Leading UK lighting and visuals rental company HSL supplied the first ever BBC Radio 6 Music Festival staged at Victoria Warehouse in Manchester with site wide lighting, rigging and crew, working closely with the event’s Production Lighting Designer, Tim Routledge, and producers SJM and BBC Events.
The project was managed for HSL by Ryan Hopkins who comments, “We were extremely proud to be involved. The launch of any new event is always exciting, and we enjoy working with Tim who came up with some awesome looking designs for the four different performance areas”.
Routledge, known for his innovative ideas and fresh approach, lit three performance areas in the main building and two in the Festival Fringe area. His designs needed to be eye-catching and spectacular as well as flexible enough to suit a wide array of genres and performers. Additionally they needed to have a visual coherence and harmony that resonated throughout the event.
Over 30 sizzling hot artists – including Damon Albarn, HAIM, Kelis, The National, The Horrors, Franz Ferdinand, Jake Bugg, Bombay Bicycle Club and many more joined the all-action line up which unfolded over the two days – both of which completely sold out within about six minutes of going on sale!
Acts were broadcast live online and all the highlights recorded and made available via The BBC’s Red Button.
For the Main Stage, Routledge – who has lit several other BBC events – took BBC Radio 6’s tree logo as his starting point, and framed the stage left and right with two scenic trees supplied by the event’s scenic contractors, Made Up. This was to take the edge off the raw industrial warehouse space.
Overhead and on the back wall he continued the tree theme with A-type trussing pieces creating a complex structure of interlinking branches and tree-trunks flown and sub-hung above the stage at jaunty angles. This added a real three-dimensionality to the space.
“I wanted to perpetuate the idea of organically formed and evolved shapes adding some quirkiness but underlining a basic architecture,” he comments, adding that the vibe was very much the original principals of festival lighting, in that whoever was on the bill turned up … and used the house rig – rather than bands bringing in multiple floor and specials packages!
He specifically wanted to avoid having any large background LED elements in the design, and instead the wide shots and rear-of-camera shots had a more dynamic visual filler in the form of the glowing metalwork – as all the trussing was toned with 45 PixelPAR 90s.
HSL fabricated 30 very cool bespoke industrial style hanging lights for the trees utilizing 40 Watt Squirrel Cage bulbs as the lightsource - their fabulous spikey filaments were juxtaposed against the thin metal strand housings.
These same bulbs were also used as eye-catching strings of festoons draped all across the celling and around the venue, again with a softening effect in the cavernous historic warehouse. “I really love the venue’s industrial environment,” explains Routledge, “But I just wanted to tweak it specifically in terms of creating a signature look for the festival”.
He adds that the Squirrel Festoon was initially a bit of a mad idea, but once embraced, “HSL’s willingness to make up special elements like these is really impressive – whatever I wanted – nothing was a problem!”
Getting the tree trussing spot-on was a bit of a mission for HSL’s crew who were Chiefed by Ben Holdsworth, but they delivered with the usual style and efficiency in a 36 hour stint to set up and rig lighting for all five stages.
Forty-four 2-lite Moles were rigged on the Main Stage for some serious? crowd illumination and rock-out moments.
The main moving lights – dotted around all over the trussing which was ideal for rigging fixtures in good positions – were 24 Martin MAC Viper Profiles and 24 Robe ROBIN MMX WashBeams. The choice of these punchy fixtures enabled Routledge to create enormous epic all-gobo looks which were stunning and provided another unique look for the event.
These were joined by 12 MAC III Performances and nine MAC 2K XB Washes. He used 15 of the new Philips Showline SL Nitro LED strobes with which he was very impressed particularly their expedient power requirements, and eight Robe CitySkape 96s were used for stark backlighting of the trees.
All of this was controlled via a grandMA2 full size – always Routledge’s console of choice – with a Command & Fader Wing for backup.
The Second Stage, at the other end of the building with just 3 metres of headroom and at the end of a long narrow room with multiple steel pillars running down its entire length, was a really tricky space to light and needed a completely different approach.
To bring a strong definition to the stage, he used 70 x Light Imitative 1 and 2 metre IntelliFLEX Wand 360s, hung around the sides and rear, which again looked great on camera and to the eye. These can be programmed via a lighting console to produce beautiful anamorphic patterns.
He lit the pillars down the room with a combination of around 100 PixelLine LED battens and i-Pix Satellites which brought some serious depth to the space and looked spectacular on the fish-eye camera shots.
With the stage being so small, Robe’s tiny but mega bright LEDBeam 100s proved to be a perfect solution for back and side light - 24 in total were combined with six Robe Pointes on? the floor.
Lighting in stage 2 was operated by Ben Holdsworth using an Avolites Titan Touch for control.
In the Silent Disco, Routledge’s task was to accentuate the architectural pillars and make them a feature, so 36 Chauvet Nexus 4x4 LED panels were strapped to the pillars to bring the basic concept to the space, together with three Robe LEDBeam 100s at the top of each pillar for whizzy effects. Lighting was operated by Jon Trincas and Dom Crookes.
Over the road from the main Victoria Warehouse Building, a single MAC 3K was located on a tower and projected the Radio 6 logo onto the venue’s chimney stack.
Over in the adjacent hotel, the Talking Head Stage was lit very simply with some battery powered wireless DMX LED up-lighters and a splattering of 650W fresnels.
For the Public Image Ltd Stage in the back room, Routledge went for a warm tungsten look to continue the intimate feel, with a back wall made up of his own-designed retro look Pattern 2013 fixtures plus some 2-lites and PAR cans. Straightforward and effective!
Forty MR16 ‘Birdies’ were used to light works on display in the art gallery space next door to this stage, and HSL also supplied a substantial package of ancillary lighting fixtures of different types for walkways, public areas, etc. which were installed by Made Up.
Says Routledge, “It was a fantastic opportunity to be able to light the entire event and bring both continuity and contrast to the equation. I really enjoyed working on it and with HSL who did a brilliant job as always. Their willingness to accommodate my more off-beat requests was fantastic – and always with a smile,” he says … himself with a large grin.
His lighting for the event was widely noticed, well received and even won much critical acclaim in the press!
Joining Holdsworth and Trincas on HSL’s crew were Andy Horn, Dom Crookes, Chris Roper, Tim Spilman, Iain Wood and Marcus Illsley.
Photos: Louise Stickland