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BRAVE NEW WORLD How Stageco has adapted to survive the greatest global crisis of the modern age WINTER 2021

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WEATHERING THIS STORM by

Photo: Bart Dewaele

Hedwig De Meyer As we come to the end of one of the most extraordinary years in our lives, and look forward with hope for a brighter New Year, this is a good time to review how and why Stageco remains alive and excited about the future. In a way, the live event production industry as a whole was spoiled by three phenomenally successful years in 2017, 2018 and 2019, and it was fully expected that 2020 would follow this trend. At Stageco, we were certainly geared up for another very busy 12 months across all our global offices. When March came around, our teams were consumed with work for Louis Vuitton at Paris Fashion Week and the build of Tomorrowland WINTER 2021

Winter in Alpe d’Huez, as well as constructing a rehearsal stage set-up for BTS at Rock Lititz. Then, very suddenly and without warning, everything came to a grinding halt as the COVID-19 pandemic slammed on the brakes and the industry shutdown. Our immediate concern was to tie up the loose ends and tear down Tomorrowland Winter’s structures before the European borders closed while, in America, we had to fly our EU crew home and arrange for Stageco US supervisors to drive into Lititz and quickly de-rig BTS. Where do things stand today? We are open for business but very little is happening out there. After nine months of this virtual silence,

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3 we realise how fortunate we were to benefit from those recent, bountiful years because they provided us with a dependable financial buffer. Combined with the different levels of support our offices have received from various governments, this has helped us survive through an unprecedented period of almost zero revenue. After all these years, Stageco remains an independent, reliable, family-owned business that pays its bills on time, every time, even in the midst of this pandemic crisis. We have always invested in our business but our approach has generally been quite conservative, and this turned out to be an advantage in these times. What we are doing is working with an eye on the future, responding to clients’ ideas and preparing price quotes, knowing that most of them may not be realised, but we have to operate on the assumption that some will. At the very least we have been remaining in contact with these people and that is important. In R&D and warehousing, we are using this time to tidy the workplace, get drawings updated and conduct general equipment maintenance to ensure that we are on standby. What has kept us going is the small amount of projects outside of our usual activities, such as industrial installations where our equipment can be used. The advantage we have compared to some other companies is that we can respond favourably to most installation requests because our experience lends itself to delivering solutions. We bring our own equipment and crane truck, and organise our own transport, so we are very self-sufficient and just get on with the task in hand. All we need are the materials and the drawings, and we figure everything out. Obviously, we are looking forward to being allowed to return to something that resembles our usual work, but until then we must all re-

main sensible and adhere to government advice and regulations in order to stay as safe as possible… for the sake of our families, friends and the world at large. CONFIDENT One of the great fears that abounds is that when events, tours and festivals are restored, the pool of freelance expertise upon which we have relied for so long may have shrunk in Cont’d >>>

“We realise how fortunate we were to benefit from those recent, bountiful years because they provided us with a dependable financial buffer.” STAGECO INTERNATIONAL NEWS

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4 size as a result of skilled labour being forced to seek alternative work. We are aware that a few of our regulars have had to find new jobs but in every instance, they have expressed a wish to return and be available as soon as the situation is reversed. Although we are confident, we will only know for sure how this will pan out when we get there. We cannot speculate on how the next 12 months will progress in terms of a return to work. A tour that intends to launch in May will need to confirm in January, and in most cases this is going to be unlikely. Several festivals that were postponed until summer 2021, for example, are already sold out. It’ll just be a case of whether they can go ahead this time. Yes, we’re still here and will remain so even if the pandemic keeps the industry closed for another year, although we naturally hope for the best outcome. The Stageco spirit continues to be positive because we have faith in the future. Turning

on the green light will not suddenly mean we are back to where we left off. The landscape will look very different as we enter a long settling down period and re-evaluate of all the ingredients needed to create an event. The phoenix will eventually rise, but sensibly and gradually. This, our first news journal in many months features several reports on the aforementioned small and unusual projects that would not normally be included within these pages, but in most cases they illustrate our open-minded versatility and the ability to lend our experience and know-how to different markets in order to find a way through the dark months. We will be in touch with you again. Until then, take good care of yourself and those around you, and have a Happy New Year. Hedwig De Meyer, Stageco President December 2020

WINTER 2021 CONTENTS

5 • BIG SKY VMAs MTV switches to “safer” outdoor presentation | 5 • AT THE DRIVEIN It’s a drag at Park Meadows | 7 • 30 YEARS OF UNITY Scaff solution for Expo | 8 • ZOMER IN THE CITY Leuven and Werchter host outdoor summer events | 10 • ACE WORK IN COURT When beach volleyball came to Utrecht | 14 • HEART SONGS LPre-lockdown, Les Enfoirés raised funds for Les Restos du Coeur | 16 • FA-FAFA FASHION Stageco Belgium is a model supplier for Chanel and Hermes in Paris | 18 • ATTENTION: RED ALERT! Campaigning on behalf of our workforce and the industry at large | 20 • ALL CLEAR IN BRUSSELS Going transparent in the open air | 22 • GERMANY CALLING Highlights from an unusual year | 26 • WORKING IN AN ALTERNATIVE WORLD Some of the diverse Belgian projects undertaken in 2020 | 30 • FLASHBACK: WHEN STAGECO BUILT AN ICON Whatever happened to U2’s 360° Claws? | 37 • THE LIBRARY Our back issues gallery

