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The Belgians and The BRITS

The Belgians and The BRITS
The Belgians and The BRITS

UK - ‘International Female Solo Artist of the Year’ Taylor Swift may have kicked off the evening with her No.1 hit ‘Blank Space’ but with artist Tracey Emin’s elegant neon signage filling the auditorium, London’s O2 Arena was far from a blank space when TV personalities Ant & Dec hosted the MasterCard-sponsored BRIT Awards 2015 on Wednesday 25th February.

The first of nine sensational performances, Swift’s lively opener was followed by fellow award winners Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Royal Blood and Paloma Faith, along with Take That, George Ezra, Kanye West and headline-grabbing Madonna.

Attracting a live audience of 13,500 and 5.76 million television viewers this year, the annual event has created its fair share of memories for both the public and the live production world since it began in the late ’70s. Back in 1997, the BRITs featured not only the Spice Girls’ ‘Girl Power’ showcase but also Stageco’s début as staging provider. Eighteen years later, the 2015 edition served as evidence that Stageco’s role is as crucial as ever.

The company became involved as a direct result of its work on Tina Turner’s Wildest Dreams world tour of 1996. Mick Kluczynski, then production manager of the BRITs, was a site co-ordinator for Turner’s tour and was immediately impressed with Stageco’s professionalism. Project manager Luc Dardenne takes up the story: “That’s when I first met Mick. When he returned to his office after being on tour, he excitedly told his team that he had found the new staging supplier for the BRITs, and we were delighted. Since then we’ve never stopped and I’ve personally only missed one edition of the show.”

As usual, Stageco’s brief came from technical production manager Tony Wheeler and Papilo Productions, under the auspices of BRIT Awards Productions. Accordingly, Dardenne worked alongside account manager Dirk De Decker and crew chief Stefaan Vandenbosch to provide all of the staging as well as numerous platforms and risers for spotlights, cameras and show control, with the help of regular crew partner Showstars.

“Stageco effectively supplies the foundation of the show for others, like set company Steel Monkey, to build upon,” says Dardenne. “Our stage is 30 metres wide by 25 metres deep, but directly behind that is another stage area [18m x 20m] on which the performing artists’ changeovers and set pieces are prepared.”

At the rear of the O2 Arena, Stageco provided a two metre high platform to accommodate the lighting and sound control consoles manned by PRG and Britannia Row. Lighting designer Al Gurdon specified eight spot platforms, while another platform was brought in as a monitoring control base for rigging motors.

Dardenne: “This year, for the first time, we have added a winch platform for the spidercam, which was attached to two winch cables and ran up and down the presenters’ walkway for a large amount of shots. We also supplied platforms for CTV’s camera crew, jib cranes and track.”

Stageco’s work began six days before the show when the team arrived to unload its trailers on Thursday 19th. The following evening, after building the various platforms, tracks and risers, the Belgians concentrated on the stage.

When Stageco serviced the last BRITs at Earls Court in 2010, it provided a team of 20 crew and 30 fully loaded trailers full of equipment. But times have changed, along with demands, as Dardenne explains. “We were then also building a seating area for 400 dinner tables with 90m x 80m of steel, which was a big undertaking. But since it moved to the O2 four years ago, where the tables are either on the arena floor or in a party tent, we have gone down to just five trailers and an eight-man team as well as the Showstars guys.

“While it now involves less equipment and, ultimately, less pressure, it’s still the major commitment that it’s always been, and we are very proud to be associated with this world-class event.”

photos: John Marshall / JM Enternational

5th March 2015

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