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Austria’s live sector unites for ‘Back to Live’ campaign

Behemoths from across Austria’s live entertainment industry are banding together for a campaign aimed at boosting the sector’s post-lockdown recovery.

The ‘Back to Live’ campaign kicked off today (8 July) with the launch of a portal that gives an overview of upcoming cultural and sporting events, alongside exclusive discounts and offers to entice fans.

The initiative, launched by the Austrian Event Industry Association (IGÖV) and CTS Eventim Austria’s oeticket, comes shortly after the country reopened at the beginning of July.

According to the organisers, the joint initiative is intended to benefit all industries connected to live entertainment including sport, culture, tourism, hospitality, events and music, and accelerate the return to “normal economic conditions”.

The alliance has already attracted more than 120 players including Arcadia Live, Arena Wien, Barracuda Music, Hoanzl Agentur, Leutgeb Entertainment, Live Nation, Masters of Dirt, Musikverein Graz, Posthof Linz, Scheibmaier & Schilling, Show Factory and Szene Wien, from the live music sector.

“With ‘Back to Live’ we convey confidence and joie de vivre after 15 months of almost no events. A flourishing event industry helps many industries, such as the badly suffering city hotel business, to make their comeback and support the artists,” says Ewald Tatar, president of IGÖV and MD at Barracuda Music.

“The campaign will invite everyone to take part so that we can actually make the comeback with our combined strengths”

Georg Hoanzl, IGÖV board member and founder of Hoanzl agency, adds: “The ‘Back to live’ campaign will invite everyone to take part so that we can actually make the comeback with our combined strengths. It is a joint effort that I am happy to support in order to offer the live acts a stage and a platform for the entire culture and event industry.”

Christoph Klingler, CEO at CTS Eventim Austria, says: “Today’s presentation of ‘Back to Live’ is the impetus for a major joint project aimed at the entire industry. We get a ball rolling so that we can get started together and support each other.

“After months of intensive negotiations with politicians to make the comeback possible, we are back with ‘good news’. The concert halls and sports stadiums are being filled again.”

The live sector has returned to business faster than expected after the Austrian government brought forward its date for mass gatherings to restart.

Since 1 July, all events have been permitted to go ahead at full capacity, including standing events, both indoor and outdoor.

Social distancing and masks are not be required, but event attendees still have to meet one of three rules to gain admission: they must be vaccinated; they must be able to provide a negative Covid test; or they must be able to prove that they have recovered from a Covid infection.

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The sky is not the limit: Pip Rush talks Arcadia ambitions

Arcadia Spectacular, the arts collective behind Glastonbury Festival’s famous Spider, has showcased its work right across the globe since launching in 2007, with the aim of facilitating a more inclusive and communal live music experience.

Following on from the debut of the Pangea stage at Glastonbury last year, IQ catches up with Arcadia co-founder and creative director Pip Rush Jansen to discover more about the inspiration behind the company’s latest project, the fate of the famous fire-breathing Spider and how the right kind of live experience can serve as the antidote to modern society’s smartphone obsession.


First things first, Arcadia Spectacular has been around for years now, but how did it all begin and how have you changed over the years?
The first thing we ever built was a DJ stage that people could dance on or giant fire pits people could gather around. We had to be resourceful and it was all made from recycled stuff we could find in scrap yards. That was how Arcadia was born really. We were young and inspired to make creative environments to party in.

Taking these installations around festivals, we started meeting more and more people around the fire, from engineers to mad scientists – all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds who were full of ideas for where it could go next. Over time it’s gathered momentum, the installations have grown and we’ve become a large touring operation with a lot of those same people still with us.

We’ve now got a non-profit arm called Arcadia Reach and we’re currently building a mobile water drilling rig for a charity that operates in remote villages in Sierra Leone. The truck also turns into a stage with an inbuilt sound-system so we can engage in the music and cultural scene there.

What we experienced on our research trip is the sheer, genuine joy there, where everyone including grandparents, kids and people who were previously fighting each other come together in celebration, and throwing a proper sound system into that is really exciting.

So we’re building a real global audience and we plan to develop better ways to use social media to harness, connect and share multicultural ideas and inspiration across the globe. It’s a long process and we’re still building the team, but we believe it’s a very positive mission and will influence our work going forward.