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BIG SKY VMAs MTV switches to “safer” outdoor presentation for 2020 awards

Until just over a fortnight before show day, the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards was still scheduled to be staged as a live, in-person event at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, though little to no audience was expected because of the ongoing pandemic. Instead, the network announced that outdoor performances would be “more feasible and safer than an indoor event,” scrapping the central location but forging ahead with a makeshift show. Aired at the end of August with the aid of Stageco US, the result combined disparate, green screen-heavy segments, piped-in crowd noise and soundstage performances, with the intention of making a virtual collage appear like a communal celebration as acts from BTS and The Weeknd to DaBaby, Doja Cat and Lady Gaga attempted as much pop maximalism as they could muster. The VMAs was the recipient of the first notable stage – a classic Boogdak, based on Stageco’s 750 towers and

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At The Drive-In

1400 truss system – built by Stageco US following the first lockdown. The US office transported eight trailers of materials to the venue and had seven of its own team dealing with the construction, with James Ramacus at the helm. Importantly, the build had to be carried out by ‘local’ Stageco crew to avoid flying. When the client wanted transparent skins for the back wall, Stageco US had to quickly arrange an air freight of custom made items to achieve the design goal of being able to enjoy the view of the New York skyline through the stage.

Late on the evening of October 16th, Stageco’s Colorado Springs office received a call from Brad Donaldson, the founder of San Diego-based vendor Pro Systems AV. Urgently in need of two video supports that had been returned to an event specification after being cut, Brad enlisted Stageco’s assistance and a project got underway. The equipment soon headed out to Park Meadows shopping mall in Lone Tree, Colorado, where Drive ‘N Drag, a States-wide tour of drive-in venues featuring drag performers from the TV series ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’, was making a Hallowe’en-themed stop on October 25th. The outdoor event, staged in “a fabulously spooky, immersive, haunt-

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ed parking lot” adjacent to the mall, starred the troupe of queens performing live theatrical numbers from a stage in front of attendees’ cars, with extravagant lighting, and radio-transmitted audio enhancing the experience. As Brandon Voss of promoter Voss Events announced: “A pandemic won’t keep our queens from ruling the stage. The drag show must go on!” Located just an hour from the event site, Stageco US dispatched a single trailer of equipment along with two of its staff to tend to the steel installation. In spite of working in bitterly cold weather, they delivered precisely according to the brief and Voss reportedly “loved” the product. vossevents.com

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30 YEARS OF UNITY the country’s progression since 1990, and this was where Stageco Deutschland came into the picture, with project manager Michael Herbst organising the building of 22 scaffolding towers that helped visitors with orientation and information. Arriving on-site on August 28th, a crew of seven negotiated a difficult logistical situation that required materials to be unloaded from the main trucks and reloaded into smaller vehicles for dispatch to each individual venue. The Unity Expo was open from September 5th until October 4th.

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Photography © Pierre Johne

On October 3rd, the 30th anniversary of Germany’s reunification was celebrated at Metropolis Hall in Potsdam, the picturesque capital of Brandenburg, located just outside Berlin. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Brandenburg’s First Minister Dietmar Woidke welcomed a total of 240 guests who witnessed the Unity Expo, the highlight of which was a display of 30 glass boxes, each of them representing a year of change following the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. A further 22 information boxes were spread all over Potsdam’s city centre to deliver video references to


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ZOMER IN THE CITY Leuven’s mayor Mohamed Ridouani was positive in his outlook for the summer of 2020, making a virtue of the absence of normal social leisure activity. “For the city council, this is the perfect moment to let our residents (re) discover their own city,” he said. “And we do this together with many Leuven organisations, artists and neighbourhoods.” Although most of the city’s scheduled events had to be cancelled, along with the closure of bars and shops, the Mayor insisted that its population needed something to preserve hope and uphold morale. So it was that from July 1st, Leuven came alive with a wide variety of small-scale activities in the city centre and in the outer boroughs.

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Stageco is synonymous with many of the city’s activities, one of which is Het Groot Verlof, a festival for which the company provides a number of stages and platforms. For 2020, Leuven changed its name to De Zomer Van 2020 (The Summer of 2020)’ in order to distinguish between this year’s and other editions of the festival, and Stageco provided two sets of its Pro Arch 8x6 structures on two different sites. These sites were small and difficult to access. Therefore, the crew, led by Sebastiaan Kotsch, had to load in the equipment in by hand, partially by crane. The simple but stylish arches were ideal for the low-key settings where only 200 visitors were allowed at any single show.

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Although De Zomer Van 2020 represented just a fraction of what the regular festival offers, it was nevertheless a heart-warming, cosy summer affair.

