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Star Events sells to David Walley

Star Events, one of the UK’s best-known suppliers of stages, support structures, rigging and design services, has been acquired by David Walley, CEO of corporate event organiser Mobile Promotions.

Walley also owns brand partnership agency BluePeg and staffing firm Beautiful Minds, and was previously CEO of event infrastructure supplier Arena Group and marketing agency the Freeman Company.

“Star is one of the great names of the UK events industry,” he comments. “They have an inspiring legacy and are both trusted and innovative. We are looking forward to integrating them into the business and adding value to all of our clients.”

“The whole Star team is excited about this move”

Star Events has been supplying equipment and services to the events industry for 40 years. The company, based in Thurleigh, Bedfordshire, has designed and delivered stages, structures, seating and rigging for high-profile events including British Summer Time Hyde Park, Download festival, shows by Adele and the Spice Girls, the Royal Windsor Horse Show and the UK visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

Star Events director Roger Barrett says: “I’ve known and worked alongside David on some major projects for more than 20 years. The whole Star team is excited about this move, which will significantly increase the services we can offer to our clients”.

The ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) will once again welcome all major players in the international production sector to London next March. Click here to read a full report from IPM 12, held on 5 March 2019.

 


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Lead rigger dies during Coachella 2019 set-up

A 20-year veteran of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has lost his life as a result of an accident during set-up on Saturday (6 April).

The man, the festival’s lead rigger, fell to his death at the festival site in Indio, California, according to the Indio police department.

He was found dead when police arrived at 9.30am local time, reports CNN.

Paying tribute to the rigger, a statement from festival promoter Goldenvoice reads: “Today, Goldenvoice lost a colleague, a friend, a family member. Our friend fell while working on a festival stage. It is with heavy hearts and tremendous difficulty that we confirm his passing.

:Today Goldenvoice lost a colleague, a friend, a family member”

“He has been with our team for 20 years in the desert and was doing what he loved. He was a hard-working and loving person that cared deeply about his team.

“As our lead rigger, he was responsible for the countless incredible shows that have been put on at the festival. We will miss him dearly.”

Coachella 2019 begins this Friday, 12 April, with weekend one running until Sunday 14th. Weekend two takes place from 19 to 21 April. Tickets for the 125,000-capacity event, headlined by Childish Gambino, Ariana Grande and Tame Impala, sold out in under 40 minutes.

 


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“It was madness”: New book profiles production pioneers

Veteran tour manager Richard Ames, who has worked with the likes of Fleetwood Mac, the Who, Kate Bush, Wings, XTC, Duran Duran and Mike Oldfield over five decades in the business, has released Live Music Production, the first book covering the early years of the production sector in the UK.

“I hope that this book as a piece of social history will inform, entertain and delight those who were either there, or on the periphery of, or are of an age when rock music was on its meteoric rise,” explains Ames, who initially worked as a PM from 1972 to 1986, when the business was in its infancy.

“Just as equally, I hope that this will become supplementary reading for tomorrow’s students, so they can see how the foundations of this remarkable industry were forged with the 24/7 strength and spirit of these pioneers.”

Alongside the book, published last September by Routledge, Ames also documents his stories from live on the road at his Road Stories website.

“I hope this book become supplementary reading for tomorrow’s students”

Live Music Production is divided into nine chapters – covering lighting, sound, stage design, full production services, rigging, trucking/outdoor staging, bussing/catering and travel agencies – featuring interviews with industry trailblazers such as Bryan Grant (Britannia Row), Del Roll (Edwin Shirley Trucking), Jon Cadbury (PRG), tour/production manager Roger Searle and late stage designer Ian Knight, as well as a foreword by promoter Harvey Goldsmith.

Ames began writing the book 11 years ago (“I’ve always wanted to tell the story of how this extraordinary industry that I have spent 40 years of my own professional life in came about”), and says he hopes Live Music Production will open the door for other similar ‘social histories’ of the live music business.

“I don’t believe that social history in my industry has really taken off yet,” he continues. “The benefits of knowledge of the past, in so many different spheres, can’t surely be disputed – but as for now, I hope to see more and more factual history research published for future generations to appreciate. [So the book is] pioneering, I hope.”

See below for selected (and frequently hilarious) extracts from the book, or buy your copy from RoutledgeIQ readers can benefit from 20% off by entering the discount code HUM19 at checkout.