Our DNA is about thinking outside the box

Last year you debuted Pangea (a stage inspired by the prehistoric supercontinent and modelled around a 140 tonne crane) at Glastonbury Festival, can you tell me about how it came to be?
The amazing thing about Glastonbury is you can push boundaries and try new things. We recognised our DNA is about thinking outside the box so we didn’t want to just make a different creature that did the same as the last stage (the Spider). And we knew that to do that, we’d have to begin a new journey.

We’ve looked at scrap yards in Russia and India and places like that in the past, which have amazing bits of kit, but when it came down to it, the environmental impact was key. We should be recycling something local.

It’s harder to access UK scrap due to regulations, but eventually we found an enormous crane at our local docks in Avonmouth, on the outskirts of the city of Bristol. (Glastonbury founder) Michael Eavis wasn’t so sure when we showed him pictures, but when he came and saw the scale and potential of it he started to get excited.

It took 12 trucks to move that thing and we had to dig concrete foundations ten metres into the ground to hold it up. But we only had to move it a few miles down the road and it will remain stationary for a few years now. So in all it’s taken a huge amount of the environmental footprint out of what we’re doing at Glasto. We also run 50% of our flames of bio fuels and this year we are developing technology to make that 100%.

Fatboy Slim and Carl Cox played amazing sets and everyone loved it. We’re very lucky to have such a supportive fan base, and with tons of ideas flooding in from all directions, everyone’s inspired about the next phase.

What comes next?
The next thing is to really start taking over the sky. We flew a big moon built by Luke Jerram last year as an experiment and it was really beautiful, so we’re looking to develop the scope of that and collaborate with international artists who fly sculptures over people.

Very often, people can stand at the back of these huge stages and feel distant from what’s going on. If you can take over the space above people’s heads, you can really involve them. That’s the idea – to make an experience as inclusive, massive and yet personal as possible.

If you can take over the space above people’s heads, you can really involve them

What has become of the Spider?
The Spider is an artwork originally built for a limited number of UK events and it’s amazing that it’s gone on to do so much global touring. We’ve stood under it on dance floors with people from all around the world now and that feeling of unity and those peak moments resonate with all cultures.

It’s been amazing to see, and we learned from and got inspired by everyone we met. It’s back in Europe this summer for its first show in Norway, but we’re looking for somewhere to site it more long term, to increase the footfall and decrease the footprint.

We’ve had a few conversations with people in America and there is lots of interest in places like China and the Middle East, but we were also in talks with the Eden Project which is just down the road and right up our street.

You talk about making a fan’s experience as immersive as possible, why is there such a demand nowadays for these kinds of ultra-immersive experiences?
I think it’s got a lot to do with overconsumption of screens. People are used to constantly consuming visual content and having access to different kinds of experiences through virtual and augmented reality, and although it’s supposed to connect us all, I think if it gets overused then in reality it isolates us.

When people do get time out, they thrive off having an actual visceral experience, one that you can’t get through your iPhone. What people ultimately want to feel at a festival is human connection, friendship, laughter and creativity – and not only does that make us happier, but all these things are completely sustainable.

The purpose of the environments we create is to bring people together, that’s why we always do it in the round – people are literally facing one another. I believe that if people are having a really good time and dancing in the moment; that’s when the phones get forgotten anyway.

The purpose of the environments we create is to bring people together, that’s why we always do it in the round

The live events and experiential space is becoming ever more competitive, how do you continue to set yourselves apart from others?
When we started out, not many people were doing what we do and our mission was to inspire people. We’re not promoters and now Arcadia’s taken off we’re not looking start cutting corners to compete.

We’re an arts organisation and we focus on pushing boundaries. To do that we have to make sure that we’re always exploring new territories of our own and that’s why we’re moving outside our box at Glasto to lay a radical new foundation.

Our structures are evolving from 360 degree to hemispherical. Our inspiration is moving from local to global and our materials are moving from global to local.

There’s a whole bunch of other stuff emerging in response to the new challenges we’ve given ourselves, so in respect of starting a new journey, it’s really exciting times for us.

Looking to the future, it is obviously a big year as Glastonbury is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year – is there extra pressure to wow due to the big birthday?
There’s a little bit, but Glastonbury really is a hotbed for art and we feel it’s important to let artistic processes go on their own journey in their own time, so we’re not too worried.