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Photography © LIVE2020 Zomerbar

SUMMER BAR For 20 days in July, the world-famous Rock Werchter festival site was taken over by LIVE2020 Zomerbar, a vibrant, COVID-safe series of 36 concerts, two nights of comedy and a live TV show, enjoyed by 15,000 attendees who, despite everything were able to experience live entertainment once again. Each event took place outdoors under very strict conditions and was limited to an audience of 400 people, with four people sat at each of the 100 tables. Zomerbar was an opportunity for Stageco’s infamous transparent band roof to make an appearance, having gained fame on tours by Genesis and Jeff Lynne’s ELO, and also Ronde van Vlaanderen. Realised with the support of sponsors, suppliers, the municipality and 1,300 staff, the summer bar offered some light relief for the performing

artists and their production crew, for booking agents, caterers and event security. LIVE2020 Proceeds from the summer bar and merchandise sales were donated to LIVE2020, the solidarity fund founded in June for and by the Belgian live music sector to help support recovery. “We couldn’t stand idly by while so many professionals, small businesses and freelancers in our industry were plunged into financial ruin,” said Coralie Berael, the venue manager at Forest National and a spokesperson for LIVE2020. “Many of them employ other people and have been active for decades. Whether it’s festivals in the summer or concerts in the winter, these people count on the music industry for their income and survival. “LIVE2020 is not going to solve the issue, but at least we’re doing everything in our power to help all the individuals that make live music happen, on stage and behind the scenes.” live2020.be


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ACE WORK ON COURT In a year virtually starved of beach volleyball, it was no surprise that this year’s King Of The Court tournament in Utrecht – home to The Netherlands’ largest following of the sport – reached new heights in popularity amongst the active, fun-loving student population. After a successful trial event three years ago, the King of the Court series began hosting over 10,000 spectators and has been broadcast in over 200 countries. Commissioned by Sightline BV, the series returned to Utrecht in September as the first international beach volleyball event after the worldwide pandemic, and to ensure that social distancing and general event safety was prioritised, Stageco Nederland worked with Sightline on the design of a new stadium

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integrating skyboxes to accommodate the limited audience of 400. BUILDING With project manager Henk Jan Luesink leading from the Lochem office and Jorrit van de Kolk heading the on-site operation for Stageco, the company built the stage in five days – and broke it down in three – using its local site crew and help from the office staff. “Everyone was onboard for this so it was a unique experience for us all,” commented Luesink. Staged between the 9th and 12th of September, King Of The Court 2020 will be remembered for countless exciting moments of skill, passion and good humour. Congrat-

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ulations to the winners, Marco Krattiger and Florian Breer, who gave the audience a thrilling display of the best beach volleyball the world has to offer.

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Photography © SetVexy/Sightline BV

STREAMING Stageco Nederland was also involved in a number of live events that were streamed online, such has been the pattern for most entertainment in 2020. In the summer, Mojo Concerts hired the company to build a stage for its ‘Corona-proof’ Larger Than Live shows at Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome, featuring acts including Rolf Sanchez, Thyphoon, De Staat, Nielson, Jeugd van Tegenwoordig and Brennan Heart. The shows were able to welcome 2,400 audience members with a safe distance of 1.5m between them. Q-Dance’s Defqon.1 festival returned to its Biddinghuizen site in June with Stageco Nederland constructing

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Photography © SetVexy/Sightline BV

Above: King Of The Court skyboxes and (inset) champions Marco Krattiger and Florian Breer.

a smaller-than-normal stage to accommodate three days of live streaming by 80 artists, and a special ‘End Show’ with a closing ceremony. For several years, Stageco has been building the set for the ever-popular Dutch TV show ‘Ik Hou Van Holland’, hosted by Linda de Mol and commissioned by ITV Studios. For this year’s series, the design underwent a number of changes to ensure that the set complied with social distancing rules. WINTER 2021

MORE NEWS FROM THE NETHERLANDS A member of the Stageco Nederland team who works part-time at a local gym saw that fitness equipment and classes were being moved outdoors in order to operate within social restrictions. Originally, a tent provided some protection against the elements but very soon the idea was born to have a permanent roof structure attached to the gym, allowing it to be in service all year round.

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Above: Live streaming at Defqon.1, Right: Larger Than Live. Below right: Alternative jobs have included welding for a monument in Amsterdam and assisting with numerous Christmas lights installations.

Aware of the situation at Stageco regarding available work, the gym’s owner knew that its staff had the time, skills and workshop to engineer and build a custom roof structure, and so instead of hiring a building contractor to fulfil the job, he chose Stageco. Most of the structure was prefabricated with HEA beams in the workshop at Stageco Nederland and bolted together on site. The foundation was created by means of screw piles from a company that had been hired to work with Stageco on the cancelled Dutch Grand Prix. For the paving, Stageco NL also brought in its regular festival season transport provider. The project was an opportunity to keep the R&D department, workshop and crew busy for a couple of weeks, as well as strengthening ties with service partners. Photography © Mojo Concerts; Q-Dance; Marco Vochteloo

IN ADDITION… Stageco Nederland has also kept its teams busy with a range of ‘alternative’ work, such as welding jobs on a huge Holocaust monument in Amsterdam, installing Christmas lights in cities throughout the country, creating fall protection on buildings and renovating gutters, while its truck drivers have been active with various transport companies. STAGECO INTERNATIONAL NEWS

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HEART SONGS Two months before the industry went into lockdown, Stageco France renewed its acquaintance with the generous group of singers, musicians, actors and comedians known as Les Enfoirés.

