The Battle of Trafalgar
Saturday, 9 June 2001
This summer saw a free concert for 20,000 people staged in the busy heart of London. Mike Mann discovered that such a production has its logistical difficulties . . .

Before even thinking about the problems involved in bringing central London to a standstill, Star Hire’s Roger Barrett realised that the stage design for the Africa Day concert would have to be an unusual one: "We would normally have built a higher stage than this - but a major feature of the design was that the famous lions should be visible on stage." Two of the huge statues were incorporated into the stage, which was positioned just in front of Nelson’s Column, facing northwards towards the National Gallery. Flanked by the South African Embassy (who funded the entire event) and Canada House, the central area of Trafalgar Square itself also needed treatment. "One of the first things we realised was that the ornamental fountains obscure sightlines for a large part of the square," explained Barrett. "So we included 3,000sq.m of industrial flooring to raise the outer sections of the audience." This was the first rock‘n’roll outing for the Danco flooring system - a modular industrial system which has also seen service in Formula One pit areas.

The stage and audience flooring were delivered to Trafalgar Square by a total of 20 full-size trailers, each one bringing traffic to a complete standstill. In addition to this, a further three trucks for the security fencing, plus other deliveries for sound and lighting systems, meant that Londoners had to cope with repeated delays.

On stage, sound designer Andrew Frengley took the opportunity to give the new Meyer M3D line-array system an airing - a decision which, he says, was influenced by the show’s visual and sonic requirements. "The production team knew that the vista from FOH should be of London, not the stage or the PA. Of course, we also wanted to reduce the amount of reflected sound." The system, supplied by north London rental outfit Canegreen, was supplemented by small outfill arrays and even a remote, delayed VIP system installed on the balcony of South Africa House and fed via a UHF radio link.

Lighting design for the show was by Vince Foster, fresh from his latest tour with Kylie Minogue. Foster used rooftop positions for multiple Par bars, which were used for audience lighting for the benefit of television viewers. Skyarcs were deployed to light statues, trees and other points of visual interest. LSD supplied the system - although a rare mid-concert problem with an Icon desk allowed Flying Pig Systems to show just how fast their backup can be!

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