Corporate Christmas at 5 Lakes
Well... this was one hell of a learning curve for all and a very, very nice client.
This starts questionably but ends well... bear with me... Earlier in the year we were booked to perform stage acts at Five Lakes Christmas Parties in Maldon. Originally we were requested to provide a ringmaster, contortionist, aerialist and fire performer. A few months later the manager of the event changed and asked if the ringmaster could also swords swallow- no problem. A few months later another change in manager who requests we bring our stage and PA system too, and backdrops and lights and scenery- a whole circus package. So after some re-negotiation things were all secured. We requested dimensions or photos of the room, limitations (smoke alarms etc) and predicted numbers but heard nothing back. Then more dates were added, then cancelled. Finally, November was upon us and we packed the van for the first day of events. As always we planned an early start to arrive and set up... but the hire van decided to break down immediately after we set off. After an hour of trying to start it and calling the company for help with no avail I ran all the way home, jumped in my car and drove to the van, of course it couldn't fit everything in it but we could take as much as we possibly could and we left the van there for the company to collect agreeing to deal with it all later and focus on getting to the job on time and recover the situation.
I am so thankful to say we arrived in plenty of time and met the new manager... who we hadn't met and who was clearly as stressed as we had been earlier. He showed us the venue... it was bigger than a football pitch! The 'exhibition space' known as the arena was enormous and even though it was in the process of being halved by set installers decorating the room it could still seat 1000 guests with open areas. I immediately doubted our PA's ability to cover a room of that size and the table layout they had already set up didn't leave any space for us to build our stage- meaning we had to perform on the dancefloor... usually not an problem but with over 500 guests expected visibility would be an issue. However the room was beautifully decorated with hanging swathes to create a 'big top' ceiling and the overall ambience was great.
Saving the day- I knew contortion wouldn't work in a venue of that size (even on a stage unless they were installing screens) but luckily I had some of my danger props in the car and the manager seemed much more keen on that concept too. Performing my ladder and sword and dagger act meant I would be standing or raised off the floor at least giving more chance of all the guests seeing the acts. The aerialist was a perfect choice thankfully and was easily seen from all areas, as was the fire performer, the sword swallower focused on hosting until we could come up with a solution.
The new manager was brilliant! He has come into the role only a week before the event and so had no idea what everyone else had already booked or planned. We worked with him to rearrange the room and brought our tallest stage maximising the chance for guests to see all the acts, especially since the remaining nights had much higher guest numbers booked in. We also brought our huge 12ft coloured smoke blasters- these are perfect for indoor events or venues that cannot have fire cannons and upsized the PA so the sound quality filled the giant space easily. Luckily we pulled out all the stops to maximise walkabout performance as guests arrived, with showgirls and the ringmaster welcoming guests at the door and LED performers and stilt walkers posing for photos inside. All of our stage acts were perfectly timed to music so we could go with he flow of the evening and perform sooner or later as needed depending on the caterers.
So it just goes to show how much effort goes into making large events happen, the early issues in this booking were caused by the communication problems during the multiple managerial switches but when you hire professional performers and a venue has a good leader at its helm all can be resolved! I think its safe to say we all learned a lot over this event but quickly turned it from a mild panic on day one to a smooth operation by the end of the run. The client was pleased and we hope to work them again next year- we already discussed some bigger, even more exciting ideas with them and can't wait to go back!