If our team and the new people feeding into Arcadia come up with the most mind-blowing idea next year, we’ll do that. But if we need to test new things out a bit before we can make something really magic, then we’re not afraid to do that either.

Either way, there’s going to be a lot of amazing and new stuff at Glastonbury this year. It’s a festival that has really inspired people to take that time out and connect with each other again, and for me it’s no doubt the best one on the planet.


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Pangea’s Glasto debut showcased in film

Glastonbury’s Pangea showcased the world’s first projection-mapped sphere this year, now captured in a film by Trago Studios.

Pangea, which takes its name and inspiration from the prehistoric super continent, hosted sets from Carl Cox, the Black Madonna, Bicep and more at this year’s Glastonbury Festival.

The collaboration between performing arts collective Arcadia, Astral Projekt and Heckler attracted crowds of 100,000 over three nights.

New media artist and Astral Projekt founder Joe Crossley and Heckler creative director Glenn Urquhart created the spherical projections, which featured collaborations from media artists including Peter Walker (Astrix), Sam Lisher, Brad Hammond and real-time effects engine Notch.

“Partnering with Arcadia and Astral Projekt to bring Pangea to life is incredibly exciting and a huge honour”

“Partnering with Arcadia and Astral Projekt to bring Pangea to life is incredibly exciting and a huge honour,” says Heckler co-founder and executive producer Will Alexander. “We look forward to developing new-media works at Glastonbury over the next five years to global audiences.”

“Working with Will and Glenn at Heckler has been such a pleasure and I am excited for future collaborations and projects such as Glastonbury,” comments Crossley.

“We are embarking on some exciting new projects in large-format media art, and our partnership with Heckler will enable us to push the boundaries to new heights in this space.”

The Arcadia stage at Glastonbury follows Astral Projekt’s immersive projects at the 2019 Vivid Festival and in 2018 at Burning Man.


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Pangea: Arcadia reveals new Glastonbury arena

Performing arts collective Arcadia has announced details of its brand-new installation, Pangea, which makes its debut at this year’s Glastonbury Festival from 26 to 30 June.

Exclusive to the UK festival, Arcadia claims Pangea is its “most ambitious engineering project to date” featuring a 50 metre, 140 tonne mega crane at its core.

The idea for the installation takes its inspiration from the prehistoric supercontinent, “where every land on earth was one and the future was yet to be written”, and will evolve over the next five years.

Pangea will host joint sets from Carl Cox and Jamie Jones, Fatboy Slim and Eats Everything, Andy C and Tonn Piper, as well as a solo set from Four Tet.

Performances will also come from the Black Madonna, Sub Focus and ID, Bicep, Daniel Avery, Craig Charles and Horse Meat Disco, among others.

A repurposed 360 degree radome – used to protect radar equipment during the Cold War – will feature visual art from Astral Projekt and Heckler following their recent artificial intelligence (AI) installation at Burning Man. Arcadia’s iconic Bug will also be present around the Pangea landscape.

“It’s time for a new journey at Glastonbury and heading into the unknown is where we’ve found all our best ideas”

“It’s time for a new journey at Glastonbury and heading into the unknown is where we’ve found all our best ideas,” says Arcadia creative director Pip Rush. “[Glastonbury co-founder] Michael Eavis has supported many generations of creative minds, and in that spirit, we want to make sure we’re also stimulating new generations of ideas and welcoming others to collaborate with our team.

“The structure gives us infinite scope to take over the sky and the potential is very exciting,” adds Rush.

Technical director Bert Cole says Pangea “has been a serious mission!”

“The sheer scale of it [Pangea] has definitely been a challenge but breathing new life into this old industrial beast and evolving the concept around it has been amazing so far,” Cole continues.

“This is a total voyage of discovery for all of us and we won’t know exactly what direction it heads in next until there’s a crowd around it – that organic evolution through a feedback loop with thousands of people is one of the best feelings on earth and is what Arcadia is all about.”

Arcadia is best known for its 50-ton fire-breathing Spider, which was a fixture of Glastonbury Festival for a decade. The Spider is continuing its global adventures, with appearances at events across the world.


