Dance Comes Home to England
Saturday, 18 August 2001
The audio production for this summer’s Homelands England Dance Festival provided several opportunities for collaboration, reports Mike Mann.

Audio suppliers SSE Hire of Birmingham provided Nexo front-of-house and monitor systems for seven out of the nine stages at this year’s Homelands, which took place in Mattersley Bowl, near Winchester. However, the company sub-contracted the system design, supply and management of the Space Tent and VIP area to Sussex-based GPA Hire and Forefront Audio. GPA, which acts as the UK rental arm of speaker manufacturer Funktion One, provided the festival’s Space Tent and VIP enclosure with Resolution 5 systems, driven by QSC and processed using XTA controllers. "It’s been great working with SSE," enthused Forefront’s Jim Alexander, "Chris Beale knows our reputation in the dance scene and it’s nice not to be involved in a PA war." Beale had also had the opportunity to hear the Funktion One system in action at a New Year dance event in London, while the GPA rig had also seen service at this year’s Oxford May Ball.

GPA’s Jason Bacon spoke of the synergy between his company and its main supplier. "When you have the manufacturer of a system behind you, it’s a big plus. Our gigs are their gigs, and both Tony [Andrews] and John [Newsham] take a real interest in what our clients want from a system."

Jim Alexander of Forefront Audio was responsible for the link between GPA and event organisers Home, and emphasized the company’s established track record with dance acts such as Global Underground and Leftfield - though much of the company’s work is in the corporate sector. GPA’s roots can be traced back to the late 1980s, when the dance industry was revelling in a period of spectacular growth. Since then, explained Alexander, the industry has grown up a little. "We’re just starting to see DJs with their own engineers, as well as their own rider for equipment. It’s a great idea and works really well, especially at festivals - it takes a big weight off our minds to know that there’s someone here who knows the artist and understands the limits."

"These days, dance system designs are often far in advance of rock and roll touring kit," contended Bacon. "I believe that this is because we have to spend less time worrying about the set-up on stage, so more time is available for the main system design. It’s always a surprise to see how relatively underspecified many tours are. With the Funktion One rig, we have a system that very few other people have, which is great from a competitive point of view."

System engineer and babysitter for the Funktion One-powered stages was Pete Howard, who commented that the British-built system had exceeded all expectations. "The performance is incredible, compared to what we’re used to," he enthused. "The rigging’s neat, we can run the EQ virtually flat and the cabinets array seamlessly. This is a 21st century Flashlight!"

Jim Alexander claims that GPA and Forefront have handled the move into bigger events very well: "Our clients - especially at this level - are always listening for the faults. At Homelands, they’ve not found any. For me, this makes it all worthwhile - it’s our Perfect Moment. Did I really say that?"

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