TOTAL PRODUCTION INTERNATIONAL LIVE EVENT DESIGN & TECHNOLOGY • JULY 2021 • ISSUE 263
“IF WE’RE THE LAB RATS, LET’S GIVE THEM A GOOD EXPERIMENT,” BEN BARLOW, NECK DEEP.
Swapping masks for mosh pits at Donington Park
LIVE AT WORTHY FARM • THE HAÇIENDA HOUSE PARTY IV • SCRUFF OF THE NECK TV • VENUO • LIVE SHOWSTAK AUTOMATION • KB EVENT • THE ZOO XYZ • DTS ALCHEMY 7 • LI.LAC • #L8BATTLE21 • PSA
JULY 2021 #263
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TRADESHOWS, FESTIVALS AND A TRIP TO MY LOCAL MUSIC VENUE… Well, this month certainly moved things up a gear. Between a trip to London for ISE, along with meeting the Download Pilot crew, this was the most ‘normal’ month we’ve had at TPi in a very long time. Among the tradeshow beers and witnessing the organised mayhem of a 10,000-strong metal festival, my highlight was walking into Macclesfield, dodging swathes of England fans celebrating a quarter-final win, finding refuge in a small bar and getting to watch local band, Three. Having been starved of live music for a long time, it was hard not to get emotional as my girlfriend and I joined 12 other locals to partake in this collective experience at socially distanced tables. I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing about the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, but I think I’m starting to feel the warmth of its glow. With these hints of a return to normality, we have made a special effort to speak to those helping to ensure that Summer and Autumn events go ahead. From LIVE’s response to the easing of restrictions [p10] to those looking further afield, like KB Event’s Stuart McPherson – who explained the extraordinary measures the company is taking to ensure that touring in the EU will be possible in the months ahead [p50]. Speaking of the future, this edition features an interview with Nadu Placca about The Zoo XYZ’s latest report, Black in the Boardroom, and her goal to push for greater diversity in the live events space [p18]. Also in this issue, we are pleased to share stories from the crewmembers able to dust off the cobwebs and get back to work. Jacob caught up with The Haçienda House Party IV [p38] crew, who produced an awe-inspiring hybrid event at Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse, while I was lucky enough to attend the Download Pilot event [p22]. Three days of mud, metal and moshing was just far too tempting to pass up, but the real takeaway was the attitude and enthusiasm of the crew who made the event possible. Keeping on the festival vibe, I caught up with the collective behind Live At Worthy Farm [p32]. Despite the challenging conditions, a team of loyal Glastonbury regulars crafted spectacular performance areas within the famed festival ground. For those who didn’t catch it, I’d strongly recommend catching up on BBC iPlayer. Looking back after a tradeshow and a festival, this month has reminded us just how awesome the people of this industry are and how great it is to catch up, face-to-face, with some old friends. We’re excited to plan a number of trips around the UK in the coming weeks so expect to see us in a town near you soon. Or if anyone is keen for a trip to Manchester, there’s one trade publication that’s always up for a drink and a natter. Until next time, Stew Hume Editor
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TPi AWARDS 2021 Meet this year’s Unsung Heroes.
EVENT FOCUS 10 LIVE LIVE CEO, Greg Parmley responds to the easing of UK lockdown restrictions.
Scruff of the Neck TV Blackmagic kit helps capture indie record label’s partnership with Twitch.
L8 Previsualisation Design Challenge L8 Founding Director, Dmitriy Giventar celebrates #L8Battle21 winners.
The Zoo XYZ Nadu Placca shares the findings of The Zoo XYZ Black in the Boardroom report.
20 Venuo Audio Engineer, Tom Turner turns his hand to the world of livestreaming.
PRODUCTION PROFILE 22
Download Pilot A three-day festival marking the UK’s largest music event since March 2020.
Live At Worthy Farm Glastonbury organisers welcome crew back to Worthy Farm for a unique event.
The Haçienda House Party IV Haçienda Classical returns for two socially distanced and livestream events.
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GEAR HEADS 44
DTS Alchemy 7 DTS Sales Director, Raffaella Scaccia explains how Alchemy 7 is set to revolutionise the theatre and TV market.
45 Li.LAC A firm primed to assist in the fight against COVID-19 in the workplace.
Polish family business, Showstak strives to make automation simple to book.
KB Event navigates the shifting goalposts of touring trucks post-Brexit.
PSA: THE BIGGER PICTURE 53
PSA interim General Manager, Dave Keighley discusses his new position.
INDUSTRY APPOINTMENTS 54
The latest movers and shakers.
BACK CHAT 58
VDC CEO, Niall Holden takes the hot seat.
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TPi AWARDS 2021
UNSUNG HEROES Earlier this year, TPi readers handpicked those that have gone above and beyond during this most difficult of times for the sector. The following individuals and organisations were selected as the recipients of this year’s TPi Awards Unsung Hero…
“The support of members and the PSA Council, the joint efforts of LIVE, EIF and BVEP and especially the strength and determination of the Stagehand Trustees and the #ILoveLive team have all led to the successes that have led to me receiving an award for being some kind of hero. In truth, I’ve just been the one that’s talked about it the most; it’s an honour to receive this accolade on behalf of every person that has helped along the way.” PSA’s Andy Lenthall
“I am honoured and flattered that people have taken the time out to vote for me. It is very humbling to be voted for by friends and colleagues within your own sector. However, I must confess it is somewhat embarrassing being singled out for recognition when I have been working with so many people who have been far more committed and influential than I have been in fighting for recognition for our sector.” Adlib’s Andy Dockerty
“I’m hugely grateful to our beloved Back Lounge community and to everyone who’s attended one of our meets and contributed in some way. I’ve met like-minded souls who I know will be lifelong friends. I hope going forward we have created a safety net for anyone who needs it and somewhere to go when we’re under the tremendous pressure to come as touring gets back on its feet.”
“#WeMakeEvents is truly a collective effort, involving untold numbers of people around the globe, working hard behind the scenes and volunteering their specialist skills to ensure our campaign is seen and heard. There is no way we could have built this campaign without you. So, we would like to dedicate this award to all of you – our unsung heroes!”
The Back Lounge’s Suzi Green
“It’s incredibly humbling to be recognised by your peers and I am so grateful to people for voting – especially the UK live event freelancers forum members. It was truly one of my most memorable moments that I will not forget. Thank you to everyone for being so kind.” UK Live Event Freelancers Forum’s Paul Jones
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LIVE RESPONDS TO CHANGING REGULATIONS LIVE CEO, Greg Parmley speaks to TPi’s Jacob Waite about the UK government’s easing of restrictions and recent legal action to publicise the results of the Events Research Programme (ERP).
On 24 June, LIVE and a range of theatre businesses, including Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cameron Mackintosh, Michael Harrison and Sonia Friedman, commenced legal proceedings against the UK government to force it to hand over the report of Phase 1 of the ERP. “We took legal action by filing a suit against the government to force it to release the results of the ERP, which had been running from May with broad sector support, to the point of paying to host some of the pilot events,” Parmley explained to TPi. Since then, LIVE was made privy to data which provides background information about the programme. “It’s an unusual step for any sector to take,” he conceded. “The irony of their reluctance to release the ERP data is that it reads as a good news story for the government, despite them keeping their cards close to their chest.” What the ERP data disclosed was that concertgoers had more chance of catching COVID-19 sitting in an office for several hours than being at a live event, despite the disparity in restrictions. “Life was starting to feel unfair as we were discriminated against,” Parmley stated. “I’m hoping now that the report is out, we can continue with the constructive relationship we’ve had with the government and DCMS for the past 18 months.” With the report now out, the industry received more potentially good news as the Prime Minister’s recent announcement suggested a return to full-capacity shows on 19 July. “We’ve watched the rest of the economy reopen while our doors have been forced to remain closed since the start of the pandemic, but the announcements will generate considerable excitement among music fans across the country,” reflected Parmley.
Summing up the consensus within LIVE, Parmley explained that it believes that the commercial insurance market has failed in regard to COVID-19 cancellation cover, and it is clear that restrictions could be brought back quickly if the public health data was to worsen. This presents the sector with a great deal of uncertainty, and following a year of lost income, it would be impossible for the industry to absorb that scale of loss, meaning that while legally the industry could start to organise future events, the reality could be much bleaker. The suggestion: that the government announce an insurance scheme immediately to provide security and stability. To ensure the industry can reopen sustainably, according to LIVE, there is also a need for an exemption to the isolation requirements through track and trace before a formal announcement is made later this summer. The inevitable increase in rates would lead to many having to self-isolate despite having been vaccinated and testing negative. Without this exception, shows may have to be cancelled unnecessarily at the last minute, costing millions of pounds and potentially thousands of jobs. “The past year has shown that uniting as one organisation, as one voice, can affect mass change and be very effective,” Parmley concluded. “What has been achieved in the past 18 months wouldn’t have been possible without a collective vision. Associations are born out of crises, and this is the biggest crisis the sector has faced to date.” TPi Photo: Oli Crump www.livemusic.biz 10
SCRUFF OF THE NECK TV A Blackmagic Design-heavy multicamera setup helps Manchester-based indie record label, Scruff of the Neck provide a platform for local live musicians to thrive in partnership with Twitch. TPi’s Jacob Waite reports…
Having converted what was a top-floor meeting room in Manchester into a flourishing, forward-thinking livestream recording space, independent music label, Scruff of the Neck joined forces with Twitch to pioneer digital live sets with local artists amid the COVID-19 pandemic, enlisting the technical infrastructure and expertise of Blackmagic Design to capture the action. Described as a ‘groundbreaking, forward-thinking partnership’ which supports the creative production of regular broadcasts, Scruff of the Neck labelheads turned to Blackmagic Design to broadcast live performances, interviews and features as part of an official Twitch partnership with ATEM Mini Extreme and Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K as part of a multicamera setup. Each live show is a three-hour stream hosted by BBC Radio One’s Abbie McCarthy and Radio X’s Jack Wood, featuring band interviews and live performances. At the time of writing, over 55 shows with 160 hours of
content have been produced by the label, resulting in seven million views since mid-January. Featured artists include Yonaka, The Slow Readers Club, Bad Boy Chiller Crew, Lottery Winners and Larkins. “We spotlight well established acts in their own right as well as those playing their first ever live show,” revealed Scruff of the Neck Head of Live, Chris Brearley. “We’re fortunate to be partnered with Twitch and have their support to help promote our streams to not only our own audiences but the existing Twitch community, meaning we have a strong viewership and can create a platform for music discovery for even the freshest of artists.” Having rescheduled show after show, Scruff of the Neck sought an opportunity to bring the gig experience into people’s homes during lockdown, and Twitch, he said, felt like the perfect platform to do this. “Thankfully, everything fell into place mid-January. We broadcast 10 livestreams over the course of two weeks to kick things off,” he recalled. “Since then, we’ve been doing two shows a week. By July, we’ll go down to 12
SCRUFF OF THE NECK TV
one show a week, as hopefully, live shows return to the masses.” According to Brearley, versatility and ease of use of Twitch were vital components for making this venture work. “The music community on Twitch is growing. We’re grateful to be working alongside them to bring live music to the platform on a regular basis,” he explained. “We are developing a format that provides new music with a nod to what Twitch has always been a leader of in the gaming world – realtime fan interactivity.” To this end, the channel relies on a mixed package of cameras from Blackmagic Design, including the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K, URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 and Micro Studio Camera 4K. A series of Blackmagic Micro Converters are used to bridge the SDI cameras and ATEM hardware while the ATEM Mini Extreme’s multiview output is displayed on a SmartView 4K. “Blackmagic Design were one of the first companies we reached out to when we were spec’ing our setup, which we built from scratch – converting what was our meeting room on the top floor of Scruff of the Neck HQ into a livestream recording space,” he noted. “Blackmagic Design were kind enough to offer their advice and expertise to get the most out of our budget. They’ve been amazing not only helping us design but recommending the right equipment.” Striving to provide a space to pay artists to perform and produce art to an audience, albeit limited and virtual, it is the production quality which stands head and shoulders above typical livestream channels, DIY DJ sets and artist-led Instagram live sessions. “Thankfully, we’re in a position to provide artists with a platform and space for them to grow, taking a captive online audience and hopefully giving them enough access to the artists’ live set and personaility to become a true fan,” reported Brearley. What’s more, everything is set up in house. “Our studio
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SCRUFF OF THE NECK TV
