After the successful pilot events of musician Sam Fender, socially-distanced music festivals are popping up all over the country, in a bid to beat the end of the summer. One such event was held in London recently, and we were fortunate to win the contract to provide the festival stage and event production services for this new method of delivering live music.
After an exhaustive search online for London event services, the client in question found the On Tour Events website, was impressed with our track record in the concert and festival space, and immediately contacted us to discuss their requirements. While we can't reveal the exact specifics about the client, we can tell you that the event took place over a few days in early September in a prominent London park, we'll leave the rest up to you!
So what did the event require? We're glad you asked! We leant on all manner of our event production for outdoor events capabilities, starting with the stage.
Festival Stage Hired for Socially-Distanced Music Festival
The focal point for this event was undoubtedly the stage. The client reiterated their desire for the stage to really captivate the audience since some of them were positioned much further away than in a traditional music festival setting. We'll get onto the aesthetic touches we made in a moment, but the process started with configuring the covered outdoor stage.
We used one of our largest 12-metre by 10-metre Arc Dome roof stages. With its orbit stage style design, this particular outdoor stage has a large overhang, which is perfect for giving better protection against our infamous weather. In the end, the weather was set fair, but it's always good to have that extra layer of protection!
It was set up upon 1.3-metre stage legs, which was useful in elevating the stage above the audience, giving them a better view from the grassed park surface. We also supplied and installed the rods that pinned the stage into the ground, ensuring that it was secured into the grass surface.
For this specific brief, we also built an extended backstage section to accommodate social distancing between performers and technical crew. Finally, in terms of the stage construction, we also added what we affectionately term the 'cow shed.' This 6-metre by 4-metre structure housed all of the stage monitoring equipment that was requested by the performing acts (more on this later).
With the stage structure built, our attention turned to rigging it with the necessary lighting and sound equipment. Let's run through the event lighting first.
Event Lighting for Socially-Distanced Music Festival
Even though attendance at this event was capped at 1,200, we were told in no uncertain terms that the event production had to be up to the standards of a national-level festival. Given the notoriety of many of the performers, we knew in advance that we would have to pull out all of the stops to ensure the client (and their booked artists) were impressed.
We wasted no time in pulling together our considerable inventory to create a full touring lighting spec to accompany the stage. In total, we had just under 100 light fixtures either rigged to the stage structure or affixed to the stage-facing truss we had custom-made for the event. It's impossible to name them all, but we had all of the latest LED PAR cans, spotlights, 17R beams, moving heads washes, pixel battens, lasers, and even programmed some textured lighting to accompany some of the high-profile DJ performances.
While technically not lighting, we finished off the visual equipment with a giant LED video wall backdrop, which spanned 12 metres across. This was used as both a live footage relay and as part of the lighting displays.
Obviously, with so many lights and a big LED screen, our technicians were not only flat out rigging and testing in the run-up to the event, but they were also busy liaising with event organisers and representatives of artists to come up with dazzling and immersive visual displays to accompany each performance. In some cases, we were in complete control of the lighting and visual effects direction, and we were thrilled to receive such excellent feedback.
But of course, lighting was only a small part of the equation, when it comes to music, it's crucial that you get the sound right.
Sound Equipment Hired for London-based Socially-Distanced Music Festival
It goes without saying that the sound equipment hire is one of the most significant aspects of any music festival. In many cases, the sound requirements are actually dictated by the rider requests of the performers, as was the case here. Luckily those requests shared a passion for a brand that has led the live sound industry for quite some time, d&b audiotechnik.
We really did pull out all of the stops for this festival when it came to the sound requirements, almost exhausting our entire d&b audiotechnik line-up! All told we supplied, fitted, and mixed the following:
6x d&b Audiotechnik Q1 Midtop Speakers
4x d&b Audiotechnik Q7 Infll / Outfill Speakers
4x d&b Audiotechnik Qsub Bass Speakers
2x d&b Audiotechnik B2 Infra Sub cabinets
2x d&b Audiotechnik D12 Touring Racks
1x Midas M32 32 Channel Digital Mixing Desk
12x d&b Audiotechnik MAX15 Stage Monitors
As mentioned briefly above, some of this equipment was housed in the 'cow' shed, whereas other pieces of critical sound tech were spread across the stage at strategic locations. We also provided high-end Shure microphones for those groups that used instruments such as drum kits.
