PSI at Belfast Festival

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Production Services Ireland (PSI) supplied technical and production management services and co-ordinated the supply of all sound, lighting and video equipment needed for the 2009 Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's 2009 - Ireland's biggest international festival.

This year was the 47th year for the event, a vibrant two week arts extravaganza organized by Queens University and sponsored by Ulster Bank staged in 32 venues in and around Belfast. It featured a wide range of performances including drama, dance, music, comedy, classical, opera, talks and debates, physical theatre and visual arts.

PSI has been involved for 12 years, and before that, the company's Sean Pagel was Belfast Festival's technical manager for some years. He comments, “It's a dynamic and exciting event with many technical challenges, for which we always enjoy putting a strong team together. It is great to have built up a successful history with Belfast Festival and to see it evolve and grow in profile in addition to working alongside so many others who share our passion and enthusiasm for live performance”.

One of the most logistically interesting shows was the turbo-charged, high octane site-specific work “MacBeth – Who Is That Bloodied Man?”, a motorcycle based performance by the Teatr Bauro Podrozy from Poland. Complete with storm troopers on bikes roaring up ramps with flaming torches, men on stilts as the witches and Macbeth drag a naked man in a cage!

PSI appointed Richard Hall as their MacBeth project manager who was instrumental in finding a suitable venue. For obvious reasons, it had to be outdoors. Other criteria included being relatively sheltered from the elements, accessible to the public and somewhere where the street lights could be extinguished for the show.

Correy Road car park in the Docklands area (a space once serving the Stena Line ferries) became the site in a late switch from that originally proposed. PSI installed all the necessary infrastructure and facilities – including audience areas, toilets, lighting and sound reinforcement, etc - to transform it into an exciting urban performance space.

PSI deployed at least 20 ‘interchangeable' crew to swap between the various venues for the duration of the Festival and appointed James McFetridge as overall project manager. One of his roles was to liaise with the full time technical staff at the city's 3 main venues – Waterfront Hall, Ulster Hall and the Grand Opera House – which were all very much involved in the festival action. McFetridge ensured that all elements were in place to meet the different shows' specs, which usually involved a combination of available house kit and PSI supplied ‘extras' where required!

A Spiegeltent - a circular style enclosure that has been used as a temporary venue since its creation in the early 20th century – was erected in Customs House Square. Each night this featured a lively schedule of cabaret, comedy, theatre, debates or live music. PSI supplied all sound and lighting production and crewed it throughout.

Clonard Monastery on the Falls Road was another off-beat venue which hosted a single performance by the Ulster Orchestra. PSI supplied all necessary lighting, power distribution and staging, including designing and building a bespoke stage which extended the alter area to accommodate the musicians, while the audience sat in the traditional congregational space of the Nave.

Challenges included no flying, so the concert was lit with a series of Fresnel lights on stands for the orchestra, plus additional floor mounted fixtures highlighting the architecture. The crew also had to work around the Monastery's busy worship schedule.

To meet the demand of equipment for the various different shows, PSI also invested in a quantity of new lights including Source Four profiles.

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