Photography © Sky

The giant Christmas tree and its garlands of lights had barely disappeared when Stageco France loaded in at the AccorHotels Arena in Bercy, Paris for the first big production of the year: a series of concerts by Les Enfoirés from which all profits were donated to Les Restos du Coeur, the humanitarian charity founded by the late French comedian and actor Coluche. In common with all previous Les Enfoirés events, Stageco’s main responsibility was to build a 1,100m² podium on several levels with

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The project was managed for Stageco France by Thierry Nataf with R&D input from Dirk Van Der Goor. On-site, Olivier Daulon led a team of three supervisors, using four semi-trailer loads of equipment to install the structures over three days (with an overnight and morning load-out). Stageco’s crew were assisted by a team of local scaffolders and forklift operators. enfoires.fr

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Photography © Sylvie Grosbois

a 500m² portion on wheels called ‘tripodes’. This enabled the main part to be installed in the centre of the arena so that the production could be rigged up simultaneously without being hindered by the imposing podium. Once the rigging was set up and the back of the arena had been cleared, place has been cleared at the back of the room, it two forklifts and the entire backstage team to push the podium into its required spot to the centimetre. This left two sides to be built, taking the scenery to the full width of the venue. On each side, Stageco’s team created two complex levels with a pair of tunnels below them to provide emergency access for the public in case of an emergency evacuation, as well as serving as a gateway for performers and technicians. At the end of the build, the crew added the front of house riser and proscenium ramps, and mounted crash barriers to follow the shape of the front of the stage.

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FA-FA-FA FASHION Stageco Belgium is a model supplier for Chanel and Hermes in Paris

From September 28th to October 6th, just before the second lockdown, Paris Fashion Week attracted the beautiful people to the Grand Palais where, on the final day, Virginie Viard presented a Hollywood-influenced collection for Chanel’s spring/summer 2021 runway show. No stranger whatsoever to the world of fashion and especially Chanel, for whom it has worked many times at the Grand Palais since 2006, Stageco Belgium was called in to help pay tribute to the movie capital’s iconic Hollywood Sign, building a structure in white-painted black steel to support a 123m long x 20m high white screen behind an LED-outlined Chanel logo. Comprising six towers and a single truss line, the structure also carried clusters of PA speakers. Elsewhere, Stageco’s brief included the installation of a spider camera tower behind

the limited audience, which was important for live streaming. Built over a day and a half and dismantled in a single day, the project – managed by Tom Bilsen with crew headed by Patrick Martens – required four trailers of equipment. Stageco also worked for Hermès when, at the Tennis Club de Paris, its models navigated an undulating white catwalk punctuated with columns adorned with mirrors or images of Ancient Greco-Roman sculptures. The chic presentation referenced surrealists Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau who clearly influenced designer Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski. From Tildonk, Tom Bilsen collaborated with on-site crew chiefs Patrik Vonckx and Kevin De Meyer on the delivery of five equipment trailers, the installation of floor protection over the tennis hall’s four courts and a scaffold structure for the scenery and catwalk.

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Photography © Mark Koeleman

Stageco campaigns on behalf of its workforce and the industry at large...

Promoted by several trade bodies and live event production companies around the globe, the Red Alert campaign has brought attention to the critical condition of the live industry, urging its professionals and the public alike to lend support by posting on social media, writing letters to governments and attending mass outdoor activities. As Hedwig De Meyer explained in this edition’s introduction, Stageco is not only suffering in all its divisions from lack of revenue, there is also the matter of high costs for storing materials and general upkeep of its offices. Operations director Tom Bilsen commented: “As of December 2020, this situation has already WINTER 2021

lasted almost nine months and it is clear that it’s far from over. “We participated in various initiatives to engage the governments in the countries we are based, asking them to understand the need for financial support because, like the rest of the events industry, the lockdown has left us bleeding. It’s made even more difficult in some territories where the support is less than in others. Iit is worth mentioning that in the USA there is absolutely zero government assistance. “Despite being a very healthy and profitable global industry, we are not being treated on an equal basis compared to other business sectors and this has to be addressed or the long-term

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impact will be devastating. At Stageco, we had to put our staff on furlough but have still given them as much work as possible so that we could afford to mitigate their income loss and keep them immersed in our company business.” On a positive note, Stageco was delighted to receive a contract cancellation fee from German rock giants Rammstein and their production team to help minimise the hardship caused by COVID-19. We divided this payment between our employees and confirmed sub-contractors, and remain extremely thankful to the Rammstein organisation for their generosity at such a crucial time. We also thank Crew Nation for compensating our crew and freelancers

who applied for funding to replace part of their lost income. Featured on these pages are examples of our campaigning across Germany, France and The Netherlands involving the lighting up of our buildings in red – and a pyro display – to demonstrate solidarity. Stageco is an active member of the following professional associations currently seeking government support. They are: www.b-esa.be • www.vvem.nl www.bavbt.de • www.vplt.org www.synpase.fr • www.psa.org.uk

