BoomTown held the eighth edition of its wildly idiosyncratic festival from 11 – 14 August in Hampshire, UK. With an increased capacity of 60,000, featuring nine fully themed and diverse districts, over 80 street venues, all manner of immersive arts programming, and more renowned acts than you could count on seven hands the 2016 event was something to behold.
In anticipation of more people on the ground, sustainability steps were taken at BoomTown Fair to minimise the festival’s impact on its surrounding environment. With audience travel contributing around 70% of an event’s carbon footprint, BoomTown encouraged eco-conscious travel and facilitated reduced congestion via a number of public transport initiatives, including coach and festival ticket packages, shuttle buses from the train station, and car share schemes. To help those who opted to travel via public transport, the event organisers offered a couple of pre-pitched tent hire options to help minimise the load and encourage attendees to only bring what they needed and intended to take home.
Sticking to the promotion of environmental awareness and sustainability, BoomTown’s main charity partner for 2016 was Energy Revolution. Every penny donated was directly invested into clean, green energy projects to help balance travel emissions.
BoomTown’s charitable and sustainable ethos went even further, with a vast amount of guilt-free shopping available across a spectrum of charity shops. Vintage clothing could be found at Help Refugees, where items – at a stall decorated by refugees from the ‘Jungle’ in Calais – had been donated to its Calais refugees project. For the fancy dress lovers who wanted to preserve memories, the Barrio Loco crew snuck a photo booth into the set. For those who may have left some essentials behind, the Oxfam Festival Shop had a range of second hand items – from practical warm and waterproof clothing to sparkly and vintage wares. All money raised went directly towards helping people all over the world fight against poverty.
AN IMMERSIVE METROPOLIS
For its sixth year supplying the immersive metropolis, Utopium provided lighting and rigging equipment to 12 stages and venues across the site, including the Town Centre, The Lion’s Den, The Jolly Dodger, The Old Mines, The Ballroom, Rusty Spurs and Tangled Roots.
To illuminate The Lion’s Den stage, which is the largest reggae stage in the country, Utopium used a host of equipment from its existing inventory including Martin by Harman MAC Quantum Profiles, SGM P-2 LED Washlights, Chauvet Professional COLORado 1-Quad IP LED PARs along with 32 Chauvet Rogue RH1 Hybrids. To enhance the ambience, Utopium also installed lighting to the six towers around The Lion’s Den area, a new addition to the arena for this year.
In addition to lighting, control, trussing and rigging for the festival’s stages, Utopium was also tasked with providing all of the architectural lighting within the Town Centre, to enable the cityscape to be synchronised with the stage lighting.
Utopium’s Jon Newman commented: “This is our sixth year working with BoomTown, and every year we love having the chance to provide something a little bit different for both the stages and the sets. BoomTown is constantly looking to push creative boundaries and it’s great to be part of that.
“This year we installed lighting and rigging throughout the various districts, and enhanced our offering to The Lion’s Den stage, which produced a fantastic end result. We had a great team onsite, including Will Howie, who designed and project managed the installations, ensuring that each was in keeping with the style of the stage and the district it sat within. Will did a tremendous job in the planning stages and onsite, directing his team to deliver the project as specified and on time. As well as increasing the kit and utilising some of our new equipment, Avolites’ Steve Warren also supplied us with The Avolites Arena, its newest console, which suited our team and the touring lighting designers very well.”
Sector 6 – the festival’s dystopian district – has grown considerably in recent years. Expansion in production and theatrics has resulted in a set to rival that of the Bang Hai Palace and now has a line-up to reflect its new status. The brainchild of Dan Borg, the crazy set design was created from several tonnes of reconditioned scrap metal and much ingenuity as a living, moving, breathing industrial sculpture – inspired by iconic structural components from steel works, power stations, and nuclear reactors.
Borg and BoomTown’s Production Manager Robin Collins asked Dave Whiteoak of Video Illusions to be Visual Production Manager and Video Designer, tasked with co-ordinating visual production elements from lighting to video content creation. Whiteoak commissioned LD Sam Tozer from Vision Factory – a regular LD on Video Illusions projects – to add some original lighting magic to Sector 6.
Video Illusions, which works closely with leading UK lighting rental company GLS, asked the company to specify and provide the appropriate lighting kit.
Director of GLS, Ian Turner, said: “We were delighted to be involved with an invigorating, fresh and imaginative project like this. The set was completely stunning, Dave’s video was amazing, Tozer made a fantastic job of the lighting and it was clear that much thought and precision went into creating a fantastic visual harmony.”
Lighting was a carefully struck balance between architectural sources highlighting and emphasising the meticulous scenic detail of the structure – which included several moving parts – and the effects lighting needed to immerse the audience fully in the Sector 6 narrative.
It was also absolutely crucial that the lighting kit survived the event whatever the weather, so the vast majority of it was IP65 rated and from leading brand SGM, in which the HSL family has made major investments this year.
