If you're an avid reader of this blog, you'll have been aware that we promised a recap blog to summarise the crazy year that was 2020 in our last post. Well, here it is!
It's fair to say that 2020 has been one of many ups and downs. We've been tested like never before, but we're pleased to report that we've had plenty of positive news and events that see us heading into 2021 full of optimism and looking forward to a summer season of celebration and relief.
So let's rewind a little, back to when the world was about to forever change in the wake of COVID-19!
March 2020: Coronavirus Turns the Events Industry on Its Head
March 2020, feels like an absolute age ago now, but just it was only a few months back! At the time when the virus started to take hold, we were setting up and rigging stages on the road in Europe for the world's biggest drum and bass festival when organisers had no option but to cancel the entire festival and send everybody home. It was around this time that we also had our team over at a classical music festival that luckily managed to escape restrictions by a couple of days!
At the time, we were obviously gutted for the thousands of fans as much as anything else. We packed everything up and "headed back to Blighty" to assess the lay of the land and figure out what we were going to do next. Of course, we were worried at the time that the events industry was going to be in severe trouble if people couldn't see each other for months on end. Of course, the cancellations and postponements for stage hire then started to come through.
But little did we know that good news was on the horizon. As the scientists and the government got a better handle on this horrible virus and how it behaves, it soon became apparent that there was a path to hosting events, especially outdoors. We got to work making the necessary adjustments and preparations for COVID-secure events.
Outdoor Stages Becomes Festival Stage & AV Supplier to Leading South Coast Holiday Resort
As we've just said, with the spring of confusion out of the way, the race to shift traditionally indoor events outdoors was on. It wasn't long before we were contacted by a prominent holiday resort based on the South Coast enquiring about our staging services and AV hire capabilities.
They approached us to help them work out how they were going to shift those above-mentioned performances outside, and we were only too happy to oblige. Over the following weeks, we worked together to build a schedule of outdoor events split into two categories. One consisting of traditional, frequent performances from on-site entertainers, and the other focused on one-off concerts and large-scale celebrations to mark special occasions.
We then set about creating stage hire packages for each, as well as providing a cost for all of the associated sound and lighting equipment. They were thrilled with what we came up with and awarded us the contract for 2020 with an option to extend for the whole 2021 season.
For one-off performances, we supplied them with one of our biggest stages, the 12m x 10m Arc Dome Roof Stage, which was perfect for those significant events during the summer holiday season. On the lighting side, we supplied them with 30 moving head DMX fixtures, 17R beams, PAR tour cans, LED pixel bar systems, stage blinders, a state-of-art lighting desk, and one of our lighting technicians to run the light displays.
For the sound, we supplied PA wings on either side of the stage that had d&b audiotechnik line arrays suspended from them. We also provided them with a full suite of stage monitors, amps, instrumental and vocal microphones, further speakers, all of the associated stands. Again we had our sound engineers bringing everything together with a MIDAS 32 mixing desk. Finally, for these high-profile concerts, we used an expansive outdoor LED video wall as a backdrop which helped to provide a stunning visual display during the performances.
For the more frequent performances (usually at least twice a week) from the on-site entertainers, we supplied a smaller 6m x 4m Arc Roof Stage. On the AV side, we furnished the stage with a few LED moving head washes, an array of Martin 5R beams, a couple of lasers, and a stage hazer. Again, we didn't skimp on the sound side either, sticking to our trusted d&b audiotechnik kit. This time it was the Q1 series PA system, along with four stage monitors, a couple of wireless microphones, and a mixing desk for our sound engineer balance everything up perfectly.
We've managed to pack in several performances over the summer and early autumn before restrictions returned, and they were a resounding success. We had proved that outdoor events could still take place in a safe manner.
Outdoor Stages Wins Contract to Supply Surrey County Council
The good news continued for us as we headed into the autumn with us winning the contract to supply outdoor stages to Surrey County Council for a range of local festivals and event dates. The contract, which lasts for 24 months, has seen us supplying a broad range of staging services to events such as several local fêtes, with approximately 500 attendees present at each occasion.
We're also the preferred festival stage supplier for huge events such as the showground bonfire and firework display that attracts almost 20,000 eventgoers each year. This is already marked on our calendars for 2021, as the council have promised it will be one of the best displays they've ever created!