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The mechanics of stage design: Tom McPhillips Q&A

Pennsylvania-based creative company Atomic has designed stages and sets for live events including Global Citizen festival, Electric Forest festival, the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball, the MTV Music Awards, Sam Smith’s Grammy Awards performance and ISY Music Festival, enhancing the visual aspect of typically audio-focused experiences.

IQ speaks to Atomic’s chief creative officer and founder, Tom McPhillips, about the process from sketches to stages, his recent project designing the main stage for China’s ISY Festival,  and the difficulties of marrying EDM with romance.

What drew you to production design and continues to retain your interest there?
I started by thinking of myself as a regular painter and sculptor and I went to art school in London to start that career. However, I soon discovered that I prefer to do work that lots of people can enjoy, not just a small gallery art scene.

I was lucky to find my way into working in the theatre after art school and to become part of an environment that seemed to perfectly match my talents of painting and creating three dimensionally. Although I’m fundamentally an artist, the design part – by which I mean projects that one is hired to work on rather than being totally self-directed – is the part I enjoy most.

I also feel very comfortable being part of a team where everyone works together to create something none of us could do on our own – it’s our combined talents that make what we do possible. Plus, I enjoy creating a spectacle and seeing an audience thrilled and excited by what we all do.

I’m still completely amazed by the fact that the small sketch I’ve drawn in a few moments eventually becomes something that takes months to complete and ends up filling the entire 360-degree vision of a festivalgoer. That’s certainly something I’ll never get tired of!

I enjoy creating a spectacle and seeing an audience thrilled and excited by what we all do

Can you tell me about the process behind designing the ISY stage?
To be honest, when Fay Haixuan Wang from China Minsheng Cultural Media, the company that produces the ISY festival, first contacted us, I had no idea that there was a large island to the south of the Chinese mainland called Hainan. Research revealed that Hainan is, after Taiwan, China’s second largest island and it’s kind of China’s version of Florida, a destination where a lot of Northern Chinese snowbirds travel south to escape the winter.

They gave us a fairly simple brief – to create something that incorporated deer and flowers, in accordance with a Hainan island folkloric love story – but they added the provision that the set still needed a full-on EDM festival vibe, despite that seemingly romantic theme.

What turned out to be rather remarkable about this project was that my very first sketch pretty much encapsulated all the elements of the final design as built. That’s fairly unusual for a project like this!

I began to build on the initial idea with Charlie Cook, my co-designer. I felt we’d hit on something that would be very iconic and specific to this particular festival.

The set was built in Guangzhou, transported by truck and ferry to the festival site in Sanya and assembled onsite. Often there are cuts and changes during the construction phase – as reality begins to kick in – but the production team and the constructors managed to keep the concept intact. I’m still overwhelmed by how well everything went and by how beautifully the end result proved to be!

What unique opportunities does the Chinese live event market bring for a designer?
That’s a difficult question to answer – I think we’re right at the beginning of this wave and that this is a growing industry.

I think at the moment Chinese promoters are certainly looking to Europe and the United States to bring knowledge, talent and expertise to help them set up their local market, but production skills are growing quickly in the Chinese market.

“I felt we’d hit on something that would be very iconic and specific to this particular festival”

It’s possible this window will only be open for a while, and in the future international designers will only be called upon on occasion. The resources they have in China, plus the level of craft I witnessed in Guangzhou where the set was built, are phenomenal.

It’s also very encouraging to hear that Arcadia, who were also onsite at ISY with their Spider Stage, has signed a ten-year deal with Shanghai-based production company Split Works. The company will continue to work Arcadia’s stages in China over the coming years.

What challenges do you face as a production designer, particularly when designing for music festivals?
“Budget” is usually the first word that comes to mind, and while that’s universal for any project, festivals are definitely even more of a challenge.

In order to make any impression in a festival environment, you need to come up with something of a certain size, so you’re constantly trying to find ways to invent things that are really big but that won’t end up being too expensive.

I draw on a lifetime in the business of doing more with less and having the experience of knowing where to put the resources available in order to create the most impact. My theatrical background in tromp l’oeil (fooling the eye) certainly helps – also a working knowledge of building sets that can incorporate the talents of lighting designers and video content creators so they have the greatest opportunity to excel in what they do.

How has the production design scene changed in recent years?
That’s an easy question to answer: video!

There are some clients who are determined that video will never be a component in a set I design for them, but they are few and far between. For most of us it’s a fact of life and while it might overwhelm our designs from time to time, essentially, it’s another tool in the toolbox.

