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Showstars at The BRITS

Showstars at The BRITS

UK – A burst of white confetti rained down on the sold-out live audience as ‘International Female Solo Artist of the Year’ Taylor Swift kicked off the BRIT Awards 2015 with the first of nine sensational performances that featured fellow award winners Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Royal Blood and Paloma Faith, along with Take That, George Ezra, Kanye West and Madonna.

Held for the fifth time at the O2 Arena in London and hosted by TV personalities Ant & Dec, this year’s MasterCard-sponsored BRITs on Wednesday 25th February was notable for artist Tracey Emin’s elegant neon signage and a new statuette trophy, although Madonna’s much-tweeted stage tumble – and remarkable recovery – grabbed more of the headlines.

As the dust settled and the VIPs headed into the after-party, local crew company Showstars prepared for a major overnight challenge. The east London firm’s work on the event began as the O2’s loading doors opened on Tuesday 17th February at precisely 08:00 – the start of a hectic ten-day schedule that has become a way of life for Showstars’ logistics and personnel manager, Paul Calverley and his colleagues.

“This was my 15th BRIT Awards,” says Calverley, “although Showstars has been involved with the BRITs in one way or another since 1993, when it was at Alexandra Palace. And since Stageco took over the staging in 1997, we have supplied all steel and production crew.”

As usual, Showstars’ activities were governed by Tony Wheeler of Nine Yards and Lisa Shenton and Kate Wright from Papillo who, under the umbrella of BRITs Productions, decided how many crew would be required to assist production suppliers PRG, Britannia Row, Ogle Hog, CTV, Stageco and Steel Monkey with the show build.

Since the event moved from Earls Court to The O2 in 2011, the demands on Showstars’ crew have remained similar. Calverley explains: “Earls Court was a bigger affair and the excess steel demanded a larger crew from us – up to 30 scaffolders on a day shift and another 30 at night for about 72 hours, and the same again on the load-out, as well as a massive crew call on show day. But now, with a plinth stage, it’s an easier and quicker job, meaning that our crew total has slimmed down.

“Our peak of activity was from 22:30 at the end of the show [Wednesday night] into Thursday when we had 152 crew members [split into 72 for the night shift and 80 during the day] to work on the breakdown and load-out.”

Showstars enlisted several departmental crew chiefs to take responsibility for specific areas. For example, Peter ‘Mavis’ Ridley headed the spot operator team, consisting of nine front of house ops and seven truss spot ops. “Lighting designer Al Gurdon likes to use us and as he returned to his role this year after a break, we expected an increase in our spot call this time,” said Calverley.

“We book the crew, get them all together and show ‘Mavis’ all the spot positions, and then he takes them all away to get everything worked out. It’s the same with the PA and lighting. Richie Gorrod, PRG’s gaffer, will tell us what he needs from us, we will allocate numbers accordingly and Tony Say or Richard Sullivan will head those teams. There’s always a leader of every split-off group while Stuart Milne and I are present to oversee the entire project and maintain a management presence.”

At the request of Chuck Crampton from the BRITs Productions office, Showstars’ duties also included supplying the after-party crew with a team of 14 split over two days along with 14 for the load-out. A further four-man crew worked on setting up the VIP red carpet while six others were reserved for the after-party show call and overnight load-out.

photo: John Marshall / JM Enternational

5th March 2015

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