Turner continued: “This stage was about using the right kit in the right place. On a structure this huge, inflatable domes just don’t cut it. We agreed from the start to specify IP rated lights that did the business and could survive whatever meteorology was thrown at them. The SGM range was ideal.”
The total SGM count was over 150 fixtures with 29 G-Spot moving lights, 32 Ribalta LED battens, 22 Q-7 LED strobes, 22 P-5 LED wash lights, 30 Q-2 strobe / floods and 16 G1 moving head beams.
They were joined by six Clay Paky Sharpies in weather domes, six Atomic 3000 strobes, 31 LED PARs, 12 GLP X4 impression wash lights and six ZR33 hazers, which worked hard every night to maintain smoke coverage. All of these were run through the lighting console operated by Paul De Villiers.
The 63m wide x 35m high stage was divided into four key areas for lighting purposes. Stage right was for the pistons and oil silos; the centre was split into two sections, the main centrepiece and inside that, the DJ booth, which was treated separately. Stage left was for the wheels and chimneys.
To add an extra dimension of set lighting, four large trussing towers were installed at the back to add height and facilitate fixtures that could shoot up into the sky.
The 29 G-Spots were the workhorse fixtures on the rig, and these were dotted throughout the four areas, mostly clamped onto the structure itself.
Eight of the G-1 Beams were rigged to the towers together with eight Q-7s, which provided a searchlight effect visible from all over the site.
A principal focal point was a 12 x 15 panel circular LED wall wrapped in G-1 Beams which was flown above the main DJ booth and above that, nearing the ‘crown’ of the structure, was an 8m circular video screen with another eight G-1’s around the perimeter.
The Q-7’s were also scattered around both side sections, with another 10 on towers around the arena, enveloping the audience and drawing them into the action.
The P-5 LED floods were the main architectural lights, grazing up the metalwork, highlighting the different metals and raw material, texturing and providing key light in strategic areas like through the windows. They also created some effective shadowing across the moving parts, enhancing the depth of the space.
The smaller P-2 LED floods / strobes were ensconced in the tighter positions and used to create multi-tonal lighting.
Ribalta battens were positioned along the front of the stage for an even wash, and inside the DJ booth two banks of six GLP X4 Impressions were pixel mapped to create an eye-catching low-res pixel wall behind the DJ. Tozer was impressed with the SGM fixtures’ performance – both aesthetically and in their physical endurance.
When it came to programming, Paul de Villiers worked closely with Whiteoak to ensure continuity and fluidity between the lighting, visuals, lasers and pyro.
Working together with Simon Stuart of HSL and Ian Turner of GLS, Video Illusions accepted responsibility for delivery of both lighting and video design, and worked closely with Borg and Tozer on the integrated plan to light the structure and treat specific areas with customised video.
The video theme was based around the BoomTown’s masked man and industrial revolution steam punk. For the content animators providing an unusual concept meant they had something interesting and invigorating to work on in the studio.
“They pulled numerous elements together to create a flowing storyboard that ran coherently throughout the weekend,” said Whiteoak.
Video Illusions supplied 355 panels of its new high res IP-rated VI-L6 LED product giving 5500 Nits of brightness, which even with the lucky BoomTown sunshine blazing, still punched through with the fabulous steam punk animations.
A Resolume media server with six full HD outputs was used for control and with its new advanced mapping feature each section of LED could be mapped pixel by pixel.
The server’s new DXV 3 codec offered smooth and seamless playback for running the special nightly AV show, and video animators Kev Watts and Tom Wall could mix back-to-back when VJing throughout the weekend.
Gruelling though the whole Sector 6 experience was in terms of creating a highly original and bespoke environment for the first time, imagineering the lighting and visuals was also one of the most rewarding projects that Whiteoak has ever undertaken.
“Getting a text from Dan on the Sunday night after the final show and Robin saying it was literally the best rave-up atmosphere ever was such a great feeling,” he enthused. “It made everything worthwhile and recognised the incredible teamwork and synergy that united to make it all happen in such a spectacular fashion that was enjoyed by so much of the festival population.”
The team was supported further at Sector 6 by LED Techs Ross Jordan, Justin and Kai Murray, and Rigger James Box.
CRITICAL FACTORS FOR FESTIVAL SOUND
Rental company Audio Plus has been a longtime partner of BoomTown, having initially supplied equipment on a dry hire basis. This year it supplied audio for two stages – The Old Mine and Robotika – both of which made use of the latest Funktion-One system, Vero.
Audio Plus’ Kris Hayes talked TPi through the audio design: “Noise pollution is a critical factor in system designs for BoomTown. The Robotika stage ran until 2am every night, the time at which most sound systems on a festival site get turned down to avoid noise complaints. We addressed this issue by using Funktion-One’s prediction software, Projection.