As happy as we were to win this contract for its monetary value, the feedback we received from the local authority was really positive and made our day. A member of the awarding committee came back to you with this when asked to pass comment:
"We would like to thank Outdoor Stages for putting together their tender proposal, and we can confirm that they have been award preferred supplier status for outdoor stages for the next 24 months.
We found that the proposal put forward was not only comprehensive, but it also exceeded all of our specifications for this contract. The highest score in the tender process, combined with our previous successful dealings with this company on several projects, brought us to the conclusion of selecting Outdoor Stages as a commendable winner of this competitive tender process."
Hopefully, this year's success bodes well for us winning future local authority and public contracts in 2021 and 2022!
It was around this time that our so-called "regulars" started picking up the phone and getting back in touch regarding next year's events. First on the list was SamFest.
Outdoor Stages Appointed as Festival Stage Hire Supplier for Samfest Festival
As autumn progressed and thoughts began to turn to 2021, the phone started ringing again. Organisers of events both new and old were looking to secure spots for next summer buoyed by the news of rapid testing solutions and several vaccines late-stage trials/early-stage approvals.
One of the first was Samfest. We love working with this local festival principally because it raises money for several fantastic local causes. What was really encouraging was hearing that Samfest wasn't just coming back next year, it's going to pull out all of the stops! More stages, more lighting, bigger LED screens, and more impressive sound equipment. We can't wait!
Others have since followed suit, and slowly but surely, our order book is filling up. What's helping is that several new festivals are using 2021 as a launch year, given there will be a considerable amount of pent up demand after the mass cancellations that occurred in 2020. We're squeezing them in between the annual slots booked by event planners that we've worked with for years.
This boon in demand has also forced us into action. We've been quietly improving and expanding our offerings and services this year. So let's tell you a little bit more about that.
Outdoor Stages Invests in New Equipment and Services
It might seem counterintuitive to invest so heavily in a year that has seen many of our fellow events companies struggle and even collapse, but as Albert Einstein once famously said, "in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity."
We used the pause in activities, and the subsequent rising tide of bookings for next year, to assess where we were, look at how we could improve, and took immediate steps to rectify areas where we thought we were slightly lacking.
Straight away, we purchased a few power generators. This is something we had been meaning to do for a long time, as clients often ask us whether we provide power, but we always found ourselves too busy. Finally, with a bit of time on our hands, we snapped a couple of them up, and now we can proudly say that we can help with your power requirements too!
On the staging side, it also became clear that there was still a slight gap in our inventory when it came to medium-sized stages. These stages are frequently requested by events who want something a bit more imposing than our smaller, mobile stages but can't afford or don't have the space to accommodate one of our festival stages.
So once again, we pulled our wallet out and invested in a new 7m x 5m stage for this exact purpose. It'll be available from early 2021 onwards, in case you were wondering, and it's already had several booking for summer 2021 so be quick!
Another service new for 2021 is 3D renders of our stage designs. It's something that we've been working on for a while, and this kind of service is vital for larger event planners who often need to present these virtual animations to local authorities and safety regulators. The design of the stage also takes on much more importance for large-cap festivals, and these visual representations offer organisers a detailed look at what their stage hire choices are going to look like before we start work.
This investment is on top of our usual reinvestment of funds into refreshing existing AV equipment (we rotate stock every three years). We have also expanded our LED screen capacity to over 120 square metres of 3.9-pixel-pitch video panels. Yes, over 100 square metres!
2020: A Year of Change and Renewed Hope Moving Forwards
As has been the case right across the economy, 2020 has been one hell of a year. However, here at Outdoor Stages, we are already looking forward to what the new year will bring. Vaccinations are taking place across the nation, rapid testing will in place at outdoor and indoor events venues, and the summer line-up of festivals and events is looking very tasty indeed!
As we mentioned, optimism is high, but that means bookings are too! There are only so many festival stage hire companies in the country, so once stages start booking up (which they already have), there isn't a whole lot left to go around.
That's why you mustn't delay. Even if you only THINK you're going to be putting on an outdoor event that requires stage hire, it's worth contacting us just to make us aware. We can pencil in some dates and tie you to a firmer decision later down the line. But if you leave it until late in the day, you won't have that option.
So pick up the phone and give us a call. We can't wait to hear all about how you're gearing up for next year's festival and outdoor events season!