It's been a busy last few months here at Outdoor Stages. Given the impact of the pandemic on the outdoor events industry, we've been so busy reorganising and altering our methods of operations that we haven't had time to tell you about an outdoor event that took place a few back in late March, literally a few days before COVID-19 changed everything.
To give you some quick background, we were asked to supply one of our biggest stages, complete with all audio visual (AV) requirements including two LED screens for an outdoor classical music festival that took place in a West London park.
We can't say too much as we are already close to securing a contract with this client for next year's edition and they want to keep all of the suppliers under wraps for now. However, they have allowed us to speak about the services that we provided for them, including some brief details regarding operations leading up to the event.
So without wasting any more time, let's tell you all about it!
Planning Stage Hire for A Classical Music Festival
As highlighted above, the site for the music festival was situated in a prominent West London park (that's all you're getting from us!). The whole process started after being initially contacted by the client, who had been passed our details from another Surrey-based festival organiser with whom we've got an excellent working relationship.
We love projects that start in this manner as it shows that all that hard work we put in is truly appreciated and that our clients are only too happy to refer us to more new business! Given the early nature of the festival in the UK calendar (late March), we were ever so slightly concerned when they said it would be a grass surface for the stage.
We don't need to tell you that the weather can still be decidedly dodgy in late March before the spring starts in earnest, so we booked in a site visit to get a better feel for how we would prepare for installing one of our biggest festival stages (more on this later). We visited a few months out in January 2020, and unsurprisingly the ground was very saturated with water and mud.
We used the council-supplied ground survey given to us by the client to make some rough plans about where the stage would be going, and it was a relief to discover that we could deliver their preferred stage hire option, our 12-meter by 10-meter Arc Dome festival stage, without any issues. We did, however, begin to make some extra calculations regarding weight and payload to make sure we covered every eventuality given the ground conditions.
We then talked to the client through all of the options available to them in terms of additional structures. They took us up on the idea of building an additional extra 6-meter by 4-metre' cow shed' section built onto the side of the side to house all of the stage monitoring equipment. The headline orchestras for each night had numerous performers to fit on the stage comfortably (this was in the era before social distancing don't forget). They felt this was an excellent solution to buy us some contingency space.
After we firmed up everything else, it was time to deliver!
Festival Stage Hire Delivery and Set Up for Classical Music Festival
As mentioned above, the client chose Outdoor Stages because we were able to offer a sizeable Arc Dome roof stage measuring 12 by 10 meters. This specific stage's design is similar to that of an orbit style stage, but with a bigger roof payload and a more prominent stage front overhang, thus giving performers better shelter from bad weather.
At the time, we thought the weather was going to challenge. However, if you cast your mind back to March, we actually enjoyed unseasonably dry and warm weather, which makes stage preparations a breeze. We set off from our Surrey base with a couple of articulated lorries chocked full of our stage equipment, ready for assembly on site.
Once on-site, our client had arranged a brilliant access route for us with effectively allowed us to park up as close the proposed stage footprint as we wanted. This may seem like a small detail, but trust us when we say good access makes all the difference when it comes to the speed of stage construction! Our stage crews wasted no time and got to work setting up the stage.
Thanks to the excellent weather conditions, we almost set a record for the fastest we had constructed this particular stage. We usually allocate up to two working days, but in this scenario, we made an early start on the first day and had the majority of work finished by the end of it. We returned on the second day to handle the finishing bits and pieces and began rigging all of the associated AV equipment (more on this shortly).
This project was slightly different in the fact that they had also hired supplementary PA wings and the aforementioned 'cow shed.' But once again, we made short work of these additional requirements and quickly moved onto the AV work.
Sound and Lighting Equipment Hire for Classical Music Festival
With the stage complete, we wasted no time bringing in our world-class sound engineers and light technicians to begin arranging, rigging, testing, and setting up of all the associated sound and lighting equipment. We're fortunate enough to be part of the wider TSH group, which grants access to some of the best event production staff in the business, and they certainly didn't disappoint.