 


In 1970, Jon Cadbury carries Pink Floyd’s gear to the Netherlands for a festival – with no paperwork…

“Jeff [Torrens, friend and Roundhouse colleague] and I were going to go off and tour Europe with our truck, and Ian [Knight] said, ‘Well, why don’t you just come and take the lights to this festival for us, and then go off on your travels?’

“I hadn’t actually worked out that if you take the lights out there then you are probably going to have bring them back again. Of course, we didn’t think about things like carnets, so we got on the ferry at Harwich got off at the Hook of Holland and customs impounded everything!

“The guys who became Mojo Concerts, Berry Visser and Léon Ramakers, eventually sorted it out; they were the people who promoted that festival [Holland Pop Festival 1970]. They paid some sort of bond that got the lights in and got them out again. I actually took the truck to Schiphol airport to collect the Floyd’s equipment when it came in, and had the band’s entire equipment in this seven-and-a-half-ton truck…

“There was no carnet, so I had to do a deal with the customs agent at Schiphol – which was basically, ‘I have got to get this to the site: they’re the headline act on this bill!’ My deal with this customs officer, who was a young guy who was into music, luckily for me, was that he would release the equipment and he would come to the site with me as long as he could collect a bond.

“So I went to the site and told the organisers and [Floyd manager] Steve O’Rourke that we couldn’t actually unload the truck. I said I wouldn’t let it out of my truck until the customs officer had got his bond – which was probably exceeding my brief somewhat – but we got there. Everyone was passing the buck to someone else to pay the bond and I said, ‘Well, I’ll have to take it back to the airport, then. That was the deal I made with this guy, so if you don’t sort it out…’

“So they did pay the bond and it did happen,the Floyd made an album with all of their equipment lined up in a great photo on an aerodrome [the back sleeve of Ummagumma]. That was that equipment and those were the roadies who were dealing with it. It’s extraordinary.”

“Of course, we didn’t think about things like carnets…”

It’s 1973, and then-junior lighting crew member Brian Croft is on a Lockheed L-749 Constellation from Hawaii to Australia on a Rolling Stones tour…

“It was unbelievable – it was cold, there was no heating, no soundproofing, you couldn’t speak to anybody, couldn’t read really or anything – but it became a big thing and we had a tongue painted on it when we were in Sydney, and then we flew all round Australia. Of course, the band, [including] Keith [Richards, along with] Bobby Keys and Jim [Price] the trumpet player, all came on the plane, and then we are halfway across from Perth back to Sydney and Keith says he has had enough.

“‘I’ve had fun, drunk all the beer’, and all that, but you look down and there is nothing but desert. ‘Well, you can’t stop here, Keith – it’s a long way, it’s like 12 hours!’ So that was a bit of a nightmare. Up until now I’d been doing a lot of straight theatre, and it was almost like an out-of-body experience seeing these mad frontiersmen and hippies, and I’m part of it and risking my life for the glory of the Rolling Stones.

“It’s like madness when you think about it now, but we had some great fun. The important thing about that tour was when the entourage – the whole group: crew, band, roadies, tour manager, probably 22 people – would all go and have dinner together. That was what was nice about it: you would all sit down and have dinner together because it wasn’t an unmanageable number, whereas it’s hundreds now in the touring party.”

“it was almost like an out-of-body experience seeing these mad frontiersmen and hippies”

In 1976, travel agent Mike Hawksworth goes into his office, shared with the Who’s manager, Bill Curbishley…

“At about nine o’clock the phone started ringing. [Curbishley’s] receptionist wasn’t in, so I went to pick up the phone, and it was one of those old phones […] where you have to take the receiver off to dial a number. I’ve gone to pick up the phone receiver and the whole unit comes up – the receiver hasn’t come off; the whole unit has lifted off the desk.

“I said, ‘What the hell?’, but it kept ringing and ringing, so I went over to the next one and try to pick up the receiver, and the whole unit comes up again.

“There are six phones in the office [glued together] like this, out of seven phones: [The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon] had left one unstuck.

“I answered it and Keith said, ‘It took you long enough to answer the bloody phone, didn’t it? If this is the service I’m going to get, then I’m going elsewhere!’ and he put the phone down.”