“With Projection we can map in the areas where we want to concentrate the audio energy from Vero and look at reducing the energy in areas it isn’t wanted. We also liaised with the production company for BoomTown, AF Live and had the whole stage surrounded by two-high shipping containers – this allowed us to run louder than most stages on site. Noise pollution for The Old Mine stage was slightly less critical as it ran until 10pm each night and, due to the nature of the lineup, it wasn’t a nuisance to the local residents.”
Hayes explained that the festival’s production company was particularly keen on seeing what the Vero system was all about, given the pedigree and reputation of its manufacturer. “Like many of our customers, they were intrigued as it’s a completely new concept from Funktion-One. As soon as we played our first track on the Robotika stage, the production company were very impressed – not only with how it sounded but also how well contained the audio was within that arena. We had lots of guest engineers on The Old Mine stage who were delighted with how the system performed and enjoyed the characteristics it showed.”
The company deployed a relatively small crew one site, with System Tech Darren Clark on the Robotika stage, and Hayes acting as FOH / System Tech at The Old Mine stage alongside Monitor Engineer, Ben Peilow, and Stage / Patch Tech, Rob Humphries. The crew made use of its purpose-built LAKEDrive system at BoomTown, which incorporates Lake processing distributed via Dante to the PLMs driving the PA. Hayes said: “This system has been refined over the last four years and is now something many engineers and system techs envy! In reality it’s kept very simple but sometimes simplicity is the key.”
Elsewhere, Void Acoustics debuted the new Arcline 8 line array at BoomTown. Void’s technicians were onsite to tune and position the systems, ensuring that sound didn’t spill over to neighbouring stages and remained contained within the festival’s boundaries.
Void’s flagship system, Incubus, was a popular fixture at last year’s edition of the festival – with many attendees queuing to have their pictures taken next to the mighty stacks in the Barrio Loco district. This year Void systems were found on many stages, including Bassline Circus, Vamos, Mr Whompy, 24hr Garage Girls and The Dance-Off.
“We always look forward to the summer festival season and especially BoomTown,” said Void Acoustics’ Managing Director, Alex Skan. “The festival is particularly special to us due to numerous personal connections and our associated involvement with one of the best UK festivals of the year. This year was particularly exciting for us as it was the first appearance for our new Arcline 8 line array system.”
THE CONTINUATION OF AN INSTITUTION
Acorn Event Structures returned to BoomTown this year in a continuation of the two institutions’ auspicious relationship. Working closely with the in-house directors and creative designers for months before the event, Acorn was instrumental in helping to engineer a number of new aspects of the show’s production.
In addition to constructing The Lion’s Den and Old Mines stages, as well as miles of street façade like it has in previous years, Acorn was responsible for the 2016 debut of the industrial Sector 6.
Creating captivating structures in-line with the festival’s vast, ever-expanding lore and its propensity for ostentatious production necessitated the use of Acorn’s unique assets. With Europe’s largest stock of Layher Event System and Prolyte modular staging products, the event structures outfit had the requisite freedom and flexibility to translate BoomTown’s vision into reality, tailoring the various staging structures from stock components.
“With more and more festivals looking to differentiate their offering in a crowded marketplace, we anticipate an increase in demand for customised staging solutions,” said Emma Petty, Acorn’s Marketing Manager.
Aside from the aforementioned, Acorn’s full range of ancillary components include staircases, towers, ramps, gantries, walkways, bridges, grandstands, hoarding and facades – ensuring a turnkey solution for its clients.
A QUIRKEY NATURE
Mojo Barriers expanded on its presence at BoomTown by supplying 600m of kit to this year’s edition, which was installed across the entire festival site. Mojo’s barriers were installed at all festival stages, including The Lion’s Den, The Jolly Dodger, and the newly introduced Sector 6.
Kevin Thorborn, Mojo Barriers’ UK manager, commented: “The individual and quirky nature of BoomTown makes it such a special event and it’s great to see organisers pushing boundaries when it comes to creativity and imagination. BoomTown Fair is famed for its impressive stages and immersive set design and this year saw the introduction of the new district, Sector 6.
“As well as supplying new areas, we also installed our barriers at BoomTown’s infamous stages, including The Town Centre and The Lion’s Den stage, which is situated within a natural bowl, meaning we had to design an effective layout which matched the contour of the land. It’s great to be involved with such a progressive event, which keeps growing year on year, and we look forward to expanding our work with BoomTown Fair in the future.”
The idiosyncratic and production heavy nature of the site provided some minor challenges, but as Thorborn told TPi these were overcome with relative ease: “As we were supplying new areas of the festival site this year, it was a matter of visiting, checking the ground and the contours and designing a barrier layout to offer maximum crowd safety. As well as supplying new areas, we also installed our barriers at BoomTown’s infamous stages, including The Lion’s Den stage, which is situated within a natural bowl.
“This did pose some challenges when it came to a designing a barrier layout to fit safely within the bowl, however drawing on our experience from last year’s event we once again worked closely with the organisers to advise on a barrier configuration which offers maximum safety.”
Photos: HSL Group, Lindsay Cave @ loosplat and BoomTown