Slingco has built and installed a modular CableNet tensioned wire grid system over the auditorium and stage of the brand new Seckford Theatre at Woodbridge School in Suffolk, England.

A major reason for specifying the eight-frame modular CableNet is to provide completely safe roof access for students and personnel, including wheelchair users working up in the grid. This is the first time ever such a safety feature has been implemented.

The £4.5 million project, designed by architects from the MEB Partnership in Oxford, has seen the creation of a 343 seat flexible space, which can also be configured in thrust and in-the-round formats, to service the school’s Performing Arts Centre productions as well as those of visiting companies, assorted local ‘am dram’ shows plus conferences and events.

Funded by the Seckford Foundation, it is a professional theatre in a school, so they wanted the best theatrical equipment and technology possible. CableNet was contracted by Cambridge based theatre consultants ACT, working closely with Woodbridge Schools’ Head of Drama and Theatre Manager Stephen Artus.

The project was managed for Slingco by Peter Downham Clarke, who says, “Offering the same training opportunities, working facilities and access to disabled as well as able bodied people is vital today. CableNet is an absolutely ideal solution, we’re proud to have been involved in this project and hope it’s the first of many.” He adds that there is an increasing trend favoring the use of CableNet in schools and educational and training establishments for unrestricted access.

The eight CableNet frames at Woodbridge are in two different sizes, 3.4 metres square and 3.4 by 2.5 metres – four of each. The 3mm diameter cables are woven at a 70 mm pitch and offer 250 Kgs of point loading per grid.

“We love it” states Artus. In terms of teaching, he explains, the CableNet means small groups of pupils can gather around the teacher in the grid and learn which lantern focus and other parameters are needed to achieve the desired effects, rather than previously, when this would have been done by shouting to someone up a tallescope.

He adds that because it’s a flexible space, the CableNet also enables the widest possible choice of lighting design. Without it, lighting positions would have been severely restricted to two balconies crossing the auditorium.

Slingco’s installation crew of four took two weeks to complete their element of the build, which went very smoothly. The theatre is now fully operational and the first performances are taking place. It has a busy schedule, with up to four full-scale in-house productions every six weeks, plus all the other events and shows.

All things technical are looked after by theatre technician, Heather Appleton, who was very pleased to be working with a CableNet system again. She used one extensively during her training at Aberystwyth University, which has a system above its studio space. When Appleton completed her interview at Woodbridge, one of the tasks she had to do was walk on the CableNet.

“It’s so easy to rig on it” she enthuses “It makes life easier and quicker and really maximizes working time and efficiency.”

In the next term, they are intending to take up to four people up into the grid at a time as part of the Seckford Scheme teaching program, which is designed to open up theatre technical, creative and ‘backstage’ activities like lighting, sound, AV, set, costumes, etc. to a wide variety of pupils.