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Given the health and safety measures in place, a very different Wallonia–Brussels Federation Festival – a.k.a. Fête de la Fédération Wallonie à Bruxelles – came to the Belgian capital’s Grand Market on September 25th, with 400 on-site spectators, mostly competition winners, sat in tables of four in a café-theatre style. The event was also streamed live on television channels on La Une and VivaCité. Using three trailer loads of equipment, Stageco built an attractive 20m x 16m band roof with transparent skins enabling the buildings to the rear to become part of the show. As well as carpeting the stage, additional work included building two 6m2 side sheds flanking the stage as technical bases, and a two-storey front of house tower which provid-

ed areas for the press, and multiple camera and crane decks. Project manager Lies Rombouts commented: “Working at Brussels’ Grand Market is always challenging as the time available for set-up is inevitably short. On this occasion, Stageco was granted one long day for load-in and one day for load-out. Stefaan Vandenbosch led the crew which numbered 28 on arrival and 18 upon exit. Throughout the pandemic, the City of Brussels and the Wallonia–Brussels Federation have pledged their strong support for the cultural sector, and the audience was treated to performances by 13 acts including Typh Barrow, Lous and the Yakuza, Loïc Nottet, Tanaë, Blanche and the inimitable Plastic Bertrand. lafetefwb.be

Photography © Wallonia–Brussels Federation

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Highlights from Stageco Deutschland’s out of the ordinary year

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23 FERROPOLIS Close to the quaint village of Gräfenhainichen, the former Golpa-Nord mining centre on the shores of Lake Gremmin lends an imposing, industrial flavour today to Ferropolis, the home of three festivals in June – Full Force, Splash! and Melt – that saw impressive sets by stellar casts of artists. Stageco Deutschland knows this historical site very well, having been the regular staging vendor for the above festivals in previous years. For obvious reasons, however, the 2020 editions were run under completely different rules as “drive-in” gatherings with Michael Herbst organising Stageco’s build of a 12,43m x 7,25m x 10,30m video screen support structure from scaffolding (seen opposite and right).

Ludwig van Beethoven were marked in an outdoor concert attended by 2,000 spectators – contrasting with the Staatsoper’s usual 40,000 – including the Mayor of Berlin Michael Mueller and Christian Drosten, the famous virologist from the Charité hospital. Under Sebastian Kraas’s project management, Stageco Deutschland built a Micro

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Photography © Frederik Stranghoener; Rene Langer

STAATSOPER FÜR ALLE Not even the pandemic could prevent the celebration of two significant anniversaries when the Bebelplatz in Berlin hosted the Staatsoper Für Alle concert (above) on September 13th. Four hundred and 50 years of the Staatskapelle Berlin and the 250th birthday of


24 Sommernachtkonzert Wien. Below: The ePrix public viewing zone at Olympiastadion.

Like the Berlin event, this concert’s audience was vastly reduced in size this year from 100,000 to just 1,400 invited guests. While the set-up went smoothly, the production load-out was compromised when, on the eve of the show, Vienna was declared a COVID-19 high risk zone.

SOMMERNACHTSKONZERT WIEN Precisely the same Stageco package was specified when Manfred Porschnitzer headed the project management for the 2020 edition of the Sommernachtskonzert Wien event on September 18th, featuring a new, more modern scenic design at Vienna’s Palace of Schönbrunn.

ePRIX VISION Consisting of 10 teams and 25 drivers, the official ABB FIA Formula E Championship (ePrix) has been presenting 12 rounds of exciting wheel-to-wheel combat in Berlin for the last five years. For the 2020 edition held on the site of the former Tempelhof Airport, a specially revised

Photography © Pixelpitch Media Concept

Arch Stage with seven arches, a single tower for a ‘flycam’ support and several scaffold towers. Directed by Daniel Barenboim, the Staatskapelle Berlin and a choir performed selections from the Beethoven canon as part of a genuine spectacle.

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The newly-paved boneyard in Königsbrunn.

2,375 kilometre circuit saw Portugal’s António Félix da Costa take the crown for his DS Techeetah team. Fourteen kilometres west of the action, an official public viewing zone was set up in a car park at Berlin’s Olympiastadion, occupying a space otherwise used for a drive-in cinema over the summer. Once the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) booked the comfortable venue, Stageco Deutschland arranged to arrive on-site on August 3rd to construct a scaffold portal to surround the video screen and display graphics, eventually loading out from October 15th.

Dirk Lauenstein, the managing director Stageco Deutschland, recognised that 2020 was the perfect year in which to make a difference. He said: “With almost zero activity happening for us this summer, we chose this time to hire a construction company to dig out all the loose gravel, fill up the space with new gravel, grind the surface and then pave the area. By going through this exercise, we created an additional truck gate that will enable us to have a better and more efficient warehouse workflow in the future.”

