Bokamoso And Vespasian Security Produce Peace Concert In South Sudan
(Africa) On September 21st, World Peace Day, the production team behind the Lake of Stars Festival, Bokamoso, were in South Sudan to organise the first ever peace concert in the world’s newest country.
Bokamoso were working for South Sudanese international musician, peace ambassador and ex-child soldier, Emmanuel Jal, who’s We Want Peace campaign culminated in the concert and gala dinner in Juba, the country’s capital. The concert featured Jal’s own band, local artists Silver X and Lamb and the first American hip hop artist to play South Sudan, DMC, from legendary group Run DMC.
In honour of Emmanuel Jal’s We Want Peace efforts, Dr. Riek Machar, the Vice President, attended the events that were held at Independence Hall and aimed to bring together key players from the international and local communities - to help build the future for South Sudan.
Bokamoso’s team included Director, Will Jameson, Vespasian Security MD, Oliver Gardner, Craig Williams from Audile and freelance Production Manager, Anna Cox, fresh from producing the Paralympics Closing Ceremony. The team faced huge logistical challenges, not to mention concerns over suitability of equipment and crowd management. Even getting their Brentwood Communications radios past airport officials took three hours.
Bokamoso managed the We Want Peace (WWP) team of local volunteers, devised a crowd management plan, sourced the best local equipment, and built the country’s first ever pit barrier:
“The trick to working within this environment is to know what challenges that must be overcome and which challenges need to be worked with. “The lack of a proper crowd barrier, along with the previous military experience of the expected demographic, was of significant concern to me and needed to be planned for or overcome. Anna Cox had the brain wave of using some spare metal framed wooden flooring panels from the marquees’ structure, coupled with sturdy tables to construct a front of stage pit barrier. After some very heavy lifting in 35°C plus heat, the ‘barrier’ sections were constructed and braced against the stage, due to the floor being entirely marble without the hope of traction,” said Oliver Gardiner, Vespasian Security.
He continued: “The very fact we are working in a brand new country that has recently seen intense conflict means that it is even more important that high profile large events go well and without incident. The city of Juba is rapidly expanding and seeing investment from abroad pouring in. I hope that our presence and input into the WWP 2012 concert helps South Sudan as a whole.”
During the initial recce Vespasian found very little crowd safety knowledge within South Sudan. There is however a new and thriving events industry in Juba based around small live music gigs. The focus of Vespasian was to re-direct the focus of the local security team from crowd control to crowd management.
Vespasian has strong links to Africa, having trained and led the crowd management and security teams at the Lake of Stars Festival in Malawi since 2009.
Gardiner went on to say: “Africa as a whole is an emerging market for crowd management. I believe it is the responsibility of those companies and individuals that have experience and higher qualifications in crowd management, to work with new companies in the region. Passing on this firsthand experience is the swiftest way to train the operational teams on the ground. I hope that we can help these emerging companies avoid the pit falls of trial and error crowd safety systems.”
Getting the best out of the sound equipment was a challenge for head engineer, Craig Williams, who has run the sound at the Lake of Stars Festival since 2007.
He said: “Firstly sourcing a PA was difficult as there are very few people in Juba with any kind of speakers, so it was a bit of ‘get what I can and deal with it.’ We eventually trawled through some rasta yards and found some EV front-loaded boxes - the model number was long gone from the plates - as the best option for top boxes,and from the same guys came some homemade looking scoop bins for subs. They said they were cerwin vega but again no ID plates. Four tops and four subs per side were sorted, all powered with crest audio ca18 amps, and a dodgy Behringer crossover.
“We then move to onstage kit. DI boxes do not exist in South Sudan, so I had to take a slightly different approach. I had to use a Yamaha 12 channel mixer to bounce everything with a jack cable onstage, into a stereo sum mix and send that stereo mix to another of the same mixer at front of house, the mixer model was also unidentifiable, and I’m not totally convinced it was actually made by Yamaha as we saw in the local ‘market’ many of these being made from old parts of other desks. I also can’t find anything like it in the Yamaha products lists!”
Williams continued: “Then came the power situation. There were two huge generators at the venue because Juba has rolling power cuts. While fitting a roof over the main junction box from the generator, a worker dropped a used welding rod into the live box, which made a big noise, some smoke, and a big carbon char in the box! The stage again was very basic with bare wires shoved in to plug sockets, a mix of UK, South African, American plugs. Quote of the week from me was probably ‘If you don’t want anyone to die, we need more plugs’.”
The Bokamoso team worked tirelessly to ensure that the power, PA, and lighting at the concert was of an acceptable safety standard. Then with armed police and security in place it was time to open the gates. Over 1,200 people attended the evening concert including government Ministers, NGO workers, UN staff and a large local crowd.
The atmosphere was incredible. When DMC took to the stage the audience jumped up and started dancing and continued with renewed energy when local hero, Emmanuel Jal, started to perform with his band. Shouts of ‘We want peace, we’re gonna get it!’ reverberated throughout the venue. A highpoint was DMC joining Jal at the end of the night to perform the We Want Peace single. Smiles and Victory signs could be seen throughout Independence Hall as the world’s youngest country celebrated.
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