is set up to host to a range of artists. What we aspire to create is a space background. “They each bring their own level of expertise,” he said, when none too dissimilar to a space BBC Radio One’s Live Lounge or Later… with reading out an impressive crew sheet which sees Tour Manager/FOH Sound Jools Holland,” he outlined. and Lighting Engineer, Callum Yates; Touring Sound Engineer, Alex Walters “We’ll of course make changes to accomodate and Head of Artist Liaison, Joe Drake join forces to the artist’s needs. However, the set has an curate live experiences for music fans in lockdown. identity which allows performing artists to turn “There are an awful lot of people who have up and play, while everything else is taken care built their lives and social lives around live music. of. Thankfully, we haven’t had to cancel a single It’s an escape and release, not only for performing broadcast due to the various COVID-19 safety artists, but for those that attend shows, in person measures taken, thanks in part to the agility of the or virtually,” said Brearley. “There are a lot of artists crew and preparation.” who may not have had the platform or resources The biggest challenge in establishing the to showcase their talent amid the COVID-19 crisis, studio’s streaming capabilities has been operating so if we can help facilitate that, we’ve succeeded.” while adhering to COVID-19 regulations. This Although the COVID-19 pandemic gave rise included working with a smaller production to the initiative, Brearley doesn’t envisage the “There are a lot of artists team to limit the number of bodies in the room return of gigs making this form of broadcasting who may not have had the at any given time. “We’ve put together a small redundant. “The plan for the tail end of this year team, setting up and operating in a COVID-19 is to form a hybrid operation, where we provide a platform or resources to secure environment. The crew operates socially livestream setup in a range of venues, giving global showcase their talent amid distanced, with mandatory facemasks and fans the opportunity to jump in and feel part of a sanitisation, with COVID-19 procedure and risk gig, even when fans are allowed back into spaces,” the COVID-19 crisis, so if we assessments, declarations for track and trace, he concluded. “There’s certainly a place for the can help facilitate that, we’ve and we have made sure every base is covered and two when shows can return to the masses.” everyone is comfortable and safe to work.” TPi succeeded.” Brearley attributes the success of the Photos: Blackmagic Design Chris Brearley, operation to his hardworking production www.scruffoftheneck.com team, who come from a live music and touring www.blackmagicdesign.com Scruff of The Neck Head of Live 14
L8 PREVISUALISATION DESIGN CHALLENGE The brains behind L8 previsualisation software reflect on #L8Battle21 – a competition providing show designers and scholars something to strive for during this uncertain time. TPi’s Jacob Waite reports…
It is no secret that one of the main factors in the success of any live event is preparation. The time to agree on a design can be crucial, with slight refinements or amendments taking anywhere from hours to days, or in some cases, weeks. As a result, when designers arrive at a venue, there is very little time left to experiment or margin for error. The solution? L8 software, which today – like its pre-visualisation counterparts – has become an integral part of show development for curators of live experiences, not least in lockdown. “L8 is an incredible software package for visualising various disciplines related to real-time shows, lighting design, automated DMX-controlled objects, laser, pyrotechnic and other effects in a photorealistic environment,” L8 Founding Director, Dmitriy Giventar began. “The realism and speed of our software is right up there with the best in the industry.”
L8 software has always been distinguished by a high level of realism in the visualisation market, providing ample opportunities to implement the most daring ideas of stage designers the world over. Implementation in L8 support of NDI video streaming has allowed users during lockdown to create virtual concerts, shows, DJ-setups and not only continue their activities, but also explore new realms of creativity. Giventar has been writing his visualisation software for over 15 years. He explained the benefits of the technology to show designers. “It’s a tool that helps you come up with lighting design ideas. There is a huge library of DMX fixtures with over 6500 profiles from different manufacturers. Built-in onboard DMX control lets you quickly explore new lights.” Speaking to TPi in March 2019, Giventar discussed his research into Ray Tracing technology. Two years on, L8 has now integrated visualisation of 15
L8 PREVISUALISION DESIGN CHALLENGE
#L8Battle21 winners – Heavyweight category, Zhang Hua; Middlweight category, Martin Eigenstetter; Lightweight category, Cesar Feraud.
beams as well as much sought after indirect lighting. “Together with our world-class rendering speed, the L8 is the only visualiser to offer this to the live events market,” Giventar remarked. Another important and advantage of the L8 software is its stability and compliance with the declared characteristics. “The L8 team pays great attention to the technical support of its users,” Giventar said. “This is reflected in the constant replenishment of the equipment library and new functions in the software.” In February 2019, the L8 team united around the idea of supporting end users, naturally, according to Giventar, a previsualisation competition was an extension of this idea. “For the first challenge, we made a special free version of L8 for one month, which was a good start. Now we have permanent contestants, and we are inspired by their growth. Seeing truly brilliant stage designers among our users is the most important reward for the L8 team,” he said, praising the efforts of contestants. “We are very pleased and understand why we are putting in so much effort.” Contestants have to submit a previsualisation of their show. In fact, there are only three restrictions in the competition: a month to create your own show, a video presentation of no more than three minutes and the show must be visualised in L8 software. At the same time, the L8 product line makes it possible to reveal the creative potential of any skill level user. Prizes start from a L8 CE3 upgrade for 200E and go up to L8 UNLIMITED, which costs €7,500. “At the very beginning, we evaluated the participants in our team and L8 dealers, but over time, the number of participants increased, and the quality of work improved – the competition went to a new level,” Giventar explained. “This year, we decided to add the ability for contestants to rate each other. There were 39 unique pre-visual designs from all over the world. The scoring of the results resembled a complex dataset with over 5,000 graded scores that were averaged in a single table.” According to the used L8 licence, there are three weight classes for this task: a heavyweight class – TRACE / UNLIM. A middleweight class – NetIn / MEDIA and a lightweight class – CE / CE2 / CE3. All works are evaluated
in four categories: screenplay, lighting design, programming, and filming. The winner of this year’s heavyweight category was Zhang Hua, who scooped a L8 UNLIMITED licence. Martin Eigenstetter of LichtLogistik LED Support won a L8 TRACE licence for his entry in the middleweight category. “I wanted a classic light and stage design, not a virtual video room, but a stage with real room elements,” he said, describing the foundation for his entry. “Pure, handmade light, in the sense of real craftsmanship.” Cesar Feraud won a L8 MEDIA licensc for his efforts in the lightweight category. “I discovered L8 in 2017. I bought a L8 CE2 licence in 2020 during the lockdown to experiment and have fun,” Feraud said, describing the inspiration for his submission. “My video design was inspired by my travels in Japan. I put a big background to light it and made an immersive video similar to a real-life festival. I was really motivated to make a precise lighting show to enjoy the viewers who missed in-person live events.” Above all, competitions like this one provide show designers and scholars something to strive for during this uncertain time. “Today, with the crisis in the live events sector, many have felt a vacuum not only in the absence of live events as such, but also in the absence of living emotions that feed the artist no less than his fees,” Giventar said, recalling the project’s modus operandi. “The L8 Previsualisation Design Challenge provides the very grain of emotions in the form of likes, discussions of numerous approvals. It is an opportunity to declare yourself, show your vision, unlimited by the real tasks and requirements of a particular event.” Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, Giventar believes that many end users have had a wealth of time for exploration and creativity, which is so often lacking in the fast-paced world of live events. “This year, instead of the traditional three prizes and a viewer’s choice prize, we increased the number of winners to nine,” he concluded. “It is really important for our team to be able to support our users in such a difficult time, and the competition gave us this opportunity.” TPi Photos: L8 www.l8.ltd 16
THE ZOO XYZ: BLACK IN THE BOARDROOM Following the company’s latest report on the racial disparity within UK event trade bodies and associations, Nadu Placca shares her findings with TPi and her plans to launch a new organisation which represents Black events professionals.
“You posted a Black square, now what?” stated Nadu Placca, Founder of The Zoo XYZ and now author of a new report that highlights the lack of diversity within UK event trade bodies and associations. She spoke to TPi over Zoom on the eve of the release of a new report that aims to bring the conversation of diversity within the live events industry to the forefront and begin a dialogue that will lead to change that goes further than a post on social media. Among The Zoo XYZ’s findings, which looked into 16 UK event trade associations, the research found that 0% of board members that sit on UK event trade bodies and associations are Black. The report included associations such as the PSA, Music Venues Trust, Association of
Independent Promoters and The Concert Promoters Association. All data was taken from websites and verified, where available, on Companies House. In the report, The Zoo XYZ classified Black as those of Black African and Caribbean ancestry living and working in the UK. “The last thing we wanted this report to do is to make the industry feel like a deer in the headlights,” explained Placca, who drew parallels with this report and Women In CTRL Founder, Nadia Khan’s report titled: Seat At The Table, which highlighted the lack of female representation in leadership positions within the music industry. “Within the entertainment market, you often find a huge number of Black artists and athletes are at the forefront, but this is simply not 18
THE ZOO XYZ
Opposite: Nadu Placca, Founder of The Zoo XYZ.
reflected backstage.” According to Placca, a key step in this mission is greater diversity and representation in the trade bodies that represent the industry. “Trade bodies and associations are voluntary industry watchdogs, set up to regulate and monitor industry standards,” the report states. “They create industry opportunities, unite for causes and lobby the government. The importance of trade bodies and associations can be seen across various industries, and they are an integral part of business. It is essential that trade bodies and associations are inclusive as they are influential to the longevity of the industries they serve.” Placca has worked within the live industry for over 14 years officially, although she jokes how she was born wanting to organise events. “I’ve only ever had one real job working at NatWest, which did not last long,” she chuckled, explaining how the traditional nine-to-five just didn’t cut it when there was a world of live events calling. After getting a degree in Events Management and Music & Media Management, Placca freelanced for a company within the sector before breaking out on her own. Having established a number of businesses over the years, in 2019, she formed The Zoo XYZ. This Black-owned, female-led experiential event management agency puts training at the forefront of its business model. “I have 12 amazing women working with me at The Zoo XYZ, all of whom have been on one of our courses such as 10 Steps To A Successful Event,” commented Placca. Like the rest of the industry, The Zoo XYZ had to put the brakes on much of its activity in March 2020. “It was a big shock to the system, but in some ways it was a necessary pause to reflect,” she explained. “Then came George Floyd’s murder, and we found people wanted to do something, from posting a Black square to giving money to some sort of organisation.” This wish to do something, Placca reflected, left many people feeling frustrated, as they did not know how to act or respond to the current climate. “In many ways, this report was all about holding people to account and starting a conversation to force some progression and offer some solutions,” she stated, boldly. Despite the report’s results, Placca is more than aware of the hard situation in which those heading up many of these trade bodies find themselves in. “We put a call out for Black events professionals, and we
were pleased that 165 individuals got in touch. As a result, we’ve built a great community,” she reported. “That said, I’ve been in the industry for 14 years and I didn’t know many of these people. So, I can only imagine what it’s like for a white person trying to go through the same process. However, I and the wider team at The Zoo XYZ want to make it easier for more Black people to get recognised in this industry and for more trade bodies and associations to find these Black people to support them.” In fact, the report and the overall campaign has yielded another success, namely deciding to take the steps to create their own association, Nadu Placca alongside Aaron Raybe, Eunice Obianagha and Nicole WallaceWhite; the Association of Black Event Professionals (ABEP). “When we started on this journey, we were asking these organisations for a seat at the table. But due to the sheer numbers we attracted and the interest we’ve garnered, we realised we can create our own table,” stated Placca, proudly. She is currently in the long process of getting the organisation officially recognised and will head this up as a completely separate venture to The Zoo XYZ. With the report now being made public, Placca explained her hopes for the industry moving forward. “We don’t want people to have their backs up with the results of the report. As long as people are willing to lean into this conversation, there is only room for growth. We are not asking for anything crazy or unattainable. It’s just about having an open conversation.” The entire report, as well as further information about the organisation, can be read on The Zoo XYZ website. TPi Photos: The ZOO XYZ www.thezoo.xyz
Venuo’s Tom Turner.