“We ended up with a gladiatorial match between a forklift truck and an old car”

Led Zeppelin rigger Jon Bray recalls crew days off Knebworth in 1979…

“We had a long gap between the first and second show. The site was sort of empty, apart from a handful of us living there with our caravan. We had some very interesting times there.

“One night, things got rather out of hand and we ended up with a gladiatorial match between a forklift truck and an old car. Somebody tried to do donuts with the car on stage. I don’t know how nobody got killed, actually – we must have been fairly out of it. The car ended up being absolutely destroyed…”

 


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Rigger dies amid turbulent Global Citizen: Mandela 100

A rigger who lost his life setting up Sunday’s Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 in Johannesburg has been named as Siyabonga Ngodze.

Ngodze, an experienced rigger who formed part of the charity concert’s production team, plummeted to his death on Saturday 1 December. He was helping to set up the stage for the mega-event, hosted by South African comedian Trevor Noah and headlined by Beyoncé and Jay-Z, at FNB Stadium (94,736-cap.) in the Soweto township.

Global Citizen spokesperson Andrew Kirk says the festival is looking into the circumstances surrounding Ngodze’s death. “A rigger working on behalf of a production partner for the Global Citizen Festival suffered fatal injuries arising from a fall at the site,” he tells South Africa’s Sunday Times.

“Global Citizen has been advised that the deceased was an experienced rigger and was wearing all appropriate safety gear and equipment. The circumstances around his death are being investigated.

“Global Citizen extends our deepest sympathies to the family of the deceased and all of his colleagues and friends.”

The free-ticketed Mandela 100 event – which also featured performances by Ed Sheeran, Eddie Vedder, Pharrell Williams and Chris Martin, Wizkid, Usher, Femi Kuti and Cassper Nyovest – aimed to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, the late Marxist revolutionary and former South African president, and continue his fight against extreme poverty.

“Global Citizen extends our deepest sympathies to the family of the deceased”

Current South African president Cyril Ramaphosa used the festival to pledge significant commitments towards education (R60 billion/US$4.4bn and youth projects (R2bn/$147.5m).

“Nelson Mandela has taught us that it is not the influential, the rich or the powerful who make history, but those citizens who are determined to make a difference,” he said.

Actions taken by ‘Global Citizens’ in the run-up to the event are additionally worth nearly R100bn ($7bn), according to the Global Poverty Project, the organisation behind Global Citizen.

Despite the positive economic impact, the Mandela 100 event was also marred by reports of violent assaults and thefts on concertgoers exiting the stadium. “The criminals were basically having a field day,” said Zikhona Tshona, a reporter for the South African news outlet eNCA, the Associated Press reports.

Jacques Grobbelaar of the venue’s operator, Stadium Management, blames the muggings on the lack of police presence, saying while security was tight when the festival kicked off, it thinned out as the evening wore on.

“What we saw happen last night in the precinct is a direct result of the lack of resources in the parking areas, on roads in, near and adjacent to the stadium and the road functions,” he tells Eyewitness News, “which in terms of the planning, were meant to be executed by the JMPD [Johannesburg Metro Police Department] and the South African Police Service.”

 


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The steel magnates

One of the major beneficiaries of the growth of the live music industry, and the many festivals and tours that are now constantly on the road, is the steel business – the engineers and crew who erect everything from the most basic fencing through to the most elaborate stage sets that audiences have ever witnessed. But we ain’t seen nothing yet…

The list of suppliers now operating in the steel sector is vast, but among the best known experts are the likes of Star Events Group, Stageco, Megaforce, Eve Lion Trackhire (formerly Eve Trakway), Prolyte, All Access Inc, Tait Towers, Gearhouse, Mojo Barriers and eps, some of whom tell IQ that, against the backdrop of a tough economic reality, 2016 has been better than they hoped. Others report it far exceeded forecasts; suggesting a mixed bag, but not one doused in misery.

“It’s been better than a good one – it’s been the best!” says an ebullient Tom Bilsen, operations director for Stageco, of the past year for his company, which worked on major tours by Beyoncé, AC/DC, Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen and Rihanna. “We have never had this much work in one year. We have never had as many stages out at the same time. But it also means we have never had as much turnover that reflects the amount of work we did throughout the whole year.”

Michael Brombacher, CEO of staging rivals Megaforce, says, “The demands of classic festivals and concerts/artists, did not really change in recent years concerning steel and structures. But festivals more and more want to offer their audiences different attractions in one place, so there is not only a main stage, but also a second stage, chill out area, camping area, VIP platform, club area and so on.

