Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Just over one week to go before Greenbelt. Work on the site will be underway with plumbing and marquees installed over the next week. The site will not be ready until probably the Friday of the festival. Most of the expensive equipment hired in will not arrive until the Thursday as you pay by the day. There is then a frantic time as venues are set up, Site Production chased because there's no power, battles to be won and lost with Norman (our resident Greenbelt fireman who looks after much of the safety issues on site) over the capacity allowed for venues, and then you are ready to start when you realise that you have no stewards - time for a quick call toFestival Control.

Greenbelt is about a year of careful planning, and then a detailed logistics exercise over 4 days when quick and sometimes tough decisions have to be taken to ensure the festival runs unhindered, and safely. As a venue manager the 2 toughest decisions I ever took were: having to sack my brother and shutting the venue as the marquee looked like it was about to blow away. Both decisions were for the good of the festival. I'd spent years trying to persuade my brother to help at Greenbelt. He was an experienced sound engineer, having been the studio engineer for the Jam in his youth, and was now doing similar stuff at the BBC. After years of running venues on a shoe string it was nice to have some expertise. Meanwhile Greenbelt hired in a soundsystem that was run by a family - and for the weekend the children were put in charge of it. The motto of the story is, never work with children. They were out of their depth with no idea how to run a fast moving multi changing venue at a festival. To make matters worse they started telling my brother how to do his job - not advisable. Things deteriorated rapidly to the point where Daddy rang site Ops in the middle of the night to say either my brother and I go, or he takes the sound system away. So at about 3am we held an emergency meeting to discuss what to do. Greenbelt decided it would not be held to ransom and would get a new sound desk brought in. But this would cost and disrupt the festival. So after a discussion with my brother we reached a compromise and he went home - never to return to the festival. One day I'll get him back, but next time it will be as a speaker on reporting back the news from a war zone. Sadly Greenbelt doesn't always learn its lesson and I am aware of a couple of times when the same crew has been hired for the festival - both times there was extremely negative feedback from a well known Greenbelt figure who ran a daily show in the venue. Fortunately the festival now has some money and the crews we employ in the main venues are all professionals.

The second year at Cheltenham some bright person decided to move us out of our nice new indoor venue and put us in what became known as the Little Big Top. It is a great little venue, but has too small a capacity for theatre which is usually very popular on site. We got hit by very strong winds the Friday night and the arena stage almost blew away, as did our venue. After a lot of discussion and concern about the way the guy ropes were being torn out of the ground we took the decision to evacuate the venue. We then moved in a container lorry to act as a wind break and tied the marquee to it. Next day you might have wondered what all the fuss was about.

So as you walk about the festival site, remember that there are a lot of people who will be working rather than enjoying the weekend. And if you go past the Tiny Tea Tent, have sympathy for those who are often gathered there late at night - the Ops Management Crew - they spend the year planning how the festival site will work and then spend the Greenbelt weekend walking around the site dealing with problems as and when they arise. They never seem to sleep and at the end of the festival have to have their radio ear pieces surgically removed.

The worry is that once the ear piece has been surgically removed, I still hear the voices in my head. Should I be worried?

Nice to see you Dave - if only briefly!
Nice to see you. I think I saw you just 3 times at the festival - Last Orders (doing no work), Manchester Passion (enjoying it too much for it to be called work) and sneaking into the front of mainstage during My Morning Jacket (clearly not working and will upload the photo sometme to prove it!). So what did you do this year.....
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