General News

Association News - PLASA Highlights Personnel Issues
Monday, 1 January 2001

New service introduced to help members through the complexities of running a company.

Ever mindful of the growing burden legislation places on businesses, PLASA has launched a new service designed specifically to make life easier for its company members.

The new Human Resources Service, set up in conjunction with CP Associates HR Consultancy, provides PLASA members with access to professional help and advice on personnel issues.

The service is designed to offer practical, independent advice, based on the latest legislation, and covers areas including contracts & terms of employment; disciplinary and grievance procedures; employee benefits; employment legislation; pay reviews; recruitment and selection; risk assessment; redundancy and absence control.

To give you an idea of the type of information you could receive through this new service see the Briefing panel to the right. To use the service, members simply call the PLASA office, and are then given the telephone, fax or e-mail address of CP Associates. They are then entitled to 15 minutes of free advice on any one subject. Where a more detailed or specific consultation is required, PLASA has negotiated highly preferential rates for its members. These might include personnel procedure audits, contracts of employment and staff handbooks, setting a human resource strategy, and new personnel policies or systems. To safeguard the viability of the service, it can only be used by a member company's PLASA contact or managing director.

Huntington in Control
Friday, 29 December 2000

If you’re interested in how control systems and computers are used in the live entertainment arena, then John Huntington’s latest book will not disappoint.

Control Systems for Live Entertainment has become something of a bible for those who seek a better understanding of control systems. In this updated and revised version, Huntington has revised his original work in answer to the changes of the past six years. He covers the new technologies that now operate in the field, although perhaps the most important change has come not in the technology itself, but the level to which it is now being used. Huntingdon addresses the challenge of how to adapt these technologies to purposes for which they were never designed. Covering control for lighting, lasers, sound, video, film projection, stage machinery, animatronics, special effects and pyrotechnics for theatre, concerts, theme parks, themed-retail, cruise ships, museums, corporate and other events, the second edition includes sections on all major entertainment control standards, methods and protocols, including DMX512, MIDI, MIDI Show Control, Sony 9-Pin, SMPTE Time Code and many others. It also addresses the basics of control systems and data communications, including EIA serial standards, in addition to offering information on networks for entertainment applications, including the all-important Ethernet.

Huntington also casts his expert eye over system design concepts and case studies featuring realistic problems and practical solutions. Drawing on his extensive experience in the field and classroom, John Hu

 
 
Brit School
Sunday, 24 December 2000

It’s still difficult to think of Performing Arts High Schools without images of multi-coloured leg warmers and ballerinas armed with high octane welders flooding the visual horizon. The movies Fame and Flashdance still have a lot to answer for in terms of how we view formal training within the arts.

A visit to the Brit School in Croydon quickly annihilates those dated eighties images and replaces them with a slick, contemporary vision where leg-warmers (if they’re worn) are disguised beneath cool student attitudes and dedication to the various artistic and technical vocations on offer. With the recording industry backing the Brit School, it’s no surprise to discover that the music courses are well developed and until recently the school emphasis fell in that direction.

The school’s production manager, Caroline Heale, was brought in with a brief that included updating the school’s main performance venue and raising the profile of the technical courses. The school has two other spaces that are used for minor performances, workshops and as teaching spaces. The ‘Tent’ is a large, open space with an ingenious coupling of a truss system and copious quantities of black tabs and the third space, the Garrett Studio, is a 50-seat space, mainly used by the Theatre Department.

The school takes students through GCSE courses with a wide array of subjects available. The MPA (Main Performance Area) is well-equipped for a high school, much to the credit of the technical department. There are 36 100kg point hoists arranged on tracks and contr

 
USITT Appoints General Manager
Friday, 22 December 2000

Tom Scharff has been appointed the new general manager for the United States Institute for Theatre Technology. Scharff joins USITT from Cornell University where he was general manager of the Cornell Center for Theatre Arts. His career as a theatre administrator includes work as managing director of the new Repertory Theatre in Boston and business manager for Theatre and Dance at the University of New Hampshire.

