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Jay-Z BBC Radio One Hackney Weekend

The BBC Radio 1 Hackney Weekender was one of the most prominent festival dates on Britain events calendar in 2012, headlined by US rapper Jay-Z, who was keen to produce a unique one-off stage show for the night's performance. It was an electrifying set that featured an industrial looking 27’ high structure flickering intensely with bursts of white light, evoking scenes of an abandoned warehouse rave.


Creative Director/Designer Willo Perron and Show Producer/Designer Antony Randall turned to us to pull the production together in a tight timeframe. Said Antony Randall: “Willo’s vision was perfect for Jay-Z and the BBC, but the sheer weight and size of the structure was going to be a massive problem for the festival. There was very little time to produce the show compounded by the challenge that Bobby Schneider and his production team were still out on the road with the Watch The Throne Tour.


“In addition to this, the fact was this was a brand new show end to end, so we had a massive challenge on our hands. I talked through the options with Bobby and the only way we could build and produce a show this size would be at LS-Live. We were going to need all hands on deck, and we needed the staging company, engineers and drawing team on hand throughout the building process.”


LS-Live in house designer Gareth Mallon worked the client’s sketch of the proposed stage set into a realistic visual, refining the dimensions and architecture, and together with the team determined how the set should be built, devising a parts list from their decisions, which were based on delivering a professional looking set that was safe and robust. With the added benefit of having the 17,664 sq ft studio on site, we were able to pre-build the stage set predominantly using its off-the-shelf standard hire stock of staging equipment.


The set comprised two identical structures stage left and stage right, each designed to be a three-platform rectangular performance space. The frame was built from sections of 520 truss, with a 6’ high space underneath, an 8’ high mezzanine level in the middle and a 6’ high platform at the top crowned by a polycarbonate roof, all 16’ long by 5’ deep. We added a 2’ extension on the back of each level to accommodate more backline for the performers and a 4’ x 4’ LiteDeck either side for a sub speaker to sit on. Our industry standard LiteDeck stage decking was attached to the truss using ratchet straps, with a black carpet covering. It also provided a tiered rolling step unit to the back of each structure with access treads and a safety handrail to the rear of each mezzanine level.


“We used four one tonne chainhoist motors from the roof of the studio to lift each corner of the truss whilst we built the next level from the ground,” explained Studio Coordinator Adam ‘Bullet’ Bettley. “We brought in structural engineer Lee Covelrey of CCS to assess the structures’ weight loading capacity and structural calculations when Willo and Randall decided they wanted the entire structure to roll forward downstage during the performance. We wanted to examine what the point loads were that would be weighing down on the stage at the festival, which was a Serious Stages stage. Then we implemented a Brilliant Stages tracking system to make it move.”