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September 21, 2007

BEHIND THE FESTIVALS: The unsung heroes of summer

This year again saw a flurry of music festivals over the summer months, with people across the UK catching their favourite bands in a relaxed atmosphere, often with plenty of other activities on offer, not to mention a wide range of food and drink.

One of the secrets behind the success of these events are the suppliers who help make the organisers’ dreams reality. The V Festival, which takes place in Chelmsford and Staffordshire during August, has become incredibly popular and provides an insight into the range of suppliers that events like this use.

They've got the power

For example, no festival could get off the ground without electricity. At this year’s Chelmsford V Festival it was Power Logistics that kept the electricity flowing throughout the weekend. The company supplied all of the power and site lighting to the sold-out event, with its team of 15 installing 25km of cabling to carry the power from 103 generators around the Essex site. In the region of 70,000 litres of fuel was used to power everything from cash point machines up to the main stage’s huge PA, lighting and screens.

Teepee time: Black Sheep's food village keeps fesitval-goers well fed and watered

Power Logistics also supplied more than 6km of festoon lighting to illuminate temporary roadways and footpaths for the 70,000 music fans, using shatterproof light bulbs to minimise the environmental impact.

“This year’s festival had grown and the layout had been changed from previous years,” explains managing director, Pete Wills. “Once again, Maztech created a well-managed festival behind the scenes and the fans certainly seemed to have enjoyed the smooth-running weekend.”

Crowd cover
There’s also lots of temporary construction necessary at a show like the V Festival, and this year Arena Structures provided everything from shelters for the crew to the spectacularly themed Virgin hospitality area – in fact there were around 40 structures in all. “They provided welcome cover to crew, artists, audience and guests alike, as one of the rainiest festival seasons in recent memory drew to an all too often damp close,” recalls Arena’s project manager Mark Shelley.

Another key element when top bands pull huge crowds is how to manage festival-goers safely. Mojo Barriers were called in to supply the crowd management barriers for the main stages at both UK sites of the V Festival this August. At the same time, the company worked in Baltimore’s Pimlico Racecourse for the US version of the event.

“Baltimore was our biggest festival to date, requiring 1,900 feet of barricade,” explains Mojo’s US operations manager JB Dolphin. Of course it’s vital that organisers have complete confidence in the ability of the barriers to handle the demands that large crowds place on them, and Mojo was praised on both sides of the Atlantic for its crowd management expertise.

Hand to mouth
Finally, it’s no longer enough to only provide burgers and chips for ravenous festival goers, as 21st century revellers have a much more cultured palate. At the V Festivals this year, Black Sheep was invited to create food villages dedicated to eating, drinking and chilling out.

In Staffordshire, there were two Black Sheep villages, each made up of an array of unusual eclectic Tepee structures, surrounded by a striking, attractive wooden clad stockade. The outside spaces within the villages were animated with bespoke star benches and folding tables, themed recreation spaces, lighting, flags and graffiti walls, which were painted on site.

Catering for the more conventional customer, ‘A Touch of Class’ included an upmarket bar, beer garden, Pimms and strawberries plus a fantastic panoramic view of the festival site. Meanwhile, ‘Pixie’ featured a variety of mouth-watering cuisines ranging from Japanese noodles, French crepes and vegetarian falafels, to fresh fruit smoothies, porridge and cakes. Ambient music and masseurs were also on hand to relieve any tensions, offering a relaxing haven for festival-goers to retreat to before, during and after the action on stage.

International feel
“We set out to produce an area, unlike any other seen at other festivals, used as a public space or that could specifically be created for sponsors or VIP areas in particular,” says Black Sheep director Tim Hudson. “The combination of wood and the exotic tents furnished with cushions, carpets and ambient lighting, created a relaxing atmosphere for festival goers, while the choice of food and entertainment was designed to be something for them to remember.”
Festival organiser Dawn Woodhouse was clearly delighted. “The addition of a village entirely dedicated to diverse food and relaxation was an excellent new feature to this years V,” she says. “Global cuisine combined with Black Sheep’s creativity gave our festival a truly international feel.”

So next time you’re grooving to your favourite bands under the summer sun while munching on an enchilada and sipping a cool beer, spare a thought for the event suppliers who are hard at work behind the scenes making it all possible.
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