 
 
Dome Auctioneer Appointed
Friday, 22 December 2000

Henry Butcher International has been appointed to dispose of the contents, owned by NMEC, that went into creating The Millennium Dome, following the planned closure of the Dome on December 31st. The Dome houses an enormous range of assets, including lighting, audio-visual, broadcast & sound equipment, restaurant and catering equipment, stage equipment, office furniture and equipment, golf buggies, battery-powered scooters and vehicles. Even the equipment from the world famous Millennium Show, which currently employs 350 people, will be for sale, including stage and acrobatic props, costumes and circus rigging. Henry Butcher will be disposing of all assets owned by NMEC over the next three months by Private Treaty and Public Auction. The Private Treaty sale process is already underway and includes many of the themed Zones, audio-visual and broadcast equipment from some of the most sophisticated systems installed in Europe and sound and lighting equipment from one of the largest and most complex installations in the world.

The public auction is open to everyone and will take place over four days - 27-28 February and 1-2 March 2001 - and any enquiries regarding the auction will be dealt with after the Dome closes at the end of December. Viewing of the assets will be a few days prior to the auction sale.

 
Support for Birmingham Fringe
Thursday, 21 December 2000

Cause & Effect, the organisers of the 2001 Birmingham Fringe theatre festival, are looking at the possibility of holding collaborative projects with entertainment technology companies during the 2001 festival, in order to demonstrate the contribution made by them to technical theatre. Project director Derrick G Knight told us: "My motivation is to enhance Birmingham as a host city for performing arts. This will be achieved through the development of a network of performance venues in partnership with the performers, venue owners and production companies associated with performing arts." An initial idea is to include a sound and lighting exhibition alongside the festival, which takes place in July and August 2001, and Knight is currently exploring the availability of no-cost exhibition space at a number of venues adjacent to the reserved performance spaces. For further information is available from the number below.

 
 
Live Music Online
Tuesday, 19 December 2000

www.wembleytv.com is a new on-line development that has been specifically created to be amongst the first to explore a whole host of new opportunities that have arisen from the Broadband Internet revolution.

The site, launched in late November, is devoted entirely to live music, drawing from the strengths of company partners Wembley plc, The McKenzie Group (owners of three live music venues - Brixton Academy, Shepherd’s Bush Empire and the new Birmingham Academy), UK concert promoters SJM Concerts, Metropolis Music and one of Ireland’s leading promoters, MCD; plus technical partners Virtue TV, Europe’s leading Internet broadcasters.

WTV is distinctive in content and style, featuring "as it happens" tour news and a new Pay Per View Broadband Broadcasting Service. This enables the subscriber to watch a performance as many times as he/she likes during a 24hr licence period. Users get not only unlimited access, but also a digital quality transmission, with full viewer interaction in some cases. By 2004, research estimates that over 40 million households in USA and Europe will be subscribing to Broadband services - in other words in excess of 100 million new viewers.

WTV will also offer other services including on-line ticket selling, concert reviews, artist interviews, competitions, auctions - in fact anything and everything dedicated to all aspects of live music. The four venues owned by the partners are being hardwired in preparation for the filming of live music events and other interested venues nationwide are being approached.

Visitor

 
In CODE
Saturday, 16 December 2000

The newest destination for UK clubbers is CODE, located at the aorta of Digbeth in central Birmingham. CODE is the first superclub and permanent venue owned and operated by legendary club promoters God’s Kitchen.

The stylish, contemporary interior design is by Matt Rawlinson of Raw Design, and the stunning effects lighting design is by Carl Dodds of Making Light Work (pictured with Avolites’ Azure console). All lighting fixtures for Dodds’ rig were supplied by Coe-tech to installers, Dublin-based Audio-Tek, with the Avolites Azure 2000 control console supplied directly by Avo to Audio-Tek.

The club’s main dance floor is overlooked by a balcony, with the VIP area in the ‘Gods’ at the top of the building, an atmospheric former warehouse, built in the 1930s. Dodds chose a variety of instruments for his high-impact rig, which was to be put in the hands of a specialist team of lighting operators.