“2016 was a busy year for stadium cover”

“They offer different themes in one festival in order to create a kind of adventure event with the character of a vacation including camping.”

On the back of a bumper 2016, supplying stages and support structures to festivals, stadium shows, sports events, brand activations and more besides, Star Events special projects director Roger Barrett is busy developing infrastructure for the new year. “Further investment of over £1.5 million [€1.8m] before next summer will see festival mainstay Orbit Flexidome rebranded as Orbit Arch, with more height, floor space and rigging capacity, while a new, touring ‘Ultra’ version of the flagship VerTech stage system will be unveiled in early 2017 too,” Barrett reports.

David Walkden of Eve Trakway says that major stadium shows by acts like Rod Stewart, Elton John and Beyoncé – as well as recurring work at festivals such as Glastonbury, Isle of Wight and Bestival – provided an uptick for his company this year. “2016 was a busy year for stadium cover,” he says. “We serviced over 30 stadiums in the UK, providing promoters with heavy-duty trackway to enable safe access into venues, which is paramount for the protection of their production infrastructure.”

 


Read the rest of this feature in issue 69 of IQ Magazine.


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Trailblazer scheme bears fruit in Blackout hires

Blackout has appointed the industry’s first Trailblazer rigging apprentices in a double hire.

The rigging/drapes supplier was one five companies to take part in a trial day for the Trailblazer scheme – a British government-backed initiative to create three million new apprentices by 2020 – at Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham last June.

Roisin McClearn and Bridie Lane, selected from more than 70 applicants, joined Blackout’s London office earlier in November and have since “been involved in every aspect of day-to-day life in the warehouse, working with drapes, seams, rigging, truck loading and unloading, stock taking, prepping for jobs and ongoing equipment maintenance”, says the company, which also has an office in Paris.

“It has been a pleasure to welcome Rosin and Bridie to the team and I look forward to see them develop skills and industry knowledge with us over the next three years”

Blackout project manager Alex Duke comments: “Now three months into the new industry training scheme, both of our new apprentices have very quickly rolled up their sleeves and displayed an eagerness to immerse themselves into all elements of the business and the experiences the events industry offers.

“They have quickly picked up navigating around our extensive warehouse, picking jobs, learning the processes of simple truss installations and hanging of drapes. It has been a pleasure to welcome Rosin and Bridie to the team and I look forward to see them develop skills and industry knowledge with us over the next three years.”

 


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New rigging apprenticeship trialled in UK

Rigging experts from Blackout, UK Rigging, RTM Rigging, Production Services Ireland (PSI) and the NEC Group came together at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham late last month for a trial run of the UK’s new live event rigging apprenticeship.

The apprenticeship, developed by the National Rigging Advisory Group (NRAG) as part of the British government’s Trailblazer scheme to create three million new apprentices by 2020, is designed to plug a gap in the number of trainees created by increasing demand for riggers for live events.

Apprentices will follow an on-the-job training programme accompanied by, among other things, certificated courses and two week-long residentials. Successful candidates will obtain a level-3 national vocational qualification (NVQ).

Six trainee volunteer riggers from Blackout and the NEC Group undertook a test rigging installation at the arena on 29 June, observed by assessors Mark Armstrong (RTM Rigging), Harry Box (UK Rigging), Sean Pagel (PSI) and rigging consultant Eric Porter. The assessors marked the trainees against six criteria: general health and safety; work methods; rigging skills and techniques; working at height; team work; and communication and behaviours.

“This apprenticeship is a big move for the industry, so ensuring the right assessment methods are implemented is paramount to its success”

Paul Rowlands, rigging development manager for the NEC Group, says: “The [trial] day provided us with some very insightful feedback that can be used when modifying the final assessment product. By involving both current trainees and an expert assessment team, we hope to provide a well-rounded and thorough apprenticeship, which stands apprentices in good stead for a career in rigging.

“This is a big move for the industry, so ensuring the right assessment methods are implemented is paramount to its success.”

Anyone interested in applying for the apprenticeship should email jobs@blackout.co.uk.

IQ revealed earlier this month that Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR) is lobbying the British government to create a similar apprenticeship for aspiring ticket agents.

 


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