For the performances themselves, we had a team of engineers and technicians that ran all aspects of technical event production during both evenings of the festival. But before we reached that point, that was a lot of rigging and setting up to get through! So let's make a start by running you through the lighting arrangements.
Concerning the light requirements, they were indeed different from what we were used to. Since we are one of the leading festival stage hire companies in England, we are usually requested to supply high-impact lighting fixtures such as pixel battens, stage blinders, and an array of lasers. However, none of those options were appropriate for framing the dulcet tones of the symphonies and orchestras booked to play at this event, so we had to take a 'softer' approach.
We started with our customary 17R beams, before installing moving head washes that would help to set the correct ambience for the classical performances. We then included some of the more commonplace stage lighting options such as spotlights, Fresnel lanterns, and PAR cans all powered by industry-leading LED technology.
On the sound side, we were working in more familiar territory. We supplied top-of the range d&b audiotechnik line arrays which were suspended from the roof truss, stage monitors, and amplifiers. The challenge for us on the sound side was instrumental microphones.
It wasn't going to feasible to mic up every instrument given the size of the ensembles. Therefore, we took a hybrid approach. We used a state-of-the-art Shure hanging microphones for the bulk of the stage audio demands. We then liaised with each group to discover which performers would be taking on solo performances within the classical pieces. Once we'd ascertained that information, we mic'd up the soloist's instruments separately so that our sound engineers could balance them more effectively against the backdrop of the wider orchestra.
We felt that the solution worked well, and we received excellent feedback regarding the sound and lighting from both the event organisers and the performers themselves. But there was another crucial AV aspect that we were tasked with supplying that we're yet to mention – a pair of enormous outdoor LED screens!
Outdoor LED Screen Hire for Classical Music Festival
If you were paying attention in the stage building section of this post, you'd have noticed that we mentioned that the client ordered supplementary PA wings. However, we didn't note their purpose. As you might have guessed, they were constructed to house two 5-metre by 3-metre LED screens, which served two purposes.
The first purpose was the sync up with the gentle light displays for the earlier performances to provide captivating video footage and imagery to accompany the classical music. However, for the headline acts, we were requested to switch their function to relaying live footage of the performers in action. This was critical as there were some high-profile performers within the booked acts, who the organiser wanted to broadcast to the audience in more detail.
Being practically the only event service we don't offer in-house, we teamed up with our trusted partners to set up the live camera feed. Once in place, we handled the rest and were able to relay footage in stunning clarity to the thousands of guests in attendance, giving the audience the detail our client desired.
Outdoor Event Disassembly for Classical Music Festival
Despite the festival going off without a hitch, our job was far from over. Once the curtain fell on the final performance, we waited for the audience to make their way to the exit before immediately getting to work on sound, lighting and stage disassembly. This is a process that is frequently overlooked by event organisers, who sometimes wrongly believe that packing everything away takes a fraction of the time of setting up.
While it's true that there's a lot less testing, checking, and double-checking of every device and cable, the physical removal of all pieces of equipment and staging is still a tremendous undertaking. Thankfully, our event organiser had agreed with the local council that we had 48 hours from the curtain falling to evacuating the site — plenty for our expert stage crew members and AV technicians to take care of everything.
As always, we made every effort to leave the space as close to how it looked upon our arrival as possible, bar the inevitable marks left by the stage structure. Overall, the client was thrilled with our performance and, as eluded to, we're already in talks for taking care of all aspects of event production for next year's edition, provided COVID isn't still plaguing all of our lives.
Choose Outdoor Stages for Your Music Festival in 2021
Whether you're organising a rock festival or jazz is your specific focus, we can provide all manner of outdoor stages for your event. But of course, our services extend far beyond festival stage hire, we also offer every aspect of technical event production delivered by engineers and technicians that have well over a century of experience between them.
Given the continuing impact of COVID, our costs are set to go up in 2021 due to unavoidable insurance cost increases. That's why we are offering 5% off any outdoor stage bookings made in 2020. With festival stages being such a finite resource, there's never been a better time to start the conversation about your festival, even if it's just to secure dates and discuss the most general of stage requirements.
So give our friendly and approachable team a call for a chat. We look forward to hearing about what you've got planned for the next year!