The rig consists of Futurelight MH660s, MH640s and eight of the new MH 860s - the first in the UK. These formed the core of the rig and were joined by eight Futurelight SC980 scanners, 16 CC200 colour-changers, four TAS Versicolore spots and eight TAS 1500W Saetta strobes. Additionally, there are four TAS CF6 luminaires, a Coemar NAT TM 4000 and two JEM hazers.

Dodds chose an Avolites Azure 2000 controller plus a Stage Visualiser system for the installation as he needed a console with the power and speed to deal with an action-packed lighting rig and the plethora of fixtures. The Stage Visualiser is used in ‘live’ mode to enable t

 
 
Cirque du Soleil Unveils Battersea Plans
Friday, 15 December 2000

Canadian circus company Cirque du Soleil is planning to turn London's disused Battersea Power Station into a £500m entertainment complex, with a permanent home for its shows. Cirque du Soleil plans to convert the dilapidated building into a 2,000-seat auditorium, along with two hotels and a cinema, as one of a number of planned worldwide developments over the coming 10-15 years. Work on the site will begin within the next six months by the owners and developers of the power station, Park View.

Cirque du Soleil was formed by a troupe of street performers in 1984 and has grown to include permanent shows in Las Vegas, Florida and Berlin; it employs over 2,000 staff across the world, and has performed to more than 23 million people to date. The company has staged productions of Saltimbanco and Alegría at the Royal Albert Hall in previous years, and is this week opening a show in London, called Quidam, staged in a giant tent next to the former power station. "The complexes will be a unique fusion of drama and design, of architecture and the arts," said Cirque’s founder, Guy Laliberte. "They will be a place where technology, tourism, arts and leisure converge, and will provide a year-round base for Cirque du Soleil in the form of a permanent theatre in the host city."

 
Wembley Bows Out with Final Concert
Friday, 15 December 2000

Early November saw the final concert at Wembley Stadium before the venue is demolished and redeveloped. Quietly publicised, it passed off with little note in the Nationals, but nevertheless raised a substantial amount of cash for the NSPCC thanks to a host of stars.

Keith Morris, under the auspices of CSS Productions, managed the event, reassembling the team he used so successfully for the British Gas, Maritime Museum New Millennium’s Eve event (strange how little we hear of the Millennial events that succeeded). Being November and rather nippy around the towers, this dinner and music show was staged on the pitch, but under cover. Serious Structures provided its Space Building, a giant derivative of the classic Orbit roof, being a curved ‘tunnel’ 92 metres long, 40m wide, with a max height at centre of 15m. The main feature of the Space Building is the totally transparent side fabric, which meant a lavish lighting display could be staged against the backdrop of the famous Twin Towers.

"This event was always going to be very tight on time," commented Morris. "The window for the build and de-rig was only 10 days (seven-day build, three-day de-rig). Scheduling was therefore of prime importance and a lot of time was spent with suppliers and site manager William (Pitso) Pirrie going through this process.

All audio was in the hands of Capital Sound, project managed by Martin Connolly. All Martin Wavefront 8, nine cabinets were flown each side of the stage as main system, plus two sets of delays down the length of the structure to avoid hig

 
 
H&S Training Courses
Wednesday, 13 December 2000

Stagesafe, a company set up to address the training needs of companies in the industry, with particular reference to Health & Safety issues, is now taking bookings for the next round of its Event Health and Safety Awareness Course.

Specially designed for anyone working in the live events industry, the day-long course examines event hazards in detail and covers everything from legal responsibilities to Risk Assessment. The course is open to freelancers, students and groups from companies, venues and student unions, and is fully approved by the Production Services Association. The course runs on the following dates: Bristol (29th Jan 2001), London (31st Jan 2001), Manchester (12th Feb 2001), Birmingham (13th Feb 2001).

 
University Challenges Industry to Provide Work Experience for Students
Tuesday, 12 December 2000

As there has been a major growth in students signing up for the BA (Hons) Events Management and HND in Events Management courses offered by the UK Centre for Events Management, at Leeds Metropolitan University (LMU), the University is looking for around 120 events industry work placements for its students next year (2001/2002).

