Folk by the Oak was the last festival to adhere to tier three COVID-19 guidelines, following the easing of lockdown restrictions. The husband and wife team of Caroline and Adam Slough of JSL Productions were determined to host the event for their festival team, artists and loyal audience, despite the additional COVID-19 hoops they had to jump through – enlisting the support of Symphotech to make the event a reality.
“We turn-around from Saturday’s proms event overnight, to the folk festival on Sunday with quite a small crew and we keep infrastructure light to make that possible with a reduced night’s sleep,” Adam told TPi. “It’s a big transformation from a classical show, with battle recreations and half a dozen concessions, to the folk festival, with 60 concessions and a totally different vibe and audience. Hospitality tents become craft tents, the concert pavilion becomes a vintage tent and a family area, with a climbing wall, archery, recycled crafts and much more is added. We worked very closely with our production partners at Symphotech, whose health and safety capability was invaluable, so we were confident we could adapt the site to make it safe within the parameters of government guidance around COVID-19.”
During the winter months, JSL Productions received valuable information and assistance as members of the Association of Festival Organisers (AFO). “Their Chair, Steve Heap, was always supportive. We took advantage of the Recover & Reopen sessions, run by Symphotech, and at the AFO annual conference and that information underpinned our planning,” Adam recalled.
“Our production management has always been undertaken by Symphotech. They guided us through the COVID event protocols and made sure we haven’t suffered supplier shortages through advance planning.”
With them, Adam and the team stayed in touch with their supply chain through 2020/2021, forging new relationships in response to this summer’s supply challenges. “Here we are sitting backstage at a new stage, which has come from Evolution in Manchester. It’s a mobile stage with 180 sq m of floorspace and hydraulic technology for safe working. The incoming production teams and artists are all loving it. We’ve also brought in new sound and lighting suppliers this year, Solotech and LiteUp, who also coordinated the lighting, which we wanted to be LED, as one of our steps towards reducing the festival’s carbon impact.”
Caroline joined the conversation: “Symphotech, having been with us from the start, are a cornerstone of getting the event on. Their extensive experience across the industry coupled with an in-depth understanding of our events means they achieve what we want to deliver to our audience and artists. They’re vital in creating the family-friendly, safe, relaxed atmosphere that permeates the whole site.” Symphotech is best known for event health and safety services, but these Battle Proms Picnic Concerts and Folk By The Oak draw on production management and artist liaison skills. Symphotech Director, Claire Feeney has managed artist liaison for all 12 years of these shows. Having the technical production know-how ensures the artist’s requirements on stage are met. “John Gray stepped into the role of production and stage manager. Having our regular sound engineer Chris Madden, from Capital Sound, with us was great. He’s a master when it comes to mixing the live 35-piece orchestra on Saturday and certainly made sure the sound was excellent for all of the artists playing Folk by The Oak,” Feeney said.
The Symphotech team at Folk by the Oak also included Sophia Livett, who runs the Acoustech noise monitoring division, as well as trainees Dom and Alex. Feeney also commended local crewing company, DNG. “It’s been a challenging run to the show, with all of the uncertainty around the government regulations and what might happen with the pandemic, and not to mention the knock-on production and supply challenges we’re all facing,” Feeney concluded. “I have to say, ‘hats off’ to Adam, Caroline, and the rest of the JSL Productions team for holding their nerve and putting on another unforgettable
weekend of entertainment.”