VENUO Audio Engineer, Tom Turner transfers his skills to the world of livestreaming with his new company, Venuo, which allows users to build a digital online venue, host livestreams and sell tickets, all on one platform. TPi finds out more…
up to create a stream, you are granted access to embed this on your website complete with paywall. Venuo has already run several successful events since its launch, including a premier of a documentary on behalf of Morocco Animal Aid. However, with Turner’s history within live music, it’s not surprising that he’s also looking for Venuo to be used by a number of artists including Of Allies and Defeatist. “For Defeatist’s livestream, they are playing in a venue called the Hive Room where we are running a hybrid event with 20 people in the crowd and the band in the middle of the room,” stated Turner. “We are then recording the show in 360°.” The hybrid show is a model that Turner believes has real legs, even when COVID is a distant memory. “I really want to see hybrid shows become the norm. It’s not financially viable for big-name acts to play tiny venues, but when you could have fans online paying for and tuning in for this exclusive intimate show, it suddenly becomes possible. Not to mention those able to attend in person have a unique experience with the artist.” Venuo is being used for several other projects in the future, including a series of hybrid shows at 229. London. Although Turner, like the whole industry, is keenly awaiting the return of live events and to once again take up his audio engineer mantel, he seems positive that in the new live music landscape, the hybrid performance will be as commonplace as a show in your local venue. TPi Photos: Venuo www.venuo.co.uk 20
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DOWNLOAD PILOT Following a series of government-backed test events, Festival Republic upped the ante, with a three-day camping festival marking the UK’s largest music event since March 2020. For punters, this meant no masks, no social distancing and, of course, moshing and crowd surfing to their hearts’ content. TPi’s Stew Hume was onsite at Castle Donington to speak to the crew behind this historic event. Opening photo: Matt Eachus
Photo by James Bridle
In late May, I received an email that read: “10,000-capacity, three-day, camping-only test event. Moshing allowed.” I can safely say in all of my time at TPi, I’ve never replied to a PR email quicker. The thought of seeing and hearing some of the UK’s best rock and metal bands on stage, after 15 months away from live music, was one I simply could not miss. At the risk of stating the obvious, Download Pilot was part of the second phase of the government-backed test events that looked to build evidence on the effect of bringing larger crowds together. The handling of the results of these test events has been scrutinised in recent weeks due to the government’s reluctance to release the data. However, as important as the wider implications of these projects are, TPi was keen to get on site and hear from the men and women who got to break ground on the first UK festival since the onset of the pandemic. Rocking up on Friday morning, in the pouring rain, TPi was ushered toward the press accreditation following Download’s extensive testing protocols, which involve uploading results of both PCR and a lateral flow test to the festival’s portal. After completing the formalities, TPi was on site, surrounded by 10,000 of the loyal Download family. Despite the miserable weather, from the person running the front barricade, to the audio engineer at FOH, never has there been a happier festival site. This truly felt like a moment in history, and what better standard bearers than a handful of British metal and rock bands who had been starved of a live audience for the past 15 months? The general feeling was best described by Frank Carter [of Frank Carter and the Rattle Snakes] as he corralled the loyal test subjects into a large circle pit around the FOH tower. “This is how you put on a fucking festival,” he shouted. You’re not wrong Frank, you’re not wrong.
TOP DOGS “It feels like we’ve gone from one to 1,000 miles per hour in a very short space of time,” stated Download Events Manager, John Probyn. Having worked for Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn for the Sefton Park test event [see TPi’s June 2021 edition] he and his team were given the green light to pull together the pieces for the Download Pilot, just three weeks out from the event. “The short turnaround was a challenge, but we had the advantage that I know the site very well, having worked it for almost 20 years. I was also able to bring back many of our regulars who work with us each year and have a great relationship with the local authorities.” One of the first calls Probyn made was to the Chair of the Safety Advisory Group and the Director of Public Health. “It was imperative that we had their support every step of the way,” explained Probyn. When it came to setting up the team, Probyn joined forces with Luke Cowdell to divide the responsibilities. “I sat down with Luke to go through budgets and we decided who would look after what.” Speaking candidly, the one advantage with the current state of the industry was that there was no shortage of kit or crew. The supplier roster included SSE Audio overseeing both stages, Siyan handling lighting and video on the main stage, and Colour Sound Experiment on stage two. “It was overwhelming, both at the Sefton Park event and Download Pilot, with desire for contractors to work with us and to go that little bit further to make the show a reality,” stated Probyn, thanking those that helped make the event a reality. With the amount of willing participants opting to join the historic crew, TPi asked Probyn if he’d seen any evidence of people not wishing to return to the events industry. “On this project we were able to bring back most of 24
Photo by Matt Eachus
the familiar faces, such as Production Manager, Neil McDonald,” he stated. “Those who want to come back will return to the industry, but for those who don’t, there is always a lot of new blood wishing to join this world – it’s just a case of knowing where to look for them.” Probyn referenced three students from LIPA who had been brought on to work the Sefton Park show and, due to their keen attitude, were then brought on to work Download Pilot. “We had all three of them in the COVID Compliance department making sure all crew and contractors were following the guidelines,” he explained. “In their downtime, they also got to help our team with the general festival infrastructure.”
on deck for the past few weeks and I even pulled in my wife to help put together the band booklets.” For both stages, L-Acoustics was the system of choice. As the configuration for both the stages were new for this year, not to mention catering to a much smaller audience, a brand-new system design had to be created. For the main stage, the hangs comprised four K1SBs, 12 K1s and four K2s, with a side hang made up of 12 K2s and 12 KS28s per side. Meanwhile, on stage two, under the big top, there were 10 K2s with three KARA on the main hang, with two delay setups on the king poles to “give better coverage at the back of the tent, which can often be a tricky point for audio coverage”. For stage wedges, the main stage used d&b audiotechnik M4s, while L-Acoustics X15s were selected for stage two. With a selection of COVID-19 protocols both backstage and at FOH, including social distancing and cleaning for desks, Bennett outlined some of the extra measures he’d put in to increase safety. “Despite masks and PPE requirements, communication has not been as bad as I’d predicted,” said Bennett, explaining that he’d also put in some protocols to avoid people needing to have to get too close to speak to one another, deploying a more extensive talk back system for the crew. For control, on the main stage, SSE provided an Avid SL6-24C with a Yamaha CL5 on the stage. Aiding Bennett in FOH duties was a previous TPi Breakthrough Talent Award winner, Oli Crump. “When I got the call asking if I was available, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself,” he stated. “I was initially worried that I might have forgotten how to do it all, but it all came back quickly enough once we got started.” The Audio Engineer went on to explain that it was “an amazing experience” to be back at FOH after such a long time. “I felt very honoured to be one of the few crew working
THE FIRST BLOOD HAS BEEN DRAWN Looking after the audio demands for both stages was SSE Audio Senior Hire Manager, Dan Bennett. “The artist advances we received on the audio side felt incredibly normal,” he chuckled, making the point that these were metal bands, so expecting large drum risers and backline is something of an occupational hazard. “It’s good that here we have a true test event to prove we can still do this, and do so safely,” he said. “A great deal of our staff are still on furlough,” he stated, explaining that it had been a rather busy few months for him, having to oversee everything from small dry hire packages to streamed events and residencies on top of his usual clients. Amid this packed schedule, Bennett was pleased to pick up the call from the Download team. However, as this was a one-off event, the SSE representative explained that they were unable to bring people back from furlough, meaning that along with designing the PA systems, Bennett was also overseeing crew booking, trucks and crew calls. “It’s been all hands 25
Festival Republic Managing Director, Melvin Benn; Colour Sound Experiment Crew Chief, James Hinds; SSE Audio Senior Hire Manager, Dan Bennett; Siyan Lighting Project Manager, Steve Finch and Video Project Manager, Mark Baruch; Music Consortium’s Rhianne Cheetham, Ruth ‘Splodge’ Lodge and Iona Chard along with Georgia Wren and Stage Manager for the second stage, Alice James.
that weekend and hopefully the research from these shows will pave the way for us all to get back out there as soon as possible. Huge thanks to Dan Bennett and the rest of the team behind the scenes at SSE Audio – they’ve been working hard on this for months and it made our lives very easy on site,” he said. “The first blood has been drawn with this one,” enthused Bennett, giving his final thoughts on SSE Audio’s involvement. “All our equipment is returning to the yard, but now it is prepped and show ready, so we’re able to answer the call wherever that may come from. It has been an honour to be part of the biggest show the UK has seen in the past 15 months. The fact we were chosen has given us such pride and I tip my hat to Melvin Benn and the Festival Republic team for making it happen.”