Students without previous experience spend 48 weeks working in the events industry, normally with one organisation. A few students undertake two 24-week placements. Students are normally paid a modest salary and, as well as contributing to the day-to-day operation of the business, they are required to undertake a project which will be of lasting benefit to their host organisation.

Martin Wright, senior lecturer at the UK Centre for Events Management at LMU, told L&SI: "There has been a lot of recent media comment about the need for practical, as well as academic, input to event management courses. To date we have received tremendous support from the industry. Now is the opportunity for other events organisations to provide that much-valued industrial experience for our students. At the same time sponsor companies will gain the services of a motivated, enthusiastic and very able young person who can bring real benefits to the business."

Organisations interested in offering work placement should contact Andy Jones on 0113 283 5878 (E-mail: thm-placements@lmu.ac.uk). Details are also available on the UK Centre for Event Management website at

 
 
PLASA’s Christmas Donation
Tuesday, 12 December 2000

This Christmas, along with an increasing number of companies who choose to help the environment and benefit charity at the same time, PLASA will again be making a donation to two charities instead of sending Christmas cards. £600 will be allotted to charity from the savings on Christmas card mailings, while a further £300, collected at this year’s PLASA Show from visitors to the PLASA stand, will be added to the sum. The total of £900 will be donated by the Association to two charities which have been put in place to benefit industry personnel in times of hardship: the PSA Welfare & Benevolent Fund and to Light Relief.The team at PLASA Publishing would like to wish all visitors to the PLASA Electronic News site a very merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

 
Neil Darracott Joins PLASA Committee
Monday, 11 December 2000

PLASA has announced that Neil Darracott (pictured right), design engineer at Total Fabrications Ltd, has been elected to the Executive Committee of the Association following the elections which closed on 1 st December. The elections attracted 123 membership votes in total, compared with 104 last year. Mick Hannaford (Light Processor), the serving PLASA chairman, has been re-elected for his second three-year term, while PLASA Treasurer Sammy DeHavilland of Dare Pro Audio/Deco Leisure, has been re-elected for a three-year term. Newcomer Neil Darracott fills the other three-year term, while Paul Hinkly of LMC Audio, who was co-opted onto the PLASA committee last year, was elected for a further one-year term.Peter Walker of NSR, who was not re-elected, has served on the PLASA Committee for the past six years, and was for much of that time involved with membership issues, particularly related to new applications to the Association. At the December meeting of the executive committee, chairman Mick Hannaford thanked Peter for his time and hard work over the years he has served with PLASA.The remaining members of the committee are Paul Adams (PAI Group), Paul De Ville (Lightfactor Sales), Nikki Scott (Stage Technologies), David Hopkins OBE (Audio Design Services) and Diane Grant (DHA Lighting).

 
 
New Face at PLASA
Sunday, 10 December 2000

PLASA Publishing has welcomed a new production manager to the team. Sonja Walker, who joined the company in November following the departure of Nikki Evenden, will be involved with all PLASA Publications.

 
PLASA Welcomes Neil Darracott to Executive Committee . . .
Sunday, 10 December 2000

PLASA’s Executive Committee has a new face following the recent elections to decide on the line-up for 2001. Neil Darracott (pictured right), design engineer at Total Fabrications Ltd, now joins the committee, following a closely run contest which saw the final votes cast on December 1st. The elections attracted 123 membership votes in total, compared with 104 last year.

Coming from a rigging and trussing background, Darracott MEng AMIMechE will bring a new perspective to the committee. He joined Total Fabrications at the start of 2000, heading up the design team responsible for the company’s award-winning T2 trussing system; prior to this he worked in a number of fields including broadcasting, lighting, stage machinery, rigging, special projects and demountable structures.

Mick Hannaford (LightProcessor), the serving PLASA chairman, has been re-elected for his second three-year term, while PLASA Treasurer Sammy DeHavilland of Dare Pro Audio/Deco Leisure, has also been voted back to serve a three-year term. Newcomer Darracott fills the other three-year term, whilst Paul Hinkly of LMC Audio, who was co-opted onto the committee last year, was elected for a further one-year term.

