These days, the idea of pursuing any leisure activity in the Middle East might seem eccentric, if not downright insane, but, in spite of all the political turmoil afflicting that part of the world, the annual Dubai Shopping Festival took place in that country during the month of March. Ever since its 1996 launch, the festival has lured visitors with a combination of entertainment, sporting events, and daily raffles. This year, for example, performers included Shaggy, Artful Dodger, Gipsy Kings, and others, along with golf and tennis events; over 80 Lexus cars were raffled off, along with 35 Nissan Super Safaris. (There are also competitions in such categories as Ideal Arab Mother and Ideal Arab Family.)

The festival’s opening ceremony was staged at a purpose-built site at the Dubai Police Academy and was broadcast to 19 countries. All technical production and equipment was supplied by Dubai-based production and staging house ProTec. The project was managed by Stephen Lakin in collaboration with Damien McGurn, Hares Shehad, Rick Wade, and Jason Strange. In addition to their regular tasks, the group helped find five international dance troupes to take part in the ceremony. The assembled technical team came to 102 people from five continents, speaking a total of 20 languages.

Working off a theme of One World, One Family, One Festival, the two-hour opening ceremony featured five automated scenic globes, each of which were swallowed up into a massive sixth globe during a final lighting/pyro sequence. (The finale featured a seven-minute pyro show, designed by Mike Jones of Pains Fireworks). The stage featured six hydraulic superlifts, each capable of lifting 25 tons up to 7m above the stage.

Local contractors were hired to build footings for the stage, as well as for an 18m-high (60'), 140m-wide (460') protective windwall wrapping around the stage and backstage, constructed to withstand gusts up to 200kph (124mph). Also, five electricity generation substations were built on-site, which could deliver up to five megawatts of electricity.

ProTec designed and drew up the engineering specs for the stage, which was divided into three interconnecting sections. The stage included a four-section elevator that rose, like a wedding cake, plus four additional hydraulic platforms that dropped from stage to ground level.

Lakin hired Andy Edwards, who worked on the Rolling Stones' Bridges to Babylon tour, and Richard Estridge to devise the movement systems for the stage platforms and the six scenic globes, which spun and drove on four axes. The globes had two independently controlled motors on each front corner and free running casters on the back. Andy Cave of Entertainment Innovations designed, supplied, and installed the automation control systems, which operated the hydraulic scissor lifts, and the drive and rotation controls for the globes. Cave designed a system with 57 hydraulic axes, controlled by a Stage Technologies Acrobat desk, which was programmed by Vicky Hamilton and Richard Smith. Cave also designed the control systems for the five pantograph staircases and extension tabs, built by Tomcat, that slid into place, linking the four stage lifts and giving performers access to the globe stage entrance doors. The globes were driven by 15 AC servomotors linked to precision planetary gearboxes, and operated by 15 fully automated digital variable speed drive controllers, also designed and installed by Cave. All hydraulics were designed by Alan Lee.

Lakin asked LD Nick Jones to create a circular lighting design; the LD’s main challenge included providing coverage on the vast stage and working the concept of flying screens--conceived by Lakin--into the show. Jones designed seven elliptical trusses, all moving, five of them filled with scrim for projections. He added eight triangular lighting trusses--two at each corner of the roofs, which also moved. On each side of the stage, Lakin designed two "spiders," each with 12 jointed legs, made from Total Fabrications' XO truss, controlled by 48 hydraulic rams and proportional valves. Each spider featured a Vari*Lite® VL5™ unit at the tip of each leg, along with PAR-56 truss toners and banks of short-nosed ACLs mounted inside. Lawrence Heron of PAI was in charge of all overstage truss motion control; using 64 Columbus McKinnon Lodestar fast-runner motors, and a new 72-way Ibex computer controlled system.

Jones’ lighting rig included the following Vari*Lite units: VL2C™ spot luminaires, VL5 and VL5Arc™ wash luminaires, plus VL6C™ units. Other equipment included Clay Paky Stage Scans, Stage Colors, and Stage Zooms, plus over 600s PARs, more than 60 8-light Moles with Wybron scrollers, 200 ACLs, and a large number of Diversitronics strobes on the windwall. Also, 80 Coemar Panorama 1,800W floods covered the seating bank and windwall and 12 Coemar NAT 2.5 TMs were used to project customized gobos onto the five elliptical trusses with scrims, and for beaming textures onto the globes. Fifty Space Cannons were placed along the rear of stage and audience platform. Overall, 2,300 lighting fixtures were used.

Control was provided by an Avolites Diamond II console for the Panoramas and Space Cannons, with three Flying Pig Systems Wholehog IIs for the overstage lighting system. The production required 11 racks of Avolites ART 2000 dimming. Lighting crew chief was Steve Shipman.