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Boomtown Fair tell us about their plans for this year


Renowned for its incredible theatricals, arts, music and immersive storyline, Boomtown Fair is more than just a festival. Situated in the Hampshire countryside, it’s an awe-inspiring world of escapism in a sprawling surreal city, which wouldn’t be possible without its eccentric stage design. Speaking to Data Transmission, Production Manager, Rob Collings talked us through the run-up to this year’s event and what’s in store for Boomtown Chapter 11…

With the storylines for the next few years already broadly pencilled out, Rob explains that as each year draws closer each storyline is elaborated on in more detail, with the stages and districts evolving over time as opposed to springing into existence.

📷 Mike Massaro

Formulating ideas for the new district, ‘AREA 404’ and the ‘Nucleus’ stage back in September/ October last year, the design teams quickly responded to the technical and creative brief, resulting in performance, video, FX and lighting designs all starting to take shape, but where does it all begin?

Once the core concept and technical brief for a stage has been defined and a budget assigned to it, the Production Manager (Rob) will start to talk to the Stage Designer, or a shortlist of designers. Initially the designers create mood boards and sketches; fine tuning the ideas and imagery around the stage. Then the technical parameters will be refined, (Size, location, type of acts, FX and Video / Light / waterfalls / aerial performance… etc). This will then lead to a stream of design development drawings. These are usually paper and pencil, but quickly migrate into software / CAD platforms. Performers, choreographers, lighting designers, technicians, sound designers, and structural engineers all feed into the design development during this stage to ensure a suitable and workable structure and stage.

“Once the final design shape is in sight, the CADs will get rendered, bringing them to life in almost photo realistic quality, allowing us to define and refine even the smallest details, textures and materials,” Rob tells us. “Then the fabrication team will get involved and start to develop construction drawings, cutting lists and fabrication plans. Then, all the elements go to the paint room, where they will be rendered, painted and finished and stored for transportation to site!”

“When it gets to the site, a scaffold contractor will build the skeleton of the structure and a small army of climbers, plant and crane operators, carpenters, dressers and finishers will set to work, putting the set together like a HUGE jigsaw puzzle. They dress it and bring it to life with incredible attention to detail and commitment! Enter the technical crews… The lighting and video team will arrive just as the set team are finishing, hanging vast LED screens, hundreds of lights and flame throwers, fireworks and water pumps, the sound system and of course the on-stage production… plus no end of cables, mixers, dimmers and servers, control systems and mixing desks. It’s deep!”

Gaining access to the festival site in July, thousands of crew members begin to build Boomtown with roughly a month to go before showtime. This year, as far as the narrative is concerned, is a completely new beginning. “With a new district and eight new stages to build, we’ve given it a fantastic platform to launch from and paved the way for many different stories, characters and adventures to play out” Rob clarifies. “The public always play a role with this and in some ways dictate the fictional future. You can expect sustainability to play a big role and of course our very own artificial machine intelligence AMI will be back. In what guise? Only time will tell” he teases.

When asked about his favourite stages to work on of all time, Rob tells us: “Actually, it’s Nucleus this year… The designs are incredible. The team are second to none and expectations are super high! Can’t wait. ‘Relic’ is going to be AMAZING too!”

But it’s not only the new stages and district that are going to take the limelight this year…

Maintaining sound levels on site and preventing sound from escaping off site has always been an issue for Boomtown… Up until now. “Most of us grew up deep in the original underground rave scene and we’re not up for compromising the quality or volume on the dancefloor, so we pulled together a team of sound designers, engineers and acoustic technicians, plus our in-house team to look at two projects. The first to create bespoke, integrated sound systems for our two largest arenas and the second to explore how we build on the existing techniques we have across site to make them even more efficient,” Rob elaborates.

“For the arenas, we have now moved away from the standard format for large concert venues and outdoor festivals, which is a series of line array systems which flood the area front to back with sound. Instead we’re investing in a series of individual distributors so that everyone can be closer to the sound source. Additionally, across site, we’ve always used a series of noise barriers to absorb sound and stop it leaking into different areas of site. This year we are introducing sound baffles, which are solid reflective surfaces to deliberately push any wasted sound energy back into the arena….

…. The result is going to be LOUD!”

Get tickets to Boomtown Fair Chapter 11: The Radical City here

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