“The resources they have in China, plus the level of craft I witnessed in Guangzhou where the set was built, are phenomenal”

I think the other thing that’s changed somewhat is that clients tend to assemble teams rather than just calling on a single designer nowadays. Projects have become bigger and have more moving parts, so it’s more difficult for one person to get his or her hands around a whole project – plus projects are more technically intricate than they used to be.

What does the future hold for you and for Atomic?
We’ve come a long way in the twenty five years that Atomic has been in existence and I don’t expect that trajectory to slow down anytime soon. We design, build, produce and rent to thousands of clients every year and as long as we’re moving forward learning and embracing new technologies, and always aiming to do better at every opportunity, I see a very bright future.

Of course, we always need to stay on the cutting edge – the market is always changing, and we need to change with it. I’ve done work regularly in Japan for over twenty years, it’s a place and a culture I’m very familiar with, so I have kind of comfort zone there. Working in China is a whole new market for me to learn and to become acquainted with, but it definitely presents some very attractive and enticing opportunities, as well as a lot of possibilities for the future.

Just doing the ISY project we’ve met some amazing people. One of those people is our client Fay [Haixuan Wang] – she harbours a vision to transform her home island into an international tourist and cultural destination and she certainly seems to have the talent and abilities to turn that vision into reality. I’m hoping this is the start of a long and productive relationship, both with China Minsheng Cultural Media and with the Chinese scene in general!


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Split Works agrees long-term Arcadia deal for China

Shanghai-based promoter Split Works has agreed a long-term deal to represent British performance art collective Arcadia in China, with the iconic fire-breathing ‘Spider’ installation set to make its debut in China this new year.

Kicking off the ten-year agreement, Split Works has inked a three-year deal which will see Arcadia’s monumental Spider stage at the ISY Music Festival in Sanya on the island of Hainan over 30–31 December.

“The Arcadia Spider is an extraordinary, otherworldly experience – and the perfect fit for ISY, China’s most revolutionary EDM festival,” says Fay Wang, vice-president of China Minsheng Cultural Media Sanya, one of the backers of the festival, in a statement. “We love to push the boundaries of programming and talent, and the Spider is another (50-tonne) feather in our cap.”

Since making its first appearance at Glastonbury Festival over a decade ago, Arcadia’s Spider has travelled the globe, thrilling music fans at the likes of Ultra Miami, as well as in Thailand, Taiwan and in Australia.

“We can’t wait to bring more of Arcadia’s extraordinary shows to the China market”

The potential for growth in China is immense, and Split Works managing director Archie Hamilton predicts big things for Arcadia in the world’s most populous country.

“Arcadia pushes the boundaries of what live music can achieve,” she says. “It’s sheer magic, and we can’t wait to bring more of Arcadia’s extraordinary shows to the China market.”

With Hamilton and his team enabling, licensing and executing Arcadia’s immersive installations for events all over the Chinese mainland, he believes all of the group’s assets will quickly be put to use at Chinese festivals and events. As of 2018, Arcadia owns four stages, each with its own unique performance stage: the Spider, the Afterburner, the Reactor and the Bug.

Arcadia hosted its first standalone festival earlier this summer, coinciding with Glastonbury’s traditional fallow year.


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Arcadia announces Spectacular event for Glasto fallow year

Performing arts collective Arcadia Spectacular – best known for its 50-ton fire-breathing Spider, a fixture of Glastonbury Festival for a decade – has announced plans for a standalone Arcadia event during Glastonbury’s 2018 fallow year.

Described as a “high-octane weekend of immersive spectacle”, the one-off event will take place next May, with exact dates and a location yet to be announced.

Since debuting at Glastonbury 2007, Bristol-based Arcadia’s Afterburner shows – which combine elements of music, pyrotechnics, lighting, sound, sculpture and circus – have appeared at music festivals across the globe, including Rhythm and Vines in New Zealand, Love Saves the Day in the UK and Ultra in Miami.

Its next event is a standalone Arcadia show at Riverside Park in Taipei, Taiwan, this weekend (11–12 November).

The new UK show is one of several new events launched to coincide with Glastonbury’s traditional year off, joining All Points East, AEG’s new Victoria Park event, and the replacement for V Festival.


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