The vote means that long-serving committee member Peter Walker of NSR Communications, will now step down. He has served PLASA for the past six years, and for much of that time, was involved with membership issues, particularly related to new applications to the Association. At the December meeting of the executive committee, chairman Mick Hannaford thanked Peter for his time and hard

 
 
Conference on UK Theatre
Monday, 4 December 2000

The first ever cross-industry conference for British theatre to address the challenges and opportunities for its future will take place in London between February 28 and March 3, 2001. Organised by the Society of London Theatre, the Theatrical Management Association and the Independent Theatre Council, key topics of Theatre 2001 will include new ways of working, developing new leadership, new audiences and ways of financing theatre. Speakers include Melvyn Bragg who will open the conference and Richard Eyre whose BBC2 series Changing Stages is currently being shown. There will also be a speech from culture secretary Chris Smith and David Puttnam is scheduled to debate the contrast between the popularity of cinema and the challenges that face theatre. The conference which includes a range of talks, surgery sessions and social events takes place at 1 Great George Street, off Parliament Square.

 
Standards Must be a Priority
Friday, 1 December 2000

The recent news of a third accident involving a rigger at Earls Court & Olympia has provided yet another reminder of the need for the industry to demonstrate that it is not complacent, and establish a set of standards by which it can be judged.

This latest accident happened in late September at Olympia, when David Upton of Unusual Rigging caught his foot whilst fitting a banner to the entrance of the Grand Hall and fell 18ft. Fortunately, it didn’t cost him his life, but it has left him paralysed, and an investigation is now underway by Hammersmith and Fulham Council.

This latest incident has refocused attention on the two earlier fatalies at Earls Court - the death of Kevin O’Brien, a freelance lighting designer working for the SpotCo, in December 1999 and the subsequent death of David Mott, a contractor working for Unusual Rigging, in June this year. L&SI has contacted both the Environmental Services Department of The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the authority responsible for investigating the December fatality, and the Health and Safety Executive, the enforcing authority for the June fatality.

The investigation concerning O’Brien is now complete and the results are currently in the hands of Kensington and Chelsea Borough’s legal department who will decide what action to take next. What that conclusion will be is anybody’s guess, but the inquest on O’Brien, who wasn’t actually an experienced rigger, found that not only was he not on the approved list and somehow gained unauthorised access to the roof of the venu

 
 
SigNET Honoured
Friday, 1 December 2000

The Right Honourable Stephen Byers, Minister of the Department of Trade and Industry, recently visited SigNET AC in recognition of the company’s record of achievement for innovation.

In 1992 the company’s VA system received two industry awards for design and concept. In 1998, the digital distributed system (installed in the largest VAPA site in the world - CLK airport Hong Kong) was granted Millennium Product status by the UK government and in May 2000 the company won SMART Award funding for the development of a new compact networked model.

Stephen Byers represents a constituency in the North East of England and is familiar with the Sunderland Stadium of Light - one of the prime locations in the region to have a SigNET VAPA system. The sound system at the football club has received praise from fans, visiting teams and MPs. However, less well recognised, is the SigNET system of life safety features, control and amplification, which means that in the event of an emergency it is possible to quickly alert and evacuate the spectators from the football ground.

 
Legacy of the Dome
Monday, 27 November 2000

The Legacy consortium (which includes British Telecom, Imperial College, the Open University and Sun Microsystems) has emerged as the preferred bidder for the Millennium Dome. The consortium plans to retain the controversial tent as a place for IT and science-related businesses as part of a £125m business park called Knowledge City. Talks on the deal are still ongoing, but should Legacy's bid for the Dome collapse, there will be no shortage of others to take its place. The owners of Canary Wharf are eyeing the Dome site as a potential aid to its programme of expansion in the area, whilst a consortium of businessmen, including Michael Jackson’s manager, will stump up £135m to transform the Dome into a rock venue.