Baruch. “We set up the first person on our Depence² suite and then they move to the desk after the surfaces have been cleaned.” The two Siyan representatives explained how the flip-flop between the two stages was a godsend as it gave them more time to get everyone set up and in a safe, timely manner. On the topic of incoming crew, Baruch made a point that it was good to see so many of these acts bringing in production elements to make their show look as good as possible. “It’s been nice to see bands choosing to spend money and support the ecosystem to make this show even better. It might only be 10,000 people, but these bands haven’t played in almost two years and are clearly keen to make an impact,” he said. One of the biggest incoming productions came with Saturday’s headliner, Enter Shikari. Looking after the design for this show was Mandylights’ Steve Bewley and Tom Edwards. “The band knew that this was bigger than just this pilot show and there were a lot of eyes on this festival, so they really wanted to put on a show,” reflected Bewley, reminiscing about his experience with the Shikari camp in the lead up to the festival. In collaboration with long-standing supplier, Lights Control Rigging, Bewley and Edwards were able to pull off a headline-worthy package for the Saturday night. Having almost finalised some of the looks for the upcoming tour later this year, the Mandylights team were keen to reflect the upcoming campaign while not basing it entirely around those looks. The result was a look that revolved around several diagonal lines, created by 172 Martin by Harman VDO Sceptron 10s. Also on the package were 30 GLP JDC1s and 12 impression X4 Bar 20s along with two Martin by Harman MAC Aura XBs and six Claypaky Scenius Unicos. “It was very hectic in the first week when we got the call as to how we would make this show work with all the regulations on the stage,” stated Bewley. “We understood that there had to be social distancing measures and we knew we’d be wearing masks.” For that reason, Bewley was keen to keep the team small. The whole band and crew stayed as a bubble for the duration of the project on the bus. “If one person went down, everyone
‘THIS IS WHY WE DO THIS JOB’ Prior to doors officially opening and the eager 10,000 descending on the site, TPi grabbed a coffee with Siyan Lighting Project Manager, Steve Finch and Video Project Manager, Mark Baruch. “Although this is not the traditional main stage size for Download, it’s the same Supernova Structure from Serious Stages that we’ve used for Latitude, so it’s a structure we are more than used to,” began Finch. With this being a test event, the Lighting PM made no secret that keeping budgets sensible was of paramount importance. “The goal was to produce a rig that would fit the needs for the vast majority of the bands,” said Finch. He continued by listing the various pieces of kit at the bands’ disposal, which included Martin by Harman MAC Viper Spots, Robe MegaPointes, Vari-Lite VL Washes and SGM Q7s. “The Q7s are not only great as a strobe but work really well in the daylight,” enthused Finch. “Metal bands seem to love the look and impact of them.” For control, an MA Lighting grandMA3 was set up at FOH, which was able to run MA2 software if needed. Despite two of the headliners – Bullet for My Valentine and Enter Shikari – bringing their own desks, for all the travelling LDs using the house console, the team at Siyan implemented a stringent cleaning routine. “We have people rotate through FOH,” explained 26
went down.” Bewley and the team even brought in their own console so there was even less risk of cross contamination. “It was notably a very socially distant FOH,” added Edwards. “Most festivals you usually find you’re very cramped next to each other, but that certainly wasn’t the case this year.” Away from the lights, Baruch discussed the festival’s video setup. “The two IMAG screens we have provided are much larger than you might expect for a show of this capacity,” he began. The package included one camera at FOH, two in the pit, another on a track, and two more pan and tilt cameras on stage. “Due to social distancing, we were unable to have any camera operators on stage, so we had to rely on the remote cameras,” explained Baruch. Jon Grilli handled all the video directing for the IMAGs. Baruch and Finch provided their closing thoughts on being involved in Download Pilot. “It’s been absolutely brilliant,” stated Finch. “After such a long time not being on a festival site, there is a particular sense of satisfaction being back and hopefully being part of a solution,” added Baruch. “To be in a wet muddy field, surrounded by trucks and people everywhere – this is why we do this job. It’s just so nice to be back doing all of this again!” LIFE UNDER THE BIG TOP Meanwhile under the shelter of the big tent, looking after lighting and video was Colour Sound Experiment. Welcoming TPi to dimmer world was Crew Chief, James Hinds. Having already handled the lighting duties at Sefton Park, the team opted to replicate a lot of the setup for the second stage at Download. “Having gone through all the procedures for Sefton, we were very familiar with the policies that we needed to follow to make this one run smoothly,” stated Hinds. “There are several workflows that were replicated here and others that we’ve adapted.” That consistency and streamlining was reflected with the fixtures too, with returning favourites, including Robe MegaPointes, Claypaky B-EYE K25s, Scenius Unicos, CHAUVET Professional Rogue R1 FX-Bs and GLP JDC1s. “On this stage we are also seeing a few bands bring some floor packages,” Photo by Matt Eachus
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stated Hinds. “We’ve got some cold sparks for Creeper’s set and some extra strobes for Sleep Token’s show.” Every element was planned to be at its safest, to give the best possible chance of a successful return to events. With bands and crew having been off the road for such a long time, Colour Sound Experiment provided incoming LDs a wysiwyg file as soon as possible to give them enough time to program. “We’ve also factored in time to give incoming LDs as much time as possible on the desk to familiarise themselves with the equipment,” stated Hinds. “Thankfully, we’ve got very long changeovers due to the flip-flop line up between the stages.” Flanking the stage for the weekend were two ROE Visual Black Pearl LED screens. “We brought 270 sq m of the product this year and have been using them for a number of temporary installs,” said Hinds. “With the huge amount of TV and small studio work, it became imperative for Colour Sound Experiment to invest in more small pixel pitch products.” Feeding the screens was a Resolume media server. Like the main stage, there was a mission to reduce the number of people on stage and therefore six robo cameras were distributed on the stage with only one operated camera in the pit. Hinds was complementary to the protocols in place. “One thing the crew asked for after Sefton was a hand-washing station,” he commented, explaining that working on a stage meant hand-sanitiser stations didn’t quite cut it when trying to keep clean after a busy load-in. “There’s now a station by catering and it’s one thing I hope remains even after COVID.”
CABS, CABLES AND COLLABORATION The fact that this was a test event did not dampen the various acts’ wish to put on a proper show, which included vast instrumentation. Backline supplier for the festival was STS Touring. “This year, we were mainly contracted by bands that wanted to cover their artists’ endorsements and supporting British Drum Company and Marshall Amplification with stock on site,” stated STS’ Richard Knowles. “Being involved in the first major festival in the UK since the COVID-19 pandemic was a real privilege and a brilliant experience. The atmosphere on site was fantastic and there wasn’t a single tech, crew hand or member of staff that wasn’t happy to be back at work.” Knowles explained how traditionally at Download, their usual customers are international acts flying in and therefore, as Download Pilot was made up of British-only acts, they were not expecting to do a lot of supply work. “Most of the hires we took on were additions to fill out the bands’ stage set, or emergency kit to replace broken or forgotten items,” he explained. “We also took some sales stock from our sister company, Tour Supply UK, so bands had the back-up service for the usual consumables and spares we carry in our backstage cabin. “Download Pilot was incredibly well organised and run,” he added. “It was amazing what was achieved in such a short time frame. The additional procedures we had to go through for accreditation were extremely well managed on site. Everyone was really on top of what they needed to do, which made for a great atmosphere. The fans need a big mention, too. Even though it was a smaller line-up, they really got behind all the bands.”
CHANGING OF THE TIDE While at the second stage, TPi also managed to spend some time with the team from the Music Consortium stage crew and Stage Manager, Alice James. The reason TPi was so keen to speak to James and her team was that she was leading an all-female stage team – a first for the UK festival industry. Her team comprised Crew Chief Ruth ‘Splodge’ Lodge, Rhianne Cheetham, Iona Chard and Georgia Wren. “Having worked in the industry for 15 years, this is the first time I’ve seen an all-female crew work a stage and it’s brilliant,” commented Splodge. One of the young members of the stage crew, Georgia Wren gave her two cents on being involved in this ground-breaking team. “I remember I worked at Leeds Festival a few years ago and it was a big thing that there were two girls on the main stage in a team of 12. It’s so good seeing everything starting to snowball and becoming a much more recognised profession for women to be getting into.” James, who is also an Event Management lecturer at BIMM in London, expressed her optimism for seeing similar diversity trends just by the demographic in her classroom. “There is definitely a shift and one of my classes of 25 now only has four boys – a notable change in what you might traditionally expect. I think once those people have worked through the ranks, what we have seen at second stage Download this year will no longer be noteworthy but the norm.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE FUTURE? “I’m certainly not taking my foot off the accelerator, especially if we’re looking ahead to the August bank holiday,” asserted John Probyn when TPi asked that inevitable question – what does the future hold for the 2021 festival season? With the latest news that more festivals have been granted test status such as Latitude and Tramlines, it seems that lessons learned from this format will be taken into the next round of events. As always, we’ll have to hold tight to see what the future holds, but Download Pilot made it abundantly clear what the live industry is fighting for. Hopefully we’ll all soon be able to share stories of what it was like when you first felt that sound of the PA going through your chest and the roar of the crowd. TPi Photos: Oli Crump, James Bridle, Matt Eachus & TPi www.downloadfestival.co.uk www.festivalrepublic.com www.sseaudio.com www.siyan.co.uk www.coloursound.com www.themusicconsortium.com www.ststouring.co.uk 28
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LIVE AT WORTHY FARM With the famed festival having to postpone for yet another year, organisers welcome a selection of artists to Worthy Farm for a unique virtual event. TPi’s Stew Hume reports.
LIVE AT WORTHY FARM
It was a heavy blow to this year’s festival season when Glastonbury announced that its 2021 event would not be going ahead. While nothing could replace the in-person festival, organisers did not want another year to pass without giving their loyal fanbase something rather special. Inviting festival favourites including Coldplay, IDLES and Haim to play sets in some of Glastonbury’s most iconic spots, from the Stone Circle to the Pyramid stage, Live At Worthy Farm offered fans the chance to see the site in a whole new light. Talking TPi through the technical infrastructure behind the project was Emma Reynolds-Taylor, known to most TPi readers as the Head of Production for the Pyramid and Other Stage at Glastonbury. “I got the initial call from Nick Dewey, [Emily Eavis’ husband and Head Programmer for the festival] who asked if I would be interested in dealing with the bands for this streaming project,” she recalled, a week after the initial stream went live. Jumping at the opportunity, Reynolds-Taylor began having conversations with Driift, who were heading up the production for the shoot. “The whole project grew in size very quickly and the team knew that they were going to need someone on site to deal with all the incoming artists.” She went on to state how fantastic it was to be involved in the production from the very beginning as, in her words, it meant having to “jump headfirst” into a huge number of Zoom meetings with bands and others within the production chain. Although Reynolds-Taylor was naturally happy to be back on site and helping to create an impressive virtual show, she explained that the best part of the whole experience was making the calls to some of her loyal suppliers and crewmembers to bring them back into the fold. The supplier list comprised Aggreko for power, Music Bank for backline and RG Jones for audio. For lighting, the duties were split between Fineline Lighting and Neg Earth. Also on site was SSE Audio, supplying riser decks, while Showforce provided local crew. Block9 was also on-board handling the creative for the project. “It felt so good to be able to provide some work for several companies,” the PM stated. “Music Bank even brought some of their team off furlough who I’d worked with closely on previous years at Glasto. Everyone was so flexible and positive throughout the whole process. It was an interesting project to work on as not one of the bands, for obvious reasons, were on
tour and therefore didn’t have a package to roll out. So, in a number of cases, we were supplying a lot of their kit,” explained Reynolds-Taylor. “Some of the bands had been in rehearsals and in those cases, they brought along their own audio monitoring setup. For the ones that didn’t, the team at RG Jones were on hand to supply.” With no live audience, the PM explained how this project was more of a TV shoot than a traditional festival. “It was fascinating to see how this side of the entertainment industry operates,” she expressed. “Normally at a festival we have very strict stage times, that have to fit into our licence conditions whereas here it was almost the opposite as we had to take our cues from the director and the filming department, taking into account things such as natural lighting as well as when they were able to get the OB and camera unit up to set up certain shots.” After watching the show back and complimenting the work of Director, Paul Dugdale, the PM considered if this project could affect how Glastonbury might be broadcast when the festival returns to normal. “The footage they created was so beautiful and of such high-quality,” she reflected. “I wondered if it might be something to replicate in future years, but there is something about the electric atmosphere captured by our usual festival coverage that is all part of Glastonbury’s charm. However, I’m glad we have this archive to celebrate the history of the festival.” For Reynolds-Taylor, it always comes back to the fact she once again got to collaborate with some of her regular team. “I was able to bring on several of my regular production crew, which was fantastic,” she revealed. “There were also many familiar faces from backstage that we were able to find jobs for, such as the Pyramid head rigger, who was our plant driver for the duration of the shoot and lots of our regular Showforce stage crew, which was just so heart-warming to have so many friendly faces helping us around the site.” AUDIO DELIVERY Walking TPi through the audio deployment for the project was RG Jones Director, Sarah Gellas and Audio Production Manager, Ben Milton. “It was very interesting to be back at Glastonbury but thinking about the production in such a different manner from a ‘normal’ year or setting,” they both reflected. “It was great to be working alongside Emma Reynolds34
LIVE AT WORTHY FARM
Taylor, Peter Taylor and their excellent team, and to be out working with audio friends in the glorious Somerset countryside, doing what we do best.” Unlike a normal year where the RG Jones team would deploy a sizeable PA, this year, a core crew of six provided the audio equipment to facilitate the stages, comms, monitors, mixing facilities and active split system. On top of all of this, it supplied the OB trailer to house all the equipment. “I suggested a few ways that we could facilitate the audio for performances and audio capture, which would keep our team to a minimum in terms of numbers, consistency from act to act, and the rig and de-rig time,” explained Milton. “The OB units meant we could move from location to location keeping the engineers and gear dry.” While the regular army of Glastonbury crew are used to dealing with adverse weather, Milton explained that for the Live At Worthy Farm recording, a lot more planning was required when it came to dealing with the wrath of mother nature. “As the performances were all out in the open, with little or no protection from the elements, keeping the rain out and the performers safe, both regarding their equipment as well as keeping the COVID-19 measures in mind, was of highest priority,” he explained. The RG Jones team were also keen to keep the technical side as transparent as possible so the artists would not be distracted during their performances. As part of offering a seamless performance space, the audio department had to consider RF coverage to a greater degree – a task Gellas and Milton were pleased to report the team accomplished. Gellas explained that the success of the production was down in no small part to the meticulous planning involved. “Pre-production was the key, especially ensuring that the BBC had everything they needed for the audio capture.” Milton continued: “In return, we had all the visual feeds and comms we needed to deploy the performances. We required a very thorough advance process to lock down all technical aspects, from artist requirements, to ensuring they had the type of mixing desk, monitoring and stage package required.”
