago… the very first marathon in the city was limited to Central Park. On September 13, 1970, 127 runners paid $1 to participate, and only 55 people finished the 26-mile route. Now more than 185,000 apply and around 50,000 participate, with international runners paying more than $350. The 50th New York City Marathon is set for November 1 2020, and at time of writing is proceeding as planned. Of course travelling there may be slightly tricky…



Travel & Holidays “Will we get to go on holiday this year?” has probably been one of the most repeated questions of 2020. In 1970 when Plus Four was just getting off the ground, there was another huge take-off enjoying its first summer - the world’s first “Jumbo Jet,” the Boeing 747, making its first commercial flight on January 22, 1970. The plane flew for Pan-Am from New York to London. In a twist that will surprise no one, the historic flight was originally scheduled for January 21st, but was delayed for six hours after an engine overheated, so a second 747 was brought in to make the trip!

The introduction of the ‘Jumbo Jet’ meant more Britons than ever before were holidaying overseas as the growth of tour operators and cheaper flights made travel more accessible. In 1970, Britons took 5.7 million trips abroad for a holiday, by 2018 this had grown to 47 million. Back then tourists relied on holiday brochures, travel agents and word-of-mouth to choose their holiday destinations, but of course, this has changed drastically with the development of the internet and direct booking sites. Plus Four has conducted many projects in this sector over the past 50 years - including the much affected cruise sector - and we very much hope that travel and tourism recovers quickly.


The Environment Of course the travel industry’s loss during the pandemic, has been the environment’s gain, with the effects on the environment commented upon globally within days of lockdowns being announced. On the first Earth-Day in 1970, 20 million people participated in demonstrations, educational forums, clean-ups and tree-planting projects. That began a movement that led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. In 2020, Earth-Day fell on 22nd April – right at the peak of the Coronavirus in the UK. As pollution fell, so nature reclaimed itself and NASA and ESA shared amazing satellite images taken before and during lockdown, showing drastic environmental improvements.


Space and technology have made an enormous contribution to ensuring that the world keeps turning during lockdown. Satellites are the reason we have been able to adapt to working from home, and from a research perspective, the reason we have been able to continue offering online and mobile research methodologies while face-to-face has not been possible. While our individual worlds have been reduced to staying in our homes, historical breakthroughs have been happening hundreds of miles above our heads. For those of us going for evening walks and catching sight of what seems an endless chain of twinkling lights, The Starlink moving across the night sky, it’s hard to imagine that those tiny light strings will be providing us with a more reliable internet connection of the future - which of course will be needed if homeworking established in lockdown continues and becomes the norm.

‘Houston we’ve had a problem’… it was in 1970 that NASA battled for several days to return the astronauts from Apollo 13 mission back to earth. In May 2020, 50 years on and with most of the planet still in a state of lockdown, the same Florida launchpad that once served the Apollo Missions was in use again for the SpaceX launch of two astronauts to orbit. This signals a new and exciting era of commercial human space travel and taking us one step closer to life on Mars.

As Summer 2020 fades and we ease ourselves back into life after lockdown, we may well at times feel like we have already arrived on a new mask-wearing, queue-joining, social distancing planet. However, the ‘next normal’ has arrived, and with it, a new ‘long and winding road’ laid out ahead, full of new experiences, new adventures, new opportunities, and we will continue to successfully navigate it by ‘looking back while looking forward’.

If you would like us to help you understand the ‘next normal’ for your business and your customers, and learn how insight can be used to help you to ‘look forward’ and set your business in the right direction, contact info@plus4.co.uk


By Paula Perez Summer 2020

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