NRG spotlights local students at the Eurovision Song Contest

Megan Parry and Ben Ashfield of Cheshire College South & West and Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) students, Adannae Okeke and Peter Bird reflect on their involvement in the Eurovision Song Contest as followspot operators, courtesy of Next Robe Generation (NRG).

What first sparked your interest in NRG?

MP: “I first found an interest in the NRG programme during my first year in college while visiting PLASA Leeds. Being able to see all these job opportunities really excited me!”

BA: “With CCSW partnered with NRG, we get great opportunities to work with Robe and regular NRG workshops.”

AO: “The world and lighting is changing. With RoboSpots taking over at so many fantastic and large events, it allows the operator to work in such a different way. There’s no more hanging from trusses or harnessed in awkward places in the depths of theatres and arenas. Being a part of NRG allows me to play a part in that change.”

PB: “I have been aware of Robe for several years, but it was only since I joined LIPA that I found out about the NRG programme. I first joined when I had the opportunity to do an initial RoboSpot training session and found out about some of the opportunities it could offer students. Ever since becoming a member, I have had so much support available for the Eurovision technical placement and I’m really looking forward to future opportunities that may become available through NRG.”

How did you land the role and how did it feel once you received confirmation?

MP: “I landed this opportunity through the RoboSpot Training set up with NRG. It was amazing to work with Tim and to learn about how followspot roles are showcased in the live events and TV industry. I was inspired to work on Eurovision as I have been a fan of the competition for quite a while. It was so exciting to work on a show that the likes of Måneskin and Mika have competed in!”

BA: “We had a workshop with Robe and Tim Routledge. They came to our college with NRG and we did our training on the Robe spotlights; it was great to rig and set up the spotlights and the operating system and we did some test runs showing Tim our skills in operating the Robe spot. It’s such a huge event and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event with it being in Liverpool and the size of it.”

AO: “It all started with an introduction with Robe coming into LIPA to do an NRG workshop on the RoboSpots. Tim Rouledge himself, came to LIPA to introduce the equipment to us and talk about the kind of work that he does. It was pretty breathtaking to see his work in all its glory because what he does with light is incredible. I’ve always watched Eurovision for the past few decades, so to be hand selected to join the team by Tim Routledge was an honour and a privilege. Eurovision is watched by millions of people all around the world.”

PB: “During the Robe RoboSpot training session at LIPA in January, we were lucky enough to have a lighting design for a television lecture by Tim Routledge. It was during this that I first met Tim and found out he was looking for some NRG students to take with him as followspot operators. A few weeks later, I received a call from my lecturer at LIPA telling me I was given the chance to be a stand-by operator. I was absolutely overjoyed, and even more so when I received an email from Tim shortly after explaining that an extra placement was available, giving me a spot operator position on the show. Eurovision has always been something that has brought people together through music. As soon as I heard about the opportunity, I was immediately drawn to being part of a team I knew would create visually stunning performances for a prestigious international event. Being able to play a role in such a huge show that celebrates creativity was a major inspiration for me to get involved. Having the chance to work and gain experience from some of the biggest names in the industry was a big factor in wanting to take part.”

What did you learn working with Lighting Designer, Tim Routledge?

MP: “It was very exciting. He was so welcoming and wished us good luck before every show.”

AO: “Anything is possible. He works so fast and hard to get everything done. What the client wants he goes above and beyond to make it happen. When you think about how something is possible, before you know it the arena is filled with the most beautiful lighting designs that the eye could see. You really had to be there to witness it. I would love to work with Tim again, if ever given the opportunity. Eurovision was such an eye opener and experience that I am now considering lighting design for my second year at drama school.”

BA: “I learned so much from Tim, he’s a real inspiration and I enjoyed working with him so much showing me all the desks used explaining how it all works it was incredible.”

PB: “I found it insightful to hear his thought process when making changes to lighting sequences and to observe how the design of certain sections changed as rehearsals progressed. It was amazing to see the attention to detail that goes into his designs and how the team collaborated to make the vision come to life. It has been such a privilege to have the opportunity to work with such an esteemed lighting designer.”

What advice would you offer others looking to follow in your footsteps?

MP: “Be yourself, work hard and strive for big opportunities.”

BA: “Step up, always be prepared, show confidence and care about what you do.”

AO: “Just do it. If you have a passion and a want for something, then don’t hesitate to make it happen. Talk to lots of people. Ask for advice and tips. You never know what your full interests are until you have that hands-on approach and positive attitude.”

PB: “Grasp every opportunity that comes your way, you never know what it might lead to. I believe you’re more likely to have things come your way when you make contacts, start networking and be in the right surroundings. For instance, I wouldn’t have been given this chance if I didn’t go to LIPA.”

Could you sum up the experience?

MP: “The whole experience for me was truly a dream come true. It felt unreal to be working on Eurovision with so many people watching from all over the world!”

BA: “It felt unreal. I can’t believe I was a part of this show which brings the world together. It was incredible!”

AO: “Thrilling, exciting and surreal. Being surrounded by so many wonderful and talented creatives, I was in awe that I was in such an incredible moment in history. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am so proud of myself for getting through it. It was something different and new, but I truly felt like I belonged. This is the avenue I was always meant to pursue, and I am extremely excited for what the future may hold.”

PB: “It was an incredibly surreal experience. It was a mixture of excitement, pride, and a sense of being part of something truly special. Having the chance to work with some of the best people in this industry at the top of their respective fields has been such an honour and something I can’t quite believe has happened. It was an unforgettable experience that I will cherish for a lifetime.”

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This article originally appeared in issue #276 of TPi, which you can read here.

Words: Jacob Waite

Photos: NRG