Celebrating the spirit, joie de vivre, colour and vibrance of live music, the arts, and the essence of in-person community – back enthusiastically after the pandemic – technical production specialist CPL co-ordinated and delivered staging, sound, video, lighting and other associated BTS (behind the scenes) infrastructure to Tropic Fest, a two-day festival style event staged in the beautiful grounds of the historic Chillington Hall in Staffordshire, UK.
CPL was working for production company Pandora Events and their end client, Tropic Skincare with a team led by Lee Gruszeckyj. They asked Star Events onboard to supply the 15-metre orbit stage on which all the performance action took place.
The sound, lighting and video production design was based on the requirements of several artist riders from a lively line-up that included acts like Rob da Bank, Our Girl G, Queenz, Mr Motivator, Air Guitar Band, Magic of Marley, Twinnie, the Strictly Come Dancing Band with headliners Gok Wan, Bjorn Again and the Ministry of Sound Disco.
This eclectic line up – from electronica and the cool sounds of Ibiza and urban house music to the iconic rock of Queen and pop of Abba – meant that flexibility was essential for all technical departments.
CPL’s vast experience of servicing festival events like Glastonbury, Hay on Wye, Camper Calling and many others was a massive asset in staging Tropic Fest, a small and perfectly formed festival environment for approximately 1200 of Tropic’s top ambassadors who relaxed, partied, inter-reacted and enjoyed great music, vibes, and production values … and gorgeous weather!
A 5.4 metre wide by 3-metre-deep LED screen was hung at the back of the stage which features cantilevered PA supports for a neat, streamlined finish and clear sightlines.
The LED screen and a variety of lighting was rigged on four trusses sub-hung underneath the roof. Lighting comprised 40 moving lights – Claypaky Mythos2s for specials and effects, Martin MAC Auras for washes and Ayrton Perseos for beams and additional effects, plus 10 Philips Nitro strobes and four Portman P1s for eye candy.
All of these were chosen for their features and adaptability and the design was calculated to fill the stage with lumines and movement whatever act was playing, from a single DJ to a full 18-piece orchestra!
Lighting was programmed and run on a ChamSys console and operated by Pete Sarson and Paul “Granville” Smith, with the MoS Disco bringing their own lighting operator.
An L-Acoustics Kara II PA was spec’d and supplied because “we needed a good, solid and proper festival PA, and this is ideal for this size of stage and to cover the audience area with great sound” commented Lee. L-Acoustics SB18 subs were used as side fills and KS28s as the main bass at ground level in an arc around the front of the stage.
L-Acoustics wedges were utilised for monitors, and the consoles were a pair of DiGiCo Quantums – a 338 at FOH and a 225 for monitors. Louis Hodge was CPL’s FOH engineer while Callum Holmes took care of the patch and mixing monitors.
A comprehensive mics-and-stands package included Shure classics and IEMs, DPAs for the instruments and Shure Axients.
The video element was deliberately simple with the single Roe CB5 LED screen. No side screens were necessary as there was adequate space for all guests to get close to the stage. Stuart Dowdell, with whom CPL recently worked closely on the Hay literary festival, headed up the video department and used a Barco PDS4K switcher with a QLab machine running playback. A couple of Agile remote-controlled cameras onstage offered some straightforward IMAG inputs.
A collection of pyro and other effects – Stadium Shot confetti and streamer blasts, CO2 jets and Sparkulas – were organized by CPL together with lasers, with Danny Mason at Reach Lasers delivering 10 x 32000 RGB units to enrich the visual picture..
CPL’s crew numbered around 25 including two stage managers to ensure that everything ran to time.
Lee also specified all the site electrics, power, and lighting although this whole area was subbed out to another company to supply who worked under the CPL remit.
Lee was also responsible for specifying and supplying other backstage elements including trackway, artists village, production portacabins, toilets, barriers, ramps, buggies for crew site transit, etc., all overseen by Alice Hunt. She ensured that everything arrived on site at the correct times and was built on order and on schedule.
Being the first Tropic Fest, there were several challenges of which access was a brainteaser, as the venue does not often stage full festivals like this, and some lateral thinking was required!
Lee and stage truck driver Danny Robinson had to think out-of-the-box when getting the special extra-large 46 tonne staging truck onsite.
The current sumptuous Grade I listed Chillington Hall Georgian country house is home to the Giffard family and was designed by Francis Smith in 1724 and John Soane in 1785 with a park and lake landscaped by Capability Brown. It’s the third building on the site, the first being a stone castle dating to the 12th century!
The impressive 50 metre wide front façade of the house was illuminated with a combination of IP rated SGM P6s and Ayrton Perseo Profiles with Avo control as part of the site lighting scheme. This provided an eye-catching backdrop and numerous Instagram moments for guests at the end of each evening as they made their way back to the camping areas.
By scouring the plans Lee and Danny discovered ‘Upper Avenue’, an old route now overgrown and unused for many years that skirted around the lake which could still be accessed through a series of ancient wrought iron gates. They walked the route, measured up and calculated that the truck would fit along the road and through the gates – with about 100 mm to spare!
So … that’s what they did with some precision driving by Danny, and it worked! The hosts were happy and aside from herding some sheep out of the way, the truck passed without obstruction onto to the site.
Around 80 x RVs and motor homes had to be parked up and accommodated for the event duration, fed with water and generator power, plus another two fields of pre-pitched tents for overnight camping. More regular festival goers among the guests rocked up with their own tents.
Showers, nice toilets, 24-hour food facilities and fairground rides were all on hand, together with other comforts like charging stations and even jacuzzies!
“We had a fantastic team and were proud to deliver this great event for Tropic” commented Lee “Everyone worked brilliantly and very efficiently together, we offered many complimentary talents and enjoyed a great synergy, including with the venue staff who were amazing and helped make it a very special event workplace.”
Photo: © Courtesy CPL