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Photography © Pflasterarbeiten

REFRESHING THE BONEYARD At Stageco Deutschland’s HQ in Königsbrunn, approximately 11,000 square metres of open space is used for the storage of materials and the loading and unloading of trucks. Until this year, 2,500m2 of this space had still not been paved and the combination of a rough, gravelly surface and the appearance of potholes left much to be desired.

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WORKING IN AN ALTERNATIVE WORLD In this feature, we summarise a diverse cross section of projects undertaken by Stageco Belgium and managed by Tom Bilsen that have helped to minimise the huge gap left by the absence of regular festivals and concert tours in 2020. STATION OF THE FUTURE Commissioned by Belgian rail network NMBS, Stageco spent three weeks in November at the site of the new, future-conscious railway station in Mechelen, a city conveniently located between Antwerp and Brussels. Local labour provided by the client joined a Stageco crew of four – led by Patrik Vonckx and Kevin De Meyer – to tackle the installation of decorative panels in the roof columns, as referenced on this edition’s front page. Construction of the station began in 2018 and it is believed that the first two of 12 railway platforms will be ready and open by December 14th. THE GLOW OF WINTER The very idea of a magical light paradise is arguably more appealing than ever in these dull times. This was the thinking behind the city of Bruges’ wish to make the Christmas period of 2020 unforgettable with a Corona-proof second edition of Winter Glow (Wintergloed). Spectacular light installations have been spread throughout the historic city centre to create a beautiful winter experience, and Stageco has lent a hand by constructing two

scaffold towers (with Sandro heading the team) which will remain in place until January 6th. FIFTEEN THOUSAND HOLES IN GENK A large industrial warehouse in the town of Genk, containing a huge stock of Nike clothing and shoes, recently hired Stageco to install steel reinforcement strips on roof spans to withstand the load of solar panels. With Stefaan Vandenbosch and Thomas Boulogne leading a team of five across eight weeks, the job saw 15,000 holes being drilled into the existing construction, allowing precisely 948 strips to be bolted to the existing roof support. IN THE SWIM A classic example of combining standard equipment such as scaffolding and truss with the application of working at height skills was demonstrated at the Kontich swimming pool in the province of Antwerp towards the end of November. Over two days, a crew of three installed a rolling bridge over the pool to use as a working platform when they replaced around 100 damaged ceiling tiles.

Opposite, top: Mechelen station. Middle: Winter Glow. Bottom left: Roof reinforcement in Genk. Right: Bridge over Kontich pool.

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Top: Working in Brussels on the European Research & Innovation Days build. Above Camping in Durbuy.

SUMMER CAMP Bart Dewolf was in charge of the building of platforms at a camping site on the outskirts of the Belgian Ardennes city of Durbuy, which was active from late June until early September. The crew unloaded three trailers of gear ahead of three days of building work in a beautiful location steeped in natural countryside and adventure. INNOVATIVE COLLABORATION In September, Stageco’s Patrik Vonckx and Bart Dewolf were the crew chiefs on a job for WINTER 2021

the European Research & Innovation Days, the European Commission’s flagship R&I event which every year brings together policy makers, researchers, entrepreneurs and the public to debate, collaborate and shape future endeavours in Europe and beyond. A fully virtual event this year, it coincided with the Policy Conference and the Science Is Wonderful! online exhibition, and Stageco’s role was to fill the inner square of the European Commission’s R&I building in Brussels with scaffolding, decking and three roofs using five trailer loads of materials.

STAGECO INTERNATIONAL NEWS


29 Ronde Van Vlaanderen. Below: The Tabor pub; the outdoor stage at the deSingel arts centre.

FLANDERS CLASSICS After its initial postponement, an exceptional edition of Ronde Van Vlaanderen, otherwise known as the Flanders Classics cycling event, finally got under way on October 18th, witnessing Mathieu van der Poel’s dramatic sprint to victory. For this event, Wim Maes managed Stageco’s activities while Gilles Bosque and Sebastiaan Kotsch headed the crew that built the stages and roofs at the starting point in Antwerp and the finishing line in Oudenaarde. DE SINGEL ANTWERPEN Usually known as a venue with a versatile indoor offering of music, dance, theatre, the deSingel arts centre on the Desguinlei in Antwerp, was forced to present its calendar of entertainment outdoors after pandemic regulations took effect. To help with the reor-

ganisation, Wim Maes drove the project that saw Stageco build a brand new stage floor. TABOR TERRACE Last but not least, when Tabor, a pub in Heverlee (near Leuven) often frequented by local students, decided to create a small, 6m x 6m weatherproof terrace adjacent to its main building, the owner did not hesitate in hiring Stageco’s expertise, leaving the planning to Maes. The terrace was added to create more outdoor space in order to accommodate patrons during the pandemic. Gezondheid! Proost! Cheers!