LIGHTING THE WAY Having worked on the Glastonbury site for around 30 years, Fineline Lighting Director, Rob Sangwell, was ecstatic to be back at the Farm – interestingly, not for the first time since the national lockdown. “I was there to illuminate the Pyramid as part of the Light it in Red campaign, so it was really nice to be asked back to help with the livestream.” Fineline aided in the creation of the most notable looks of the stream, lighting the iconic Pyramid structure while Coldplay played in the field in the shadow of the stage. To create this look, the team deployed 34 SGM P10 IP65 Floods, 38 CHAUVET Professional Maverick Storm 1 Washes, eight Maverick Storm 1 Washes, and four Prolights Panorama IP Airbeams. The team also provided kit for two other areas – the Stone Circle for Haim’s set, as well as Joe Rush’s Yard for IDLES’ performance. “Tim Routledge was overall Lighting Designer for the livestream,” explained Sangwell. “Tim liaised with the bands’ LDs and creatives, then we worked with him on the areas we were looking after. He had a lot on his plate covering all the areas, so our job was to back him up with the kit and crew to facilitate the designs and make it all as hassle-free and smooth as possible.” Like the audio department, Sangwell also cited the weather as a major challenge. “The Stone Circle was of special concern as none of the kit used was weatherproof, with most of it being pretty old school,” he explained. “It was raining heavily throughout the setup right up to the shoot, which took place during a gap in the rain. As soon as the shoot was over and the de-rig commenced, the rain returned,” he chuckled. As the shoot was taking place over a week, Fineline was able to deploy a team of seven who moved from location to location over the course of filming, with some rigging or de-rigging while others were covering shoots. “It was great to be able to book some crew for work,” stated Sangwell. “We’ve stayed in touch with our crew, suppliers and customers over the pandemic so they weren’t strangers, but it was nice to be able to provide some income in addition to moral support and mutual bitching.”
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Giving his final thoughts, Sangwell stated: “It was fantastic to be working on site at Worthy Farm again with such good people involved with the onsite production team,” he continued: “Everyone involved worked so hard in pretty difficult conditions and on a short timescale to make this happen. Hopefully next year we’ll be there with some punters, too.”
the normal festival. It was a live show, it was just that it was filmed and livestreamed to an audience rather than having the crowds onsite.” Looking back on the project, Martelly explained how it was “rewarding as it was challenging”, adding: “It was great to be back out working and doing what we do best on a festival site. The resilience and professionalism of the crew was extraordinary, with each individual showing why they are so good at this work. Hats off to all involved in this very successful event.” FINAL THOUGHTS With the footage first streamed globally on 22 May, the performances were collated for the BBC and can still be viewed on iPlayer. Giving her final thoughts on the show, Emma Reynolds-Taylor summed up her experience. “The main thing I took from this project was how good it was to be doing something in the industry again and it was fantastic that the festival was able to give some people work in this tricky time. “Being able to work alongside some of our longstanding suppliers was amazing, even though it was disappointing to not have the regular volume of crew that we usually have at the festival. I also have to praise the increasable positivity of everyone that we brought on sight, from the audio team to the local crew and beyond. The atmosphere on site was amazing, even when it rained!” In the latest news from the Glastonbury camp, the organisers are now planning a one-day event in September, taking place on the Pyramid stage with a licence that would accommodate 50,000 people, including the audience, performers, staff and crew. Then, all being well, the festival will proudly open its gates once again in 2022. TPi Photos: Anna Barclay & Matt Cardy www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk www.libraryproductions.com www.finelinelighting.com www.rgjones.co.uk www.showforce.com www.negearth.com www.musicbank.org www.aggreko.com www.sseaudio.com
ALL HANDS ON DECK With multiple locations across the farm, Showforce was on deck to cater for all crewing needs for the production. The company provided 180 crew from 14 to 22 May, with an additional 195 workers to support the Coldplay build. “Working with the bands’ production teams to assist them with the set build was definitely a highlight,” reminisced Showforce Operations Director, Chris Martelly. “You didn’t get a sense of how it would look during the build, but once all the lights were turned on, it was absolutely stunning.” Martelly commented how the weather also made the whole experience rather memorable – “for all the wrong reasons.” He elaborated: “It was the worst May on record for 50 years, which certainly presented some challenges. However, as the team were so thrilled to get back to a festivalstyle environment, we took it all in our stride. Despite there not being a crowd, this job definitely felt like a step back to live events.” Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Showforce has been able to retain many of its core team of experienced crew chiefs and crew, as they were PAYE employed, the company was able to use a combination of furlough and limited jobs. In addition, as a London / national living wage employer that offers good progression and training opportunities to encourage staff to either return or join the team. “We also had a good response from the event professionals that had been waiting to come back to the industry they love and there is no better draw than Glastonbury,” enthused Martelly. “We were able to bring back many of the crew members that had worked at Glastonbury in 2019, and when contacted they jumped at the opportunity, so the level of skills and experience was there.” Although this was a very different Glastonbury project, from Showforce’s perspective, it was business as usual. “It didn’t feel that different during the build and breakdown phases,” reported Martelly. “Social distancing and other COVID-safe working protocols made an impact, but the actual work and building the stage while assisting suppliers was all the same as 36
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THE HAÇIENDA HOUSE PARTY IV Haçienda Classical featuring Graeme Park, the Manchester Camerata Orchestra and special guests return for two socially distanced and livestream events during the May Bank Holiday weekend, throwing a lifeline to around 400 members of production crew, performing artists and musicians during the COVID-19 pandemic. TPi’s Jacob Waite reports...
Now in its sixth year, Haçienda Classical sees orchestral renditions of heritage Haçienda club tracks performed on stage with experimental orchestra, Manchester Camerata. As beneficiaries of the UK government’s Culture Recovery Fund (CRF), the event took place at Victoria Warehouse over the May Bank Holiday weekend with a socially distanced crowd of 123 people and a livestream audience donning their gladrags to witness a stellar line up of Graeme Park, DJ Paulette and Peter Hook take to the stage, with follow-up Sunday performances by Orbital Live, Jon Dasilva, A Guy Called Gerald Live and Justin Robertson. “We’ve done a lot of charity livestreams over the course of the lockdown but an in-person and livestream event is a great project for the DCMS and Arts Council England to invest in,” Event Producer, Matt Jones said, having played a key role in the successful grant application. “I started out with a budget for a fictitious show to become fact, which engulfed rehearsals, two streaming events with a live audience if possible, depending on the
lockdown restrictions. We received the funding in April, so there was a fast turnaround time between planning and execution of the event.” With the event buoyed by the CRF grant, the devil was now in the detail. “By no means was this a profit-making experience; the DCMS and Arts Council England have invested in the fact that this particular show would not have been possible without their support, providing us with a template for this show for the rest of the year.” The vendor roster comprised familiar suppliers in Lite Alternative, Wigwam, and Colour Sound Experiment for video. This year, Concept Staging was brought in to provide a bespoke 64ft by 70ft staging structure, which took up two thirds of the venue space, to account for distancing of the performing artists and musicians from an in-person audience. Victoria Warehouse liaised with the local authority regarding licencing. Tickets were made available in groups of six, with social distancing rules and sanitiser stations positioned around the site. One-way systems were 38
implemented, as well as mandatory face masks and coverings compulsory when arriving and moving around the site. Table service was in operation with drinks purchased using cashless systems. On the production side, crew operated in department-specific bubbles with no crossover shifts. Stage time was mitigated so not every member of the crew was on stage at once. The build was described by Jones as ‘measured’ and ‘structured’ to account for the social distancing of crew. “We hired artists with stage manager backgrounds to handle the movement of performing artists safely,” he added. Jones worked closely with Stage Manager, Chris Maher to navigate a COVID-19 secure platform for DJs, percussion, vocals and an experimental orchestra to perform live for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head. “It was a task trying to take into account 2m while falling into the remit of each department, creative and conductor requirement,” Jones conceded. “It required a lot of meetings but we got there in the end. I hope that after 2021, when we get past these awful few years, we start to experience a normal gig setup.” As Stage Manager, Maher was responsible for overseeing the movement of around 45 musicians descending on to the stage at once, managing their expectations to enter and exit the space in groups of six – a feat which timed in at around 15 minutes. “We employed a company called safetygeeks to handle the risk assessment, devising a COVID-19 event plan. While Andrew Lenny and I formulated a Haçienda risk assessment,” Jones said, reflecting on the “surprisingly straightforward” process, having become accustomed to the COVID-19 health and safety regulations working on several projects through the course of the pandemic. Maher was keen to stress the importance of this project as a demonstration of the sector’s ability to showcase live entertainment in a safe manner amid the pandemic. “We’ve been completely sidelined as a sector. Events like this allow us to demonstrate the ability of the sector,” Maher stated. “It was a special thing to do and there is no getting away from
the fact that it was a ‘proper’ gig. Everyone – from the production crew, to venue management and security – was keen to make this two-day event a roaring success.” Jones concurred, pointing out the importance of live entertainment as a form of escapism from the mundanity of day-to-day life in lockdown for live music fans and production crew alike. “It’s incredibly important for people’s mental health that shows like this still go ahead during the COVID-19 pandemic for the suppliers, freelancers, and the sector at large,” he said, estimating the total figure of employment at around 400 people over the course of two days. “Most have had little to no work since last February, so it was great to create this event and support the sector supply chain.” ‘DYNAMISM WITHIN THE CONSTRAINTS OF THE NEW NORMAL’ Video Director, John Surdevan designed the camera plot to suit the show, liaising with lighting, performing artists, DJs and the production management to ensure each visual element pulled in the same direction. “This event was a little different due to the safety measures as it meant the performers were further apart on stage, much like the audience,” he explained, having been involved in several Haçienda projects in the past. “This called for wider lenses on cameras closer to the stage and a longer lens at FOH to ensure I could get close-ups of the musicians at the back.” Surdevan provided everything in the chain, from cameras and crew to vision mixer and stream encoder. “We integrated with others for upstage screen graphics and broadcast audio mix,” he said. The package comprised Blackmagic Ursa Broadcast and Panasonic PTZ cameras fitted with HJ40, HJ22 and HJ14 lenses along with additional dolly, jib, magic arms and tripod grips. Surdevan’s vision mixer of choice was a Blackmagic Design Atem 4K 1M/E with his own ‘Jackinabox’ interface, ingest racks and CCU. VT playback was achieved by vMix with LiveU specified as the stream encoder. With COVID-19 affecting everything from capacity to camera placement, Surdevan had to adapt and evolve constantly to ensure the team could 39
HAÇIENDA HOUSE PARTY IV
operate safely. “One of the main precautions we took was to ensure no operated cameras were placed on stage or close to any performers,” he said. Instead, Surdevan opted for PTZs mounted in the truss and close to the DJ decks to allow for some movement and flexibility while keeping a safe distance. “Additionally, we kept crew to a minimum where possible; this meant fewer hands on the rig and derig. While this made things more challenging, it made for a safer working environment,” he noted. Aside from COVID-19, the main challenge facing the video team was ensuring the show was as exciting for those in the building as it was for those at home. “This can be tricky with such a large stage and a lot of performers as everyone needs to have their moment,” he acknowledged. On top of this, a secondary stage was situated at FOH for the DJs who played before opening for headliners, Hacienda Classical and Orbital. “Transitioning from one stage to another meant repositioning our two cameras at FOH during the changeovers,” Surdevan stated. To make this smooth and entertaining, the team used VT footage on the stream and continued playing music over the PA for those in the room. “This worked well, keeping both audiences engaged consistently,” Surdevan noted. Although a lot of effort went into previsualisation for the show on the livestream end, seeing the whole thing come to life from the lighting and sound to the staging and visuals was “something else”, according to Surdevan. “Everyone really pulled it out of the bag!” An added incentive was the “electric” atmosphere in the room during both nights. “Being in a real-life venue playing a full show felt like such a release for the audience, the crew and the performers alike,” Surdevan reminisced. “It sounds cliché, but it felt like such a historic moment for everyone involved. There was plenty of emotion swirling around that room; from excitement to anticipation to pure joy, everyone was on a high.” Surdevan said the main challenge curators of livestreams face with a digital audience is ensuring there is plenty of room for interaction and
engagement. “With an in-person show, everyone knows the drill. They dance, scream and cheer when they love what they’re hearing and we’re able to get a sense of their mood,” he acknowledged. “As for those at home, that’s entirely the opposite. We can’t see their faces or reactions so we have to ensure there’s room for them to connect and express their thoughts.” For this show, the team harnessed live chat functions to keep the show interactive, with the social media managers joining in to build excitement. “We also had to ensure we showed a little bit of everything happening on stage where possible. As a director, you’re responsible for guiding the viewers at home, showing them what they should look at and when. This means carefully curating the shots and teeing up key moves to make sure they never miss a beat.” Looking back on the event, Surdevan commented: “The response online was huge. Viewing figures climbed and climbed throughout both nights with lots of engagement on every platform. The in-person audience were elated by the prospect of live music, making for a real buzz about the venue. It’s safe to say both audiences seemed pleased with the show.” As for the wider industry, the feedback has been mostly positive, especially from crew that worked directly or indirectly on the event. “The COVID-19 pandemic has really shown just how much people’s hard work goes into creating an event like this, so it was great to see everyone collaborating again and really enjoying being back where they belong,” Surdevan added. “It was a very positive response from all angles. These events are a crucial step to getting the whole live events industry back on their feet. While we are not able to operate at full capacity, we are proving how well we can function within the constraints of this ‘new normal’.” Surdevan believes that streaming, combined with a small in-person audience, provides a safe way for the events industry to flex its muscles once again. “Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to see the return of sell-out shows in packed venues with crews back in their rightful place, running the events we all love,” he added. 40
HAÇIENDA HOUSE PARTY IV
Event Producer, Matt Jones with Stage Manager, Chris Maher and Simon Watson; John Ginley and Glenn Johnson; Monitor Engineer, Peter Foulkes; Jack Murphy with Ralph Smart and Aaron Boothe.
