Backstage Academy students and graduates showcased their skills on the international stage in July, providing hands-on support for Danish music festival, Grøn Koncert.
A team of 18 played a central role in the festival’s operations, helping set up and take down two huge stages during the eight one-day events held across different cities in Denmark.
After a COVID-19 induced hiatus, this year’s Grøn Koncert proved popular, with eager festival goers buying advance tickets in record numbers and with up to 30,000 people attending each event.
Featuring mainly homegrown bands and artists, and this year headlined by Danish hip-hop act, Suspekt, Grøn differs from traditional festivals such as Glastonbury, in that it tours around the country rather than being based in one location. It’s also unusual in that it’s a non-profit festival, with all proceeds being donated to muscular dystrophy, a common disease across Scandinavia.
Having previously worked with Backstage Academy students and knowing how valuable their skills and experience in the live events sector would be, Grøn’s organisers once again invited the institution’s students to form part of the 650 festival crew, giving them an unrivalled opportunity to also gain international experience and enjoy a festival like no other.
Following his involvement in the 2019 rendition, Ross Wickison – a live events production graduate who now works as a studio coordinator at Production Park – reenlisted with the Grøn Koncert family. “As soon as I realised the festival was back, I immediately booked some time off work to fly out to Denmark and volunteer again,” he enthused, speaking to TPi as the dust settled on the event. “Everyone involved does it out of the goodness of their heart as a means of goodwill and charity.”
In return for their efforts, students received free flights and accommodation, together with food, drink and transport from city to city. They also got a three-day ‘down’ period to enjoy the festival and see the sights of Denmark.
During the festival, the students were organised into three teams, the Up Team and the Down Team. The Up Team was responsible for erecting the stages, with rigging starting at 3am and finishing at 10.30am.
With the same crew this time around, Wickison’s expertise was harnessed on Novastage, a smaller, second stage, which requires a smaller, tight-knit crew but the build is much faster before moving back to the main stage. “I was upcrew, so we would begin our shift at around 3am, help build the stage from scratch until 9am with multi crew, and then move on to the entrance gate – checking bags, scanning tickets until 3pm, relax until half 5pm, and move onto the next build.”
Once the lengthy setup was completed, they were able to get some much-needed sleep on the tour bus while they were ferried to the next location. The Down Team, meanwhile, waited behind for the events to finish, before dismantling the stages. They then travelled with the rig to the next event.
Tyler Palmer, a second year live event production course student, specialising in visuals at Backstage Academy, embarked on his first year as upcrew on the main stage and his first experience working abroad. “Not having toured before, adjusting to a sleep schedule was a challenge. You get off site at 5pm, straight to accommodation which is two hours away, go to bed and wake up at 1am to 2am in the morning to travel to the next site. Thankfully, the crew are all accommodating, experienced and speak excellent English.”
Wickison concurred, noting the sleep schedule as challenging with little lead time. “The pace of production isn’t something you’d find in the UK, the high intensity is next level. Where we would typically build a stage or a festival site in a matter of days, here at Grøn Koncert, everything is built within three hours. From my experience, UK local crew usually wait for further instruction before moving onto another task, while the Danish workforce are much more pragmatic and assist where required, which speeds up the entire production process.”
Backstage Academy student, Jason Phillips, said of the experience: “Working at Grøn was incredible! The experience is amazing for our CVs and the contacts we’ve made out here are just as important. We’ve toured the whole of Denmark, met some awesome people and got to play a big role in producing a brilliant festival.”
Jacob Bostrup, Crew Chief for Grøn Koncert, praised the involvement of UK workers: “Backstage Academy’s students are in a league of their own! We request crew from Backstage every year because their students are super passionate, skilled and industry ready. They’ve been phenomenal throughout the tour – we couldn’t have done it without them! It’s also invaluable real-world experience for them, as they get to work on an international tour before they’ve even graduated.”
Reflecting on the success of the event, Industry Partnerships Director at Backstage Academy, Miles Marsden cited the “professional, organised and coordinated” nature of the operation: “This was a real representation of live events community and society – everyone from the Backstage Academy students to local volunteers and the clean-up crew who represented their local sports teams and their community – were phenomenal.”