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© Mark Fisher/Stufish

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“I showed Hedwig a picture of the Theme Building and asked him if it was possible to build something that would straddle a football pitch. If anyone could pull this off, it was Stageco.” WILLIE WILLIAMS WINTER 2021

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31 F L A S H B A C K

WHEN STAGECO BUILT AN ICON Revisiting the company’s role in the ultimate in-the-round tour Stageco’s colourful history is peppered with extraordinary, groundbreaking projects that have raised the bar for show design and presented the company with all manner of unprecedented technical challenges. Among the most defining of these projects was U2’s now-legendary 360° world tour which, in 2009, gave birth to an iconic, sci-fi flavoured creation known as The Space Station or, more commonly, The Claw. The 360° design was conceived by Willie Williams and Mark, who first teamed up for Zoo TV, 17 years earlier. Their combined vision resulted in a sprawling, four-legged structure that spanned the width of an average stadium, underneath which Bono, Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr performed on an elliptical main stage linked to a surrounding B-stage runway via two automated tracking bridges.

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Above and below: Test building in Werchter, early May 2009. Inset: One of the late Mark Fisher’s design sketches.

Williams explained the concept: “With previous 360°, in-the-round shows, you’ve always ended up with legs that make it look like a bandstand, along with the inevitable sightline issues. My breakthrough moment came in 2006 when I realised that instead of making the set smaller, we should make it so big that it becomes part of the stadium, while the performance area is very small and completely disconnected from the feet. The aim was to design a structure that didn’t have any sightline kills.”

Photography © Graham Brown & Mark Fisher/Stufish

Contained within the eerily-clad superstructure was the biggest touring PA system on the planet, the most impressive video screen ever to grace a rock’n’roll stage, and a cigar-shaped obelisk, loaded with lighting fixtures, that speared the centre of the structure and took its overall height to a vertigo-enducing 51.8m. “I call it Star Trek because we’re going where no one’s ever been!” joked production director Jake Berry, who headed a permanent touring crew of 127.

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Top: Hedwig De Meyer, Dirk De Decker & Hendrik Verdeyen. Middle: Patrick Martens, Johan ‘Bellekes’ Van Espen and Jeremy Lloyd. Above: Willie Williams, Mark Fisher and Jake Berry.

way. So I asked him if it was possible to build something that would straddle a football pitch. He chuckled and nodded ‘yes’! If anyone could pull this off, it was Stageco.” Armed with the affirmative, Williams e-mailed Mark Fisher “who got it in one” and replied overnight with the first sketches of what was essentially the Theme Building in a stadium with a small stage in the middle. “To be designing a U2 tour while we were still on the previous one is a first for me but

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Photography © Graham Brown & Mark Cunningham

In his mind, Williams was visualising what turned out to be the futuristic Theme Building at L.A. International Airport and upon finding a photo of it, he was convinced that this was the shape on which to base a design. Fortuitously, just as his thoughts were forming, Stageco’s Hedwig De Meyer arrived at a U2 show in Auckland, close to the end of the Vertigo tour. “I showed Hedwig a picture of the Theme Building and he said he’d seen it that day as he’d gone through LAX on the


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Lift off: the tour made its début at Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona, Spain on June 30th 2009.

Photography © Mark Fisher/Stufish & U2.com

it’s also unprecedented for us to run with one design concept from the start and not deviate,” said Williams. “Once presented with the basic concept, the band gave their approval to proceed further. This was always going to be a very expensive proposition but you open up 20-30% more seats per venue by doing it this way, and that’s very enticing for any promoter or accountant.” PROGRESSING THE DESIGN Working from Fisher’s sketches, the first technical drawings were done at Stufish in early 2008 and, as Williams said, “apart from the fine detail, you wouldn’t be able to tell much difference between those and what we now have”. He added: “It started off looking like the Theme Building and whenever it began to look like something else, we moved in a dif-

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ferent direction. And now, it doesn’t look like anything you’ve ever seen before.” Despite early misgivings within the team about the practical impact of the design, Jake Berry took a positive view: “I knew that touring this monstrosity would be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but I was convinced we’d find a way to make it happen. So I visited all the main stadiums that had been earmarked and advanced the tour about 18 months ahead of time because it was crucial to see how our 400 tonnes of production would affect those venues.” BUILDING IN WERCHTER After a cost study was completed, Fisher handed the technical design job to Jeremy Lloyd in May ’08, and he began a long and fruitful dialogue with Stageco, leading to the company beginning work on the construc-

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35 tion at its test build site in Werchter. Over the course of the test building, the expanse of the structure became a target for local sightseers and the media, with Stageco’s president earning celebrity status on Belgian TV! At each venue, Stageco built its 30m high, 190 tonne steel superstructure in 4.5 days, and added 176 tonnes of production (PA, lights, 52 tonnes of video screen, the cigar, winches and automation) in a 24-hour production load-in, and lifted it 28m in the air with a crew of 16. “The superstructure spans 64m across its bases and is built entirely from brand new elements apart from the lifting tower support which comes from our Twin Tower system,” insisted De Meyer. Starting in February, manufacture of the structure elements was either conducted in-house at Stageco or by sub-contractors who were given a set of 3D models containing precise information for the production of the four legs from very large steel tubes. The structure was all held together by ultra heavy duty 80mm diameter pins – more than twice the normal size – each weighing 15kg. “All of the specialist companies we approached advised us not to build this with four 150 tonne cranes because, as the weight shifts so quickly, it would be virtually impossi-