‘A PLEASURE TO OPERATE’ Lite Alternative has been involved with this project since the very first show at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester back in 2016. “I have managed, designed and operated the shows since the very first one,” said Lite Alternative Project Manager, John Ginley, who doubled as a Lighting Designer and Operator turned LED screen Content Editor and Creator come overall visual creative control on this event. “COVID-19 was at the forefront of everyone’s mind from the moment we had confirmation of this event,” Ginley recalled. “While it didn’t affect my workflow from a programming point of view – I was in one of the wysiwyg rooms at Lite Alt on my own nearly all of the time – it certainly came into play during every other aspect of the show. From prepping in the warehouse at opposite ends of the trusses through to the load in, show and out and even down to how big the FOH control positions needed to be to maintain social distancing.” Ginley worked to a schedule of different departments staggering their load in and out times – lighting and rigging had almost a full day to work before staging came in, then sound came the following morning. “I always begin the design for Haçienda Classical by making sure that the Orchestra is properly lit and that I have all my ‘specials’ in place – we have so many fantastic people performing all over the stage, it’s important to make sure we can see them all properly.” The team very rarely uses followspots, so the correct coverage on all the performers becomes even more important. “Once we’ve established this, I can then look at the effect lighting, which gives the whole thing an
enormous club night feel. It’s also very important that we maintain the original Haçienda club feel, so I’ll often look at old pictures and videos of the club. I’ve featured six-way par bars a few times and CP Golden Scans on my original designs, but no success in getting them into a show as yet!” The chevron images that feature in the show are also incredibly important to the whole look and feel of the night. “It’s so iconic and a huge part of the Haçienda image, style and history,” Ginley remarked. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say the big audience looks were not a pleasure to operate, but there are also a couple of smaller moments involving a mirror ball which always make me smile. I try to use a backlight where we can – be it in profile/wash or a strobe hit – as an effect as there are lots of things on stage to be picked out.” Ginley made sure that the whole space was lit properly for the streaming aspect of the show – and that the team had some extra light level that could be brought in for the cameras if necessary – while maintaining the night club feel for the audience. “The stage, which took up two thirds of the venue, was a large space to cover and normally when it’s an in-person audience you can get away with a little more.” To this end, Ginley specified GLP impression X4 Bars on the downstage edge to provide definition as well as additional floor lights and Ayrton Dots, GLP JDC1 strobes and PROLIGHTs Smart Bats to fill in the gaps. “I toned the audience strobes down a little too as they can be a bit aggressive on occasion when we do the arena shows,” he admitted. The fixtures doing the most work on the show were the Martin by Harman MAC Aura XBs, Viper Profiles and the Robe MegaPointes. “The 41
HAÇIENDA HOUSE PARTY IV
Sam Gardner, John Surdevan, Chris Maher, Dave Skelton, Kyle Harris, Ruth Baird, Matt Jones, Tanisha Hanna-Beards, Simon Watson, Paul Fletcher, Graeme Park, Paul Stevart, Peter Hook, John Ginley, Gareth Pritchard, James Smallwood, Peter Foulkes, Glenn Johnson, Ralph Smart, Aaron Booth and Alex Johnson.
XBs were great as they provided the general wash and colour on stage throughout the evening, were very reliable and a perfect size too as the trusses were trimmed lower than normal and we had to be aware that nothing stuck out too much or hung too low,” Ginley explained. “I used the Viper Profiles out front for our ‘specials’ and I don’t think you can beat them to do a great job for you. MegaPointes were used for their gobo and animation work and I couldn’t be happier with them – nice and bright with lots of gobo variety and movement to be had throughout the whole show.” The show has always been programmed and run on an High End Systems Hog desk as that is Ginley’s preferred console – however, this time, it was the Hog 4. “I come from a theatre background and the desk of choice on those tours was very often the Hog 2, which set me on this road. I always feel comfortable and confident approaching and using the Hog and it always does what I ask it to do.” Glen Johnson was situated out front programming and running Catalyst for video on an MA Lighting grandMA2 light console. Summing up his experience, Ginley said: “It was a wonderful experience. Everyone involved was in great form, happy to see each other and very pleased to be staging an event. It is still enormously important to be creating these events and going ahead where possible, as whenever I looked at the audience, every single face seemed to be filled with joy and a little relief too. To be able to release a little bit of the pressure everyone has faced over the past 16 months by having a sing and a dance was priceless.”
DiGiCo SD7. System Technician, Paul Stevart handled a d&b audiotechnik V series; System Technician, Jack Murphy oversaw the Orbital set, handling a d&b audiotechnik J Series, with additional support from Stage and Monitor Technician, Kyle Harris and Playback Technician, James Smallwood. “Matt Jones has done an amazing job of making sure the crew were not working on top of each other with staggered working times between departments and being mindful of working conditions,” Bush said. “It is always a proud moment to have any involvement in a live production, especially seeing a crowd enjoying a gig again. It’s been far too long! There’s a good deal of excitement in the crew and the rest of the industry when anyone discusses a gig being able to take place.” Despite the success of the livestream element of the show, in-person experiences can’t be replicated, according to Stage Manager, Chris Maher. “The reason we attend gigs is escapism and an interactive experience,” he added. “Everything has its value, but live music is lightning in a bottle, which currently feels sidelined.” Event Producer, Matt Jones agreed with Maher, concluding: “I hope we can get to doing what we love and what I’ve done for the past 30 years – travelling the world and enjoying meeting amazing people in fabulous places. The biggest thing I’ve missed is the camaraderie of the road. If we can come back with the crew and suppliers we left 18 months ago, that would be the dream. Fingers crossed with government and industrybacked support, suppliers and the crew who are interested in returning will come back stronger.” TPi Photos: Dominic Simpson (Voodoo Imaging) www.lite-alternative.com www.wigwam.co.uk www.coloursound.com www.conceptstaging.co.uk www.jackinaboxppu.com
‘LIVE MUSIC IS LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE’ Wigwam Hire Manager, Tom Bush, like the company at large, has been deeply embedded in the fabric of the Haçienda Classical live experience since its inception in 2016. The team comprised the collective expertise of FOH Broadcast Engineer, Aaron Boothe operating a DiGiCo SD5; FOH Engineer, Ralph Smart handling a DiGiCo SD10; and Monitor Engineer, Peter Foulkes mixing on a 42
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DTS ALCHEMY 7 DTS Sales Director, Raffaella Scaccia explains how Alchemy 7 is set to revolutionise the theatre and television market with a host of new features including a bespoke two-blade framing system.
What was the main goal in the development of Alchemy 7? With Alchemy 7, we wanted to expand the range and offer a more powerful option that would deliver the same kind of quality in bigger venues. Adding a two-blade framing system and implementing the output power were important goals, but our main priority was offering the same high-quality lighting that the Alchemy series is acclaimed for, and confirming an extensive management of colours and whites.
products that would be available when theatres and live shows are back to full capacity. We are happy to report that our stakeholders’ trust in the company has been renewed in 2020 and we want to show them that our priority is to keep growing internationally as a brand and expand our range of products. How did the pandemic affect the R&D process? Our R&D team has worked tirelessly to assure that Alchemy 7 is up and running by summer 2021. However, like every sector, we had to adapt quickly amid an unprecedented crisis. Equally, having extra time on our hands provided us with the opportunity to arrange digital meetings and get extensive feedback from global stakeholders and distributors. These meetings were an opportunity to understand what they required in order to grow and perform well.
Which features will end users benefit from? The feature we’re probably most excited to introduce is Alchemy 7’s two-blade framing system with a 180° full system rotation, which was not present in the other projectors of the Alchemy line. Alchemy’s technical features have also been enhanced, especially its 22,000-lumen output and 800W LED source that assures a brighter light output. Like its predecessors, Alchemy 7 was designed with the needs of theatre and television in mind. These two fields require incredibly precise projectors that can quickly adapt to any kind of scenery. At the same time, they need to be technically advanced in order to perform and adapt to a lighting designer or director of photography’s highest demands.
Where can we expect to see Alchemy 7 in the future? Alchemy marked the start of a new generation of products. A lot of Alchemy’s technology will be included in our future projects. Raising quality standards, keeping our production process in Italy and constantly monitoring the market is crucial to us, so that we can respond to our clients’ needs and provide them with high-quality products. Aside from product design, we have several exciting projects going on at the moment, like our return to the American market and our presence at Live Design International (LDI). TPi Photo: DTS www.dts-lighting.it
What was it like launching a product amid the COVID-19 pandemic? We’re aware that releasing a new product during these trying times can be considered daring, but we never backed away from a challenge and don’t intend to start now. As you may remember, we launched the Synergy 7 Profile in April 2020. Even though the past year has been hard on the entertainment industry, we decided to keep working and designing new 44
LI.LAC MICROPHONE DISINFECTOR As sole UK distributor for Li.LAC, Mission Control Director, Ali Viles highlights the benefits of the UV-C microphone disinfection system, having recently made its Live at Worthy Farm debut.
When was Li.LAC first developed? Li.LAC was developed in 2020 by a team of touring sound engineers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They knew that when the sector could open up, there would be a requirement for COVID-19 safe equipment, particularly Li.LAC – a UV-C microphone disinfection system.
road but is equally suitable for fixed locations and venues. What is your target market? Interest in Li.LAC is growing across a broad range of markets – including live music and broadcast, theatre and corporate, education and houses of worship. Li.LAC leads the way in UV-C disinfection, giving performers, production managers, producers and promoters peace of mind that the correct steps have been followed to make everything as COVID-safe as possible, helping the industry to return to normal as quickly as possible.
