Prof Keith Still, a Fellow of the Institute of Place Management, is an international expert in crowd dynamics. He has over 25 years’ experience of crowd modelling and for several years he was a Special Advisor to the Saudi Authorities for Hajj projects (Jamarat Bridge development).
Prof Still is the professor of Crowd Science at Manchester Metropolitan University where he teaches a MSc in Crowd Safety and Risk Analysis. He delivers short courses around the world on all aspects of crowd dynamics. Keith developed the Legion, Paramics UAF, Myriad and 3D RTDS modelling systems which are used around the world.
Prof. Still has advised on many large scale crowded spaces such as the Royal Wedding (2011 UK), Olympics (Sydney 2000 and London 2012), New Year Events (UK and Sydney), Stadia design (UK and Europe), Westfield shopping Mall (UK 2012).
Prof Keith Still, you work in crowd safety and crowd risk analysis. I’m not sure everybody is familiar with your field of work. What is it about?
There are three fundamental causes of accidents and incidents involving crowds. Design, Information and Management
Keith Still: In every place of public assembly, such as mass gatherings, sporting events, festivals, parades, concerts, there is a need to understand the potential risks of overcrowding. The history of mass fatalities shows us that we do not take enough care when crowds form and gather, such as UK
- Hillsborough 1989 – 94 dead),
- Hong Kong (Lan Kwai Fong 1993 – 21 dead),
- Saudi Arabia (Jamarat 2001, 2004, 2006, 2015 – over 3,000 dead),
- Germany (Duisburg 2010 – 21 dead),
- Cambodia (Phnom Penh 2010 – 347 dead),
- China (Shanghai 2015 – 36 dead)
These are only a few of the mass fatalities (see http://www.gkstill.com/CV/ExpertWitness/CrowdDisasters.html for more information on the above).
There are three fundamental causes of accidents and incidents involving crowds. Capacity (space not big enough, crowd flow exceeding the available width) these are defined as a “Design” related problem, these could have been assessed/prevents using a flow/density analysis. Some are “Information” related (change in the environment, such as weather (not expecting rain, sudden noise, etc,) and some are “management” related (badly marshalled crowds).
Ours courses on Crowd Safety and Crowd Risk Analysis looks at the underlying causes of accident and incidents and outline a systematic methodology for identifying these risks for places of public assembly.
Sadly, the recent incident in Nice, Paris and Brussels, where crowds were attacked, highlights the need for understanding crowd safety and crowd risk analysis techniques.
The challenges of working on mega projects (millions of pilgrims in transit) and evaluating design concepts, specifically in Saudi, were difficult. Not least of which was the cultural differences in the understanding of accident and incident causality.
You’ve worked on crowd safety at different events mostly in the UK, but also in other countries. Can you tell us more about the particular challenges in these events? Maybe something that is particularly memorable?
Keith Still: For over a decade I was a special advisor for Hajj projects. Specifically, the Jamarat Bridge design (see http://www.gkstill.com/CV/Projects/KSA2000-12.html, http://www.gkstill.com/CV/Projects/Jamarat.html and http://www.gkstill.com/CV/Projects/Tawaf.html for further information). The challenges of working on mega projects (millions of pilgrims in transit) and evaluating design concepts, specifically in Saudi, were difficult. Not least of which was the cultural differences in the understanding of accident and incident causality.
Other projects, such as working with the crowd management team planning for the Royal Wedding (2011), the Olympic events (Sydney, Beijing and London) were team based, the work in Saudi was mostly solo. Very different pressures of work.
You are a fellow of the Institute of Place Management. What do you expect from an organization such as the IPM? What can it deliver to its members?
Keith Still: The IPM can offer an integrated and holistic approach to place management drawing on many different disciplines and sciences. It’s a unique organisation where retail, safety, urban design, planning, social engineering and architectural disciplines are combined in a synergistic approach to place management.
I’ve recently been teaching in Canada and talking at an Urban Design conference. It was interesting that concepts such as vitality (night time economy and day time pedestrian demands) were discussed as static optima. However, these are evolving and dynamic metrics. So a different types of mathematics is required for data analysis. One advantage of being a mathematician is understanding how different models can apply for these types of systematic review.
An interdisciplinary approach, such as the IPM, offers this broad reaching mind set where disciplines such as dynamic equilibrium, can be applied to problems in another discipline.
The interview was conducted by Ares Kalandides