Of course, state-of-the-art sound equipment is one thing, but bringing it all together to make a coherent, captivating sound is a different beast altogether. Thankfully our capable team of sound engineers were more than capable of pulling off this objective. The client was particularly impressed with the coherence of the sound at distances whereby the sound would usually become delayed or distorted. This is something post-COVID event organisers will have to pay more attention to, given that the socially-distanced audiences will be further away from the stage than usual.
Speaking of the audience, our services were required in this regard too.
Socially-Distanced' Pods' for Music Festival Audience Members
Obviously, the most significant changes for these events today and moving forwards concern the audience. With large, close-knit gatherings strictly off the menu, the challenge has been for event organisers to bring back outdoor events without putting lives at risk. While there have been several approaches, including hexagonal pitches, the organiser opted for elevated private stage 'pods' which could cater up to six guests.
This was, to put it mildly, a massive undertaking for us. Given that there were 1200 attendees, we were tasked to build what were, in effect, 200 min-stages for festival attendees. We had long discussions with the client about what these stages would look like, using inspiration from some of the successful events that had proceeded ours. In the end, we agreed upon metal-floored elevated platforms with steel tube 'fences' on three sides.
We had to delve very deep into our stage hire inventory to pull this feat off. Fortunately, as we've been understandably a little quieter than usual thanks to the pandemic, we were able to muster all of the necessary staging equipment to put these pods together.
Another critical feature we decided to include was adjusted heights. As we worked our way back from the front row, we incrementally increased the height of each row of pods to ensure that those at the rear of the venue had unobstructed views of the stage. Each pod was subsequently decorated by the event organiser, to make them themed and unique the event.
We were pleased to receive positive feedback from the attendees that they had an excellent viewing and sound experience, even from the back row. This factor was something we were the most concerned about heading into this project, given the elongation of the audience footprint for a socially-distanced event. Thankfully, our event production expertise seemed to take care of everything!
Working on Outdoor Event Production During COVID-19
Of course, handling all of the technical production for the social-distanced music festival required a lot more planning and adherence to strict compliance measures than a traditional music festival or concert.
Audience members aside, we also had to factor in the social-distancing requirements of stage staff and performers. The event organiser implemented a mask policy that was in place for all personnel, including performers when off-stage. As a result, we deliberately set up our sound equipment and mic'd up instruments in a way that would facilitate seamless transitions for musicians swapping their own guitars, for example. All of our technical crew also maintained at least a metre distance from each other, and they wore masks at all times.
During the planning stage, we also undertook extensive training with all of our team members to ensure they were well-versed in the on-site protocols long before they set foot in the park. We also supplied the masks, gloves, and hand sanitiser to our staff members to ensure they felt safe and COVID-secure at all times.
Lightning-Fast Turnaround Provided for Outdoor Events
We've delivered festival stages and London event services to organiser under severe time pressures before, but this was a new record for On Tour Events in terms of the sheer volume of equipment and services rendered in the timeframe provided. All told, we had roughly six weeks to work with.
In that timescale, we managed to plan, configure, and assemble one of our biggest stages, take care of all sound and light requirements, and build the most extensive audience staging request we've ever taken on. Not too shabby, we'll think you'll agree.
From the outset, the client emphasised that we would be under severe time pressures, and asked if we were able to work both safely and effectively under these circumstances. Fortunately, our team have been operating in the events industry for decades, and we've pulled off the impossible a few times when event organisers have been let down at the last minute.
We're immensely proud to say that our team stood up to the plate and delivered under pressure without so much as a minor technical issue. We're not lying when we say we have been blessed with the best employees in the business!
Choose On Tour Events for Your Socially-Distanced Music Festival
We are still in the process of navigating the 'new normal' in the events industry at the moment. However, outdoor music concerts, music festivals, and outdoor cinemas are just a few of the events that have so far gone off without a hitch from a virus standpoint. Here at On Tour Events, we have already successfully delivered a few of these events, and have a couple more in the pipeline for late 2020. Don't forget that we often team up with the festival staging company based in Farnborough, Hampshire called Outdoor Stages & they offer some huge 10 meter & 12 meter wide covered stages.
Our early expertise in working under COVID-secure industry protocols, makes us a perfectly-positioned choice for your socially-distanced music festival, whether it's in London, or anywhere else in the UK for that matter.
So if you're thinking of hosting a socially-distanced outdoor event, then make sure to call or email us today. Even if you just want to discuss the protocols and the potential dates, we can pencil you in and begin to walk you through what you need to know before you start planning, designing, and marketing your event!
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