 
 
Rain Doesn’t Stop Play for TPC
Tuesday, 21 November 2000

Despite considerable amounts of unseasonable rain this summer, work has continued on the construction of a new concert hall for the Philadelphia Orchestra, designed by Theatre Projects Consultants.

The project is managed by David Taylor (pictured) from the Connecticut office of TPC, but George Ellerington of the London wing of Theatre Projects provided the unique theatre equipment package with an array of stage lifts, acoustics banners, hundreds of reverb chamber doors and a 40-ton three-piece canopy, all controlled from a custom PC-based memory system.

The concrete is complete to auditorium level in the concert hall and, to stabilise the building, the attic floor overhead is being poured at present. Despite the difficulties in construction over the summer, the site is being considered for an OSHA safety award. The second performance space, a 550-seat recital theatre is also underway. In this space, the entire auditorium floor can drop on a lift to give a flat floor. A 75ft diameter revolving stage allows for quick change around between a recital hall with a solid end wall and a full-flown dance and drama proscenium theatre. The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts completes in December of 2001.

 
New Contract for New Company
Friday, 17 November 2000

Circle 8 - the new company set up by former PLASA Show Manager Nicky Rowland - has confirmed its first industry contract in its first week of business. Circle 8 will be managing Theme Magazine’s Bar & Restaurant Awards - a series of regional awards dinners, culminating in a spectacular final dinner in London in June 2001. The North West’s awards ceremony has already taken place and the next event will be taking place on Monday 20 November at Brighton’s famous Grand Hotel to celebrate the best in the South East and Home Counties. Circle 8 offers a unique blend of event management, sales and marketing skills that can be applied to the entertainment industry and beyond.

 
 
Do It In The Desert With Gearhouse
Friday, 17 November 2000

There are many places in the world where climate, lack of infrastructure or the absence of a suitable venue have made large-scale events impossible - and there are many such places in Africa. But now Gearhouse South Africa has announced that the Tensile 1 system has arrived on the continent.

Listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest movable venue in the world, the system travels in 10 40ft containers and will be stored in Gearhouse South Africa’s warehouse in Johannesburg. Tensile 1 is a modular system that can be configured in eight basic formats, varying in size to suit requirements: 75m wide and up to 150m long in its largest configuration, the structure can accommodate 8,769 people in theatre layout, seat 12,600 people for a concert or banquet, or provide a dance area big enough for 22,500 people.

"We believe that Tensile 1 will provide exciting opportunities to South Africa’s event makers," says Russell Stephens, national manager with Gearhouse South Africa. "The African continent offers some spectacular venues for functions which have previously been inaccessible." Since landing in South Africa in September, the Tensile 1 has already been used for a product launch by Daimler Chrysler, a dance party in Johannesburg and a luncheon function for government departments.

 
The Big Mission
Thursday, 16 November 2000

Game shows just aren’t what they used to be and Denmark’s ‘Den Store Mission’ (The Big Mission) just may take the prize for, well . . . best prize.

The Big Mission is already generating a lot of interest in Scandinavia with the winner of the competition earning a trip into space aboard the first commercial spacecraft. The Big Mission went on air in October, billed as a competition whose lucky winner will be crowned "First Dane in Space".

The show consists of several ‘levels,’ each presenting a unique challenge in skills relevant to astronaut training - knowledge, physical skills, teamwork and mental strength. Contestants are eliminated over the course of several half-hour shows until The Finals in which 10 contestants remain. Much in the same style as the popular Survivor show, contestants will be eliminated one by one until a final winner remains. The elimination process will include a trip to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center in the USA, as well as authentic tests previously used to train astronauts.

Martin’s local distributor, Martin Danmark, supplied MAC moving heads including MiniMACs, MX and PAL scanners and a TrackPod followspot system to TV2 studios in Copenhagen. The luminaires were spread across a host of stages and incorporated into the lighting scheme at all levels of the show. Par cans were also used in the lighting scheme. Lighting designer for The Big Mission is Torben Lendorph, with lighting programming completed by Thomas Brockmann.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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