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Showstars Provides the crew as 2014’s Biggest Stars Come Alive at BBC Music Awards
UK - On December 11, the music world united for the inaugural BBC Music Awards, a star-studded affair hosted by Chris Evans and Fearne Cotton, and broadcast live on BBC1 from London’s Earls Court.
Boasting performances from some of the biggest UK and international artists, including Take That, Coldplay, One Direction, Gregory Porter, Tom Jones, Paloma Faith, Ed Sheeran, will.i.am and Clean Bandit, along with the BBC Concert Orchestra, the event saw BBC 1, Radio 1 and Radio 2 join together to celebrate some of the best highlights in popular music from the over last 12 months.
Having worked with production manager Tony Wheeler of Nine Yards for many years on all manner of large and small projects, he approached Showstars to take on the crewing of this launch event.
Being similar in scale to a number of the music awards shows crewed in the past by Showstars, Wheeler had complete trust in the company to supply the crew numbers and the skills and capabilities required to make the job work within a relatively short timeframe.
Operations manager Stuart Milne, who was on-site to oversee the project, commented: “With a project of this scale, you need to enlist a number of crew chiefs to manage different departments. At Earls Court, our senior crew chief was John Hunt who also ran the site crew and helped to check everyone in, giving them passes and meal tickets.
“Peter Ridley managed the steel crew as a separate entity, while Tony Say headed the set crew and assisted me with any issues concerning the crew. There were also a number of senior crew members who can be relied on to carry out different tasks.”
Showstars’ entourage also included 16 followspot operators – 10 out front and six over the stage on the truss – plus forklift drivers, a production crew to assist with sound, lights, video and set, a team of eight in the catering department and runners for catering and production.
“We make sure that a good number of experienced crew are divided across all those departments so there are enough people present to advise some of the lesser experienced members if ever that becomes necessary,” said Milne, who added that a specialist foliage crew was also brought in. “Showstars supplied a cherry picker driver who attached all the foliage to the set, giving it a slightly organic look.”
Before the BBC event, Showstars was present at Earls Court over a much longer period when it provided the crew for a “very ‘secret’ fashion show” by a popular lingerie brand. The manhours involved were twice as long and several shifts were also extended. In terms of the staging, more steel and structure was required, as well as additional set and lighting.
However, as Milne observed, in many ways it was a similar type of job that used a number of identical suppliers including Stageco, PRG and Unusual Rigging who redeployed their equipment for the BBC. “A lot of the staging and lighting didn’t need to go back on the truck so that saved some time. So although some of our crew didn’t get to have a break between jobs, having back-to-back shows proved very practical.
“In total, we got through approximately 250 crew and, as expected, the peak times for us were the de-rigs which required a large contingent of between 100 and 150 overnight after the fashion show, with a similar number coming in the next day to start working on the BBC’s event.”
During the set-up of the BBC Music Awards, Stuart Milne was approached by the BBC to talk on camera about Showstars’ role on the production. “They were filming a short ‘behind the scenes’ documentary on the show build and wanted to interview someone about it,” he said.
“Some time lapse photography was taken and they also attached some cameras on the front of the forklift trucks that enabled them to get some fast-moving footage around the venue.
“The BBC also asked me who I was looking forward to seeing. The answer was obvious: my wife!”
Despite its two-hour length, only four awards were presented during the evening. The absent Pharrell Williams was beamed in live from Los Angeles to receive two awards – International Artist of the Year and Song of the Year for his monster hit ‘Happy’ – from No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani.
Ed Sheeran fended off stiff competition from the legendary David Bowie to win British Artist of the Year, and the BBC Introducting Award for new talent went to Welsh band Catfish And The Bottlemen.
With the demolition of Earls Court Exhibition Centre due soon, to make way for a new housing and village development, the BBC Music Awards turned out to be the penultimate live music event held at the iconic venue which was originally opened in 1887 and was rebuilt in 1937 in its current form.
“Earls Court has hosted some of the UK’s all-time greatest concerts and events, and I’m proud that Showstars has been involved in many of them,” said Milne. “Sadly, this is the end of an era.
“That also goes for all individuals. If there is ever something troubling a crew member, we can sit down and talk it through to the point where they’re able to continue working with less on their mind.
“Transport and accommodation occasionally prove to be obstacles. We had some de-rig call changes for the BBC Music Awards which meant that some of the crew had to arrive at 5am, so we had to arrange taxis and some overnight rooms for those who weren’t able to rest at home in between shifts.
“We like to think that Showstars is a family company in the sense that we are approachable and we do take an interest in the lives and welfare of the people who work for us. We just try to make things a little smoother for them whenever possible and if we can’t help with a particular problem, we will always point them in the direction of someone who can.”
photos: Paul Stich and Mark Cunningham
19th December 2014
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