How does it work? Li.LAC uses UV-C technology to disinfect. Over 99.99% of bacteria and viruses on the surface of a microphone are killed within five minutes. The disinfector has an irradiation chamber and steel grille optimised for disinfecting up to three microphones or radio mics and multiple lapel mic capsules. Studies by the University Medical Center Groningen show that Li.LAC inactivates >99% of microorganisms on a microphone after 10 minutes of irradiation. Multiple test found that wearing and ageing effect of the UV-C inside Li.LAC is negligible compared to the benefit of a disinfected microphone.
Is there space in the market for Li.LAC, post-pandemic? The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a shift in people’s attitudes and we now think twice about practices that were once normal, such as passing microphones back and forth between performers – in fact, many performers are no longer comfortable with this at all. We anticipate that Li.LAC will become a more integral part part of events in the future, giving users and artists the peace of mind that their microphones are truly, clinically clean and safe. As one delighted user stated at our previous event: “I have absolutely no idea when this microphone was last cleaned before I started using Li.LAC.” TPi Photo: Li.LAC www.lilac.works www.missioncontrolltd.com
How rubust is Li.LAC? Li.LAC has been designed by touring sound engineers to be a robust piece of equipment that will offer peace of mind to all types of event producer, artists, performers and other users for many years to come. The benefit of the Li.LAC microphone disinfector is that it is compact. It can be mounted in a standard 19in rack together with other gear. Li.LAC can be taken on the 45
SHOWSTAK: MAKING AUTOMATION SIMPLE Meet the Polish family business striving to make the process of booking automation for live events as easy as booking lighting, audio and video by fostering a culture of inclusion and crafting products with flexibility and sustainability in mind. TPi’s Jacob Waite reports…
While lighting, audio and video are often the headline-grabbers at technologically advanced spectacles, away from the visible screens, nuts and bolts of live touring infrastructure, there is sometimes an equally impressive orchestration being held in the rafters – electric motors, hydraulics and pneumatics designed to move kit around seamlessly in a measured yet symphonic manner. Although this type of work often goes unnoticed by the average concertgoer for all the right reasons, the automation market has flourished over the past decade despite remaining somewhat of an enigma. Hoping to turn the tide and make the process of booking automation as simple as booking lighting, audio and video for a live event is Polish outfit, Showstak Automation.
Founded by namesakes, Kosma and Andrzej Szostak, the aptly titled Showstak company was born from the brothers’ expertise and passion for providing simple and sustainable automation for music festivals, concert touring, circuses, television productions, motor shows, corporate events, brand activation and product launches. Having both earned their stripes working at one of the largest staging companies in Poland – providing stages for the likes of Live Nation and a series of high-profile concert touring projects – the siblings decided to embark on a process which many would shy away from amid a global pandemic – launching a start-up. Backed by European Union funds, having applied for a start-up grant from the Polish government to launch the operation during 46
Opposite: Showstak Co-Founder, Kosma Szostak.
these unprecedented times, Showstak has spent the past 18 months in hibernation until very recently, implementing and designing prototypes and new products set to send shockwaves through the automation market. “We design, construct, automate and integrate stage automation unlike any other company on the market,” Kosma began. “This year, we plan on releasing two motion products. This will be followed by a further three the following year with the full range of products in time for a busy 2022 season with an arsenal of new products and the demand for automation.” At the time of writing, Showstak currently employs five full-time members of staff – Founders, Andrzej, Kosma and his wife, Anna Szostak along with Engineers, Łukasz Oniszk and Wiola Barcewicz. “It’s a family business,” Kosma explained. “I work with my brother while my wife handles the finances, as well as two engineers – an electronic and a mechanical engineer, as well as a Kinesys operator. We are skilled operators so we can programme, spec and operate all facets of the company.” Like most operators in the sector, Showstak dips into a pool of freelancers for larger projects, sourcing local technicians, riggers, and event operators across the States, Europe and Asia. “We have an experienced team with contacts and knowledge to operate in all terrains and project sizes,” Kosma remarked, speaking to TPi while mid-build at Modlin Fortress: Boris Brejcha, a Polish outdoor festival production for 10,000 people, having recently completed a Polish TV festival with a heavy deployment automation.
“Around 70% of our income prior to the COVID-19 pandemic came from foreign countries, 40% of which was the United States alone. Nowadays, 70% are Polish productions and most of them are studio based,” Kosma stated. “Poland, in comparison to other markets, is open for large-scale outdoor events. The only trouble is our clients are wrangling with a limited budget and automation is usually the first thing on the chopping block. However, we are extremely grateful to still be operating during this difficult time and we are slowly receiving more multinational quotes and service requests, which we hope we can fulfil.” As one of very few automation specialists in the country, Showstak stocks a range of Kinesys gear and flying effects, making it one of few companies in central Europe to do so. “We believe that there are only a handful of European companies that specialise in automation for live events at a large scale, so there is still progress to be made to make it as ubiquitous as booking lighting, audio and video.” With a black book of global clients under its belt and vast experience in project management, as well as being able to handle the day-today operational side of the business, Andrzej is also a qualified lawyer. “His combined knowledge with that of my wife’s financial skills having graduated from economics school with a professional history in banking allows us to run the company more efficiently, from a financial point of view,” Kosma pointed out. In addition to several off-the-shelf products such as Kinesys equipment
that clientele are able to sub-hire or rent, Showstak stocks a series of instructures and black overalls, Showstak are looking to expand their reach house offerings. “We stock high-value equipment as well as designing and into the fixed installation market, providing a range of services to theatres, creating products which can have an impact on show design and special arenas, and museums, among others. “COVID-19 has forced us to examine effects of live events,” Kosma said. “We are focused various sectors for the business. In particular, on creating four or five new lightweight, modular we’ve worked on several television broadcast and easy-to-install bespoke products, which programmes such as The Voice Kids, Dance Dance can combine to provide movement of humans Dance and the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, or objects in a stage area with a lot of flexibility among other Polish TV series, which have provided when it comes to operation and movement on the us 15% of income to save the company and survive stage.” the hard moments amid the lockdown.” Key to its success, Showstak creates products Acknowledging the size of its competitors with flexibility and sustainability in-mind; each which boast significant corporation backing and bespoke product is designed for multiple usage big name artist collaborators, Showstak eschews and are multipurpose by design. “We recently convention by striving to make automation a specified a fly rail system to split LED screens in friendlier and easy to source undertaking for a small hotel to move them horizontally, but we bookers. “We are not creating rocket science can also reuse the same, lightweight product devices,” he said, modestly. “We want to keep it “We want to keep it as by shipping it on a plane to USA to get involved as simple as possible to book automation, similar in a tour with a performing artist,” Kosma said, to how you book audio, lighting or video, by simple as possible to book underlining the company’s ethos of designing providing prime solutions for totally integrated automation, similar to how products for multiple scenarios and options. stage automation for clients of all abilities at an “We evaluate the cost-effective nature of our affordable price point.” you book audio, lighting or products in R&D, while also providing a ‘wow’ TPi video.” factor and being reliable and durable on the road.” Photos: Showstak Automation Kosma Szostak Away from the flatpack vans, heavy steel www.showstak.eu 48
KB EVENT’S STUART MCPHERSON TPi’s Stew Hume speaks to KB Event Owner, Stuart McPherson about how the company is preparing for the return of live touring and the hurdles it has had to jump to provide a full European logistics solution.
When it comes to the live events industry, COVID-19 has well and truly dominated the conversation. However, in any discussion about the future of touring, the inevitable topic of Brexit eventually rears its head, and that’s exactly the reason TPi was on the phone to KB Event’s Stuart McPherson. Like many within the industry, KB has experienced an incredibly hard time, and although diversifying, regrettably many elements of the company had to be mothballed while it rode out the COVID-19 storm. Yet in the past few months, McPherson and his team began working hard to ensure they were show ready when the inevitable calls from their loyal roster of production managers started to come in. “I’m pleased to say that 80% of our team has now returned and we’re now interviewing for new positions within the company,” enthused McPherson. As well as running the company, McPherson was out on Ed Sheeran’s last stadium tour. “I got to the end of 2019 having been with Ed, while also overseeing KB’s handling of other tours such as Little Mix, Rod Stuart and BTS,” he explained. “When we got to January 2020, I was really ready for a break. Of course, looking back now, I’d give anything to be back at the tail end of 2019!” With only occasional work coming from some of the company’s longstanding clients, such as Little Mix and Niall Horan for livestreams during lockdown, when furlough looked as though it was winding down last September, McPherson had no choice but to reduce the number of staff. “We
managed to keep the core staff working but it was by no means the levels we were used to,” he said. However, as KB moved into the New Year, it began to see signs of improvement and was recently able to provide its services for the G7 summit. McPherson and KB Event have worked on these large government events since 1992, and for G7 in Cornwall he said. “We worked on that show from May to June and that certainly blew the cobwebs out!” As well as taking on some big contracts, KB has been on a recruitment drive, bringing back some familiar faces, along with looking to fill new roles needed to deal with the changing political landscape. “We’ve just brought a new team member who is heading up our EU Brexit Documentation and Carnet Department; a new division of the company to deal with the more complex admin that is now involved in logistic moves into Europe,” McPherson explained. “Historically, before 1 January, we would perhaps be producing 10 Carnets a month. Now, I predict that we’ll be doing 40 to 60 a week.” With this increased pressure, KB was keen to develop this new department and make it part of its service. KB is bringing in new blood in other areas of the business including new operations coordinators, an operations manager, along with new warehouse staff. “We’re on the lookout for more drivers,” stated McPherson. “There were a number we simply couldn’t keep on as they had no interest in doing general haulage during the COVID-19 period.” 50
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Among KB’s massive recruitment drive, an even bigger undertaking has been happening behind closed doors – the opening of a brand-new EU branch of KB in the Republic of Ireland. The move effectively means there are two distinct companies – KB Event Limited in the UK and KB Event Trucking Limited in Ireland. “Since the referendum, we’ve spent years considering our options on how we’d be able to operate in the EU, but it’s only in the past 12 months that we’ve had to accelerate our plans,” stated McPherson before explaining the frustration of having no idea how the negotiations between the UK and the EU would go. “We spend the last eight weeks of 2020 working very closely with the RHA (Road Haulage Association) and the DFT (Department for Transport) to try and work out a solution, but up until December, we simply couldn’t call which way the negations were going to go, and therefore had to have several plans in place depending on the outcome.” Following the announcement, KB realised that the only way it was going to be able to continue to offer a touring solution in Europe was to open a business on EU soil, as the logistics of sending UK trucks into Europe was steeped with issues, such as the infamous three drop rule, which would see vehicles having to turn back after three unloads and a seven day time limit. Not exactly ideal for touring. However, opening up a new company in the EU was not the simplest process. First, McPherson and his core team of upper management had to ensure that they obtained their EU Transport Management CPC’s, which involved 100 hours of coursework-based training followed by two in-country exams and the quarantine that this involved. His crew of drivers also have to obtain an Irish Drivers Professional Certificate of Competence, which is gained over a five-day course, to allow them to drive European registered vehicles on an EU Operators Licence. Although McPherson is satisfied that KB is ready to offer a European touring solution to clients, there are still challenges ahead. “The setup we have does not mean we have complete free movement in the EU. Currently we are limited to three moves within a territory in a seven day period, before we have to leave,” he explained. So, if there was a four-date tour in France, after the third show, the trucks would have to cross the border into a neighbouring country before coming back into France for the fourth date.
