Entec supports US Senator Sanders at Hay Festival event

Presented by The Hay Festival, Bernie Sanders’ event A Future To Believe In at the O2 Academy Brixton on June 2nd gave the sold-out audience a rare opportunity to see the US Senator talk about the radical policies he is championing for a new, progressive America.

Chaired by David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, the event – filmed for National Geographic and attended by a seated audience of more than 2,300 – promoted Sanders’ best-selling book ‘Our Revolution: A Future To Believe In’, and Entec was honoured to provide lighting and crew.

The event was lit by Elanor Higgins, a freelance lighting designer who has worked mainly in theatre and became a regular with the Hay Festival eight years ago. As well as inviting Sanders to appear at the festival’s home in Hay-on-Wye, the organisers also decided to host this special presentation in Brixton. At the request of Hay technical manager Joe Fletcher, Elanor was assigned to turn the O2 Academy’s “vast, cavernous space” into an intimate venue, as both lighting designer and stage manager.

“It was certainly a lively audience,” Elanor observed. “Many of the attendees were quite young and appreciative of the Senator’s views on the current state of American politics.”

In partnership with Joe Fletcher, who drew up the original plans, Elanor worked on the lighting spec and made some practical adjustments after making a site visit to Brixton. “As there were no rigging points at front of house for truss, I added a couple of boom lighting positions to help get some front coverage,” she said.

While the set amounted to just a lectern, two chairs, a table and a Hay Festival backdrop, her main fixtures were 18 Martin MAC Aura XB compact LED washes and six Clay Paky Alpha Spot QWO 800s.

She explained: “As well as being similar to the colour we would use in Hay-on-Wye, I chose the Aura’s blue as the dominant colour to help pick out the green, red and yellow logos on the backdrop. If I’d gone for plain white lighting, it would have looked very flat and dull. Eight Aura XBs were on the overhead truss and the rest were on the floor.”

In addition, the designer used the QWO 800s to backlight the lectern, focus tightly around the chairs, produce gobo washes and also provide some light in the centre area of the backdrop. “It was a fairly formal look,” said Elanor, “and the reason I wanted these particular lights was for their punch, not any fancy movement, because it’s such a large space. That’s also why I chose 2kW generics for the stage [Philips Strand Fresnels and ETC Source Fours] instead of 1kW.”

Higgins needed to have control over the house lighting during the audience Q&A session, however, this was not possible with the Academy’s resident system. The solution was for Entec to supply six Philips Strand Nocturne 1kW floods, enabling the LD to bring them up independently, as appropriate, via her choice of an Avolites Tiger Touch II console. She commented: “Being more of a theatre lighting person, I lean towards the ETC range but the Tiger Touch II is a nice, compact desk that we use in the two bigger venues at the Hay Festival so I’ve become familiar with its operation.”

Lee Stennett and Ian ‘Mac’ MacEwan were Entec’s crew for the event. Said Elanor: “It all went really well and we had a great day. In terms of working with Entec, it was a very good introductory experience for both Hay and myself. I was impressed with not only the lighting kit, which arrived well-prepped and exactly as specified, but also Lee and Mac who were fantastic and made my day very straightforward.”

Photography © Michael Bowles & Elanor Higgins