ble to expect four crane operators to simultaneously lift all four corners with precision timing, which is exactly what it required.” The answer was to phase the building between smaller cranes and a different industrial solution. Dirk De Decker researched lifting methods and contacted the Madrid office of US-based Enerpac, a leader in the world of heavy lifting and hydraulic equipment. “Their computer-controlled self-climbing units were newly-designed for us and arrived in Werchter in May,” he said. “We start the build with the lifting towers. The top grid is assembled on the ground and then lifted 4.8m with three cranes, at which point we begin building the legs which extend beneath our lifting towers. “The Enerpac units work with hydraulic jacks and take over to slowly raise the structure so that the build can be completed, after which our lifting support is removed, leaving the structure ready for placement of the cigar through the centre void in the top grid with a six tonne motor. The lifting process alone requires 16 trucks of equipment.” “It’s an incredible feat of engineering and the load-in/out is like no other,” said Berry. “Here, the method requires a steel load-in, a steel load-out, a production load-in and out, and another steel load-in and out, because

Photography © Mark Fisher/Stufish

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36 Left: One of the three touring Claws now resides in Utah at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium.

Photography © Loveland Living Planet Aquarium

dience of 7.27 million. It currently stands at No.2 in the list of the all-time most successful concert tours and, naturally, Stageco remains extremely proud of its association with both the band and this technical marvel.

we have to take eight trucks of the steel lifting system away. That in itself is a huge undertaking and that’s before you start getting everything from A to B as efficiently as possible.” Stageco produced three identical leapfrogging steel systems for the tour, each one transported on 38 trucks between venues. Project manager Dirk de Decker was responsible for the co-ordination of the developments and logistics of touring these systems, with Johan ‘Bellekes’ Van Espen, Patrick Martens and Hendrik Verdeyen heading the three individual (blue, red, green) crews. They respectively worked alongside site co-ordinators Toby Fleming, Robert Hale and Seth Goldstein. U2 launched their 360° world tour on June 30th 2009 at Barcelona’s Camp Nou Stadium with a peak performance worthy of the crowd’s feverish reaction. Their mix of new material from No Line On The Horizon and former glories was pitched perfectly to ensure that music, art and architecture remained the best of bedfellows. The tour came to an end two years and 109 shows later, after playing to a total au-

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AFTERMATH But what happened to the three structures after U2 played their final show of the 360° tour? While one was scrapped and another is currently based in Stageco’s back yard in Werchter, the third Claw found its way over to Utah, USA. In the town of Draper, Utah, Brent Andersen, the founder and CEO of Loveland Living Planet Aquarium read an article about U2’s original wish for these stages to be reimagined as community gathering spaces. Placing a model of the Claw on the aquarium’s existing expansion site, Andersen and the aquarium staff realised one would fit perfectly. Andersen said plans for an expansion originated in late 2014. He wanted a learning centre that could expand the aquarium’s educational mission: “Something that had elements for everybody, whether they were two or 92 years old.” Part of that, he added, was some type of iconic, eye-catching monument that served a real purpose. Loveland co-ordinated with Stageco, Live Nation and Atelier One to work on the financial and practical aspects of giving The Claw a new home and implement the minimal structural modifications needed for one to become a permanent structure, looming over the site’s Rio Tinto Kennecott Plaza which accommodates an 80,000 square-foot learning centre. “This big structure, the Claw, it’s very aesthetically pleasing,” said Ari Robinson, the aquarium’s creative director. “And I think it really does inspire that awe and wonder in people.” U2.com thelivingplanet.com

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THE LIBRARY RAMMSTEIN! Turning up the heat across Europe

SUMMER 2019

Bon Jovi In The House Wembley & The Wow Factor Tomorrowland | Marco Borsato P!nk | Muse’s Simulation Theory Mylène Farmer | Cirque du Soleil Take That’s 3D Odyssey | Wacken At 30 Swedish House Mafia | Metallica’s Return Lollapalooza Stockholm... and much more

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Stageco Deutschland GmbH Schäfflerstrasse 13 86343 Königsbrunn Tel: +49 821 440 22 0 Fax: +49 821 440 22 22 info.deutschland@stageco.com

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Stageco France 158 Le Petit Palais 84800 L’Isle sur Sorgue Tel: +33 4 90 20 90 90 Fax: +33 4 90 20 90 31 info.france@stageco.com

Stageco Deutschland GmbH Herzbergstrasse 120 10365 Berlin Tel: +49 30 54 98 72 40 Fax: +49 30 54 98 72 44 info.berlin@stageco.com

Stageco Nederland b.v Aalsvoort 14 7241 MA Lochem Tel: +31 573 25 63 02 Fax: +31 573 25 60 62 info.nederland@stageco.com

Stageco U.S. Inc Manheim 181 E. Stiegel St. Manheim, PA 17545 Tel: +1 866 782 4326 info.us@stageco.com

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Edited & designed by Mark Cunningham / groovehype.uk on behalf of Stageco Staging Group © 2020 All Rights Reserved

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