“Right now, having worked closely with a number of clients planning tours for next year, we have been able to provide routing options.” He explained that moving forward, there is going to have to be a closer relationship between logistic providers, production and promoters to avoid spending an extraordinary amount of money to make tricky schedules work. Sadly, despite creating a solution for clients, there are even more issues on the horizon, namely a new law due to come into effect in March 2022 where vehicles in the EU must return to their home state every eight weeks. “This is something I’ve been making some noise about as, from a cost and environmental impact, it makes no sense whatsoever. Having to send an empty truck back to Ireland only to go straight back out again is nonsense. Although the justification for the law may be to maintain the vehicles, for years we’ve been able to service KB’s vehicles to the legal standard and timeframes with registered dealers all over Europe.” The environmental impact of touring is something that McPherson takes very seriously – from KB’s Environmental Accreditation which it received 15 years ago, to moving the entire fleet to be able to run on the clean sustainable fuel solution of HVO Biofuel (hydrated vegetable oil) – the company’s founder sees this new law as impractical not to mention undoing of all the hard work KB have done to create a more environmentally friendly solution. “The issue is that there is not an appetite for either the UK or EU governments to engage in further negotiations around the TCA or other Transport Law, there are currently more pertinent issues in implementing the deal as it stands . As touring is not happening right now, it’s not at the forefront of their minds.” With some tricky times ahead, McPherson is still excited to see some return to normality at least within the UK as we move into the third and fourth quarters, with a few local tours already on the cards such as Olly Murs, Bring Me The Horizon, Fat Boy Slim and JLS. Then as we move into 2022, you’re bound to see a number of the company’s trademark blue trucks make their journey over to Ireland as KB begins to split its fleet between two companies so artists and crew can hit the road once again. TPi Photos: KB Event www.kbevent.com 52
PSA: THE BIGGER PICTURE
PSA’S DAVE KEIGHLEY Production Services Association (PSA) interim General Manager, Dave Keighley checks in with TPi to discuss his new role and the future of the association.
What changes are we likely to see going forward? We have been working for some time on a new PSA website, which will be launched in the next month or so. This will give much more information to our members as will introducing new features such as forums. We will continue to contribute to our monthly TPi column. Are there more opportunities for others to join the Council? The Council is made up of 14 PSA members who are voted onto the Council at our AGM. Any member can stand for Council as long as they have been PSA member for at least a year. The Council currently meets every two weeks on Zoom on a voluntary basis. The longest serving four Council members are asked to stand down each year to enable new members to stand. How will PSA support the sector in the coming months? PSA will continue to communicate with members in regard to the industry opening up on 19 July, we will continue to support The PSA’s Benevolent Fund, known as Stagehand and Andy Lenthall will continue as one of the trustees of Stagehand. Stagehand has raised over £1.5m in the past nine months and is in the middle of round six of grants, supporting applicants in dire need of financial help as part of the COVID-19 Crew Relief Fund. How will you engage with sector-specific bodies moving forward? PSA are one of the founding members of LIVE and I sit on the board of the association. We are also involved with the TPG, as a member of this group, I recently contributed to one of their sessions titled Black in the Boardroom diversity meetings. We will continue to work with these two associations together with the #WeMakeEvents Campaign, UK Live Music Group, BVEP, EIF, NRAG, among others. What’s next for PSA? The next few months are going to be a little strange, especially for me. I have been a Council member on and off for the past 15 years. When Andy decided to step down in April, the Council asked me, as one of the founding members, if I would take over as an interim General Manager. They are big shoes to fill and Andy has helped with many aspects of his role, but inevitably there will be things we have both missed. Moving forward, we will launch our new website, continue to collaborate with other associations and support our members wherever we can. TPi www.psa.org.uk
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Simon Hutchinson, Nick Pidgeon, Matt Horwood, and Chris Brittan; Main Light expands its premises and debuts a newlook logo; Adam Hall Group appoints Link Audio as sole Gravity Distributor in Australia; AVIXA Diversify Council Chairperson, Frank Padikkala.
ACT Lighting (RapcoHorizon/ProCo Sound/RHC Holdings) has launched ACT Entertainment, a new entity formed by bringing together the brands of the ACT Lighting and RHC Holdings family of companies. “Offering exceptional products and services, ACT Entertainment gives the most exciting and valuable entertainment technologies in the world a single home in North America,” said ACT Entertainment CEO, Ben Saltzman. “We are exclusively focused on empowering our customers with the tools and support they need to enhance their clients’ creative visions. ACT Entertainment enhances live experiences by discovering, developing, and delivering products that create value for our customers while supporting our products with industry-leading service and education.” Adam Hall Group continues the expansion of its international distribution network for Gravity solutions with the appointment of Melbourne-based Link Audio. “We are delighted to have found an exclusive sales partner for Australia in Link Audio,” explained Adam Hall Group COO, Markus Jahnel. “The Australian retail market is particularly challenging due to Australia’s geographical size alone and plays an important role in our international endeavours. Link Audio is a young, dynamic and flexible company that benefits from a wealth of sales experience with well-known audio brands. We are looking forward to working together to make Gravity’s ever-growing portfolio even more popular in Australia.” Link Audio Managing Director, Michael Jago added: “We are extremely proud to sell Gravity in Australia. For us, Gravity meets all the criteria of a successful brand: high-quality design, attractive packaging solutions and a
five-year guarantee. Gravity is a great addition to our existing portfolio – we can’t wait to get started.” Audio Production Hire (APH) has launched a new sub brand of Acute Audio Productions (AAP). Based in Brighton, APH has launched its new tailored Design – Develop – Deliver pro audio production services and training platform ‘Sound System engineering the environmental approach’ exclusively using DAS Audio products. AVIXA’s Leadership Search Committee (LSC) has appointed Frank Padikkala, CTS-D, CEH, CHFI, Kairos Solution Architect at Panasonic, to serve as Chairperson of the AVIXA Diversity Council. “The growth of the AVIXA Diversity Council in the last three years under Charmaine Torruella’s leadership has been meteoric and we will continue to honor her legacy. Frank’s focus on outreach and the addition of both local and regional events will raise the sense of community and belonging that we champion at AVIXA,” said AVIXA Chief Global Officer, Sarah Joyce. “The advancement of diversity within our AV community is so much more than training sessions and webinars,” said AVIXA Diversity Council Chairperson, Frank Padikkala. “My biggest goal is to bring the community together for personal learning journeys through the creation of safe spaces where we can each learn from one another, learn about ourselves, and learn about the value and power of our own diversity.” Digital Projection has welcomed Visualization as a technical distribution partner in the UK. Digital Projection International Sales & Marketing Director, Chris Axford said: “Visualization UK is on an aggressive growth trajectory with an excellent team who really understand the 54
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Martin Audio Associate Director of Design, Phil Anthony; Sidev General Manager, Lionel Roudil with Powersoft Sales Distribution Manager, Fabrizio Bolzoni; Martin Audio Research Director, Ambrose Thompson; Pixotope’s Ian Puszet, Karoline Storbråten amd Joachim Ringstad.
projection market and how to bring real value to their customers. This new partnership comes at an exciting time for both companies. With positive signs of the market reawakening after the pandemic, along with strong demand for our Satellite MLS system, we are excited to start working together on some fantastic projects.” Visualization Managing Director, Nick Pidgeon added: “We are extremely excited to be working with Digital Projection. Our partners and end users can be assured that Visualization is partnering with what is a great British company that has a global presence and reputation. Digital Projection has an exciting and unique product roadmap that offers a clear indication that projection is very much part of the display industry going forward.” Main Light has expanded its operations with an updated logo and new premises in Las Vegas. The new 40,000 sq ft shop at 6435 South Valley View, Las Vegas will allow the dry hire service to better support the western US. “Having a West Coast shop is something that our clients have been asking about for some time,” stated Main Light General Manager, Randy Mullican. “As the entertainment and event industries are re-opening, many clients are asking us to step-in and support them across the country. Though we always would provide gear wherever needed, the Las Vegas location will allow us to respond to those needs more efficiently, and very importantly, cost effectively.” Martin Audio has promoted Phil Anthony as Associate Director of Design and Ambrose Thompson as Research Director, from within to create two new director roles for its R&D department. Anthony commented: “It’s a great responsibility to continue the legacy of Martin Audio products and one that I relish and look forward to. We have made great strides in recent years in the number of products we have brought to market and I’m confident that by investing in new tools, developing improved processes and pro-active communication across departments, that Ambrose and I will bring genuine customer value with our product roadmap.” Thompson added: “I’m looking forward to helping drive a more even balance between technical, design and marketing strands of the company into all our products. On the software front, the aim continues to be
removing tedious manual operations from our users’ workflows by making better tools. Equally, with Martin Audio inside the Focusrite Group, there is a proactive outlook where real investment in future development success seems possible.” Pixotope has made two senior promotions and a new hire within its leadership team. Ian Puszet joins Pixotope as its Chief Customer Success Officer after a decade working at Avid; Karoline Storbråten has been promoted to Regional Sales Manager for Southern Europe; Joachim Ringstad celebrates his fifth year in the company joining Karoline as Pixotope’s Regional Sales Manager for the Nordics and Benelux. The Future Group CEO, Marcus B. Brodersen commented on the growth of the firm: “Virtual production solutions have seen a huge increase in popularity, particularly due to the onset of the pandemic, and growing demand will continue to disrupt traditional content creation and delivery. Our latest additions and promotions within the team enhance Pixotope’s sales capabilities and customer delivery in the highly competitive virtual production marketplace, and they will help us navigate the next stage in our breakthrough of this increasingly evolving market segment.” Powersoft has welcomed Sidev as its new distributor for France, working alongside Powersoft’s other French distributor, DV2. “Powersoft is a renowned brand on the AV Market, with a strong line-up to address both the staging and corporate markets,” said Sidev General Manager, Lionel Roudil. “When we looked for a new amplifier brand to develop and expand our audio portfolio, Powersoft was the obvious choice.” Powersoft Sales Distribution Manager, Fabrizio Bolzoni commented: “We are very pleased with this new partnership; Sidev has a strong presence in the commercial install side of the business, so it will give us an advantage with verticals such as corporate, retail and education, which are in line with Powersoft’s strategic developments. The company will act in the French market in synergy with our partner DV2, who is heavily focused on the leisure live and entertainment install side of the market. We believe this perfect mix will offer immense support to the French audio market.” TPi www.tpimagazine.com/category/industry-jobs 56
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NIALL HOLDEN VDC CEO and Founder, Niall Holden shares how his company has weathered the economic storm of COVID-19 and his optimism for the sector post-pandemic.
Have you had to diversify the company to stay afloat? We’ve been getting busier as the months go along, with our export business picking up in the Middle East and China. Many businesses have used this downtime to refit and refurb their spaces so thankfully Van Damme has been specified for those kinds of projects. Although rock ’n’ roll often steals the headlines, 10 of our top 30 clients are in the install market. Thankfully, that has allowed us to weather the economic storm of COVID-19.
What impact has COVID-19 had on your business? It was a real shock. All of our jobs disappeared overnight. Although we’ve lived through recessions, ups and downs, nothing could prepare us for COVID-19. Our turnover in April was 5% of our usual income, so we have had to cut our overheads and sadly lose some members of staff. Thankfully, the furlough scheme and certain tax reliefs have allowed us to survive this tough time and come out with a more efficient and sustainable business.
Are you confident that the live events sector will bounce back post-pandemic? I’m confident that the sector will return to full force. Human beings will want to leave the house and experience live entertainment in great numbers post-pandemic. The fact audiences are still purchasing gig tickets despite uncertainty is testament to the public’s confidence in the sector. The challenging bit is the ramp up and to managing the demand as things get back to normal.
How have you fared over the past 12 months? We originally had around 50+ members of staff. However, due to the pandemic, we had to lay off around 30 people, which was an unpleasant experience, affecting people’s livelihoods. We went down to just over 20 core members of staff but now we’re back up to 34, having recruited back staff that we had to let go. We’re now gearing back up in anticipation of the future. The difficulty imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic meant we had to dismantle the business to survive and we’re now building it back up.
What do the coming months look like for VDC? We are putting new systems in place with a brand new website out in July/August which will have lots of additional features. We’re also planning on launching many new products. I can only foresee positivity when we come out of this tough time for the sector, based on the quotes and requests we’ve been receiving over the past couple of months. Ultimately, live music will return and people are champing at the bit to get out when we’re all liberated. 58
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