While performers are busy running last minute line rehearsals and their marketing teams are planning their flyering strategies, across Brighton the sound of hammering is filling the air.
With 165 venues being used for Brighton Fringe in 2016, organisers have to find performance spaces right across the city. One of the busiest venues in the City is The Warren complex, in and around the grounds of St Peters Church, Brighton, with four theatres, two bars, a family area, adventure playground and a market. Designer Josh Carr spoke to Glen Pearce from the site, about the challenges of building The Warren.
“We’ve got four venues on one site this year. Last year we had two on this site and we had two in a building called the basement but we’ve pulled them all together on one site this year.” Josh Carr, one of the Directors of Otherplace Brighton and designer of The Warren, explains.
For those though who are thinking it’s just a few marquees, Carr is quick to point out the scale.“ We have an inflatable main house, a small studio space called Theatre Box, which is custom built out of shipping containers and then two scaffolding structures, Studios 2 and 3 that are 50 and 60 seaters.”
As if that wasn’t challenging enough to build in the grounds of a 190-year-old church, the theatres aren’t the only spaces the Otherplace team have to create. “We do a lot with site scenery and other stuff – we’ve got two bars this year on top of that, and a kids area and we’re opening a new market part of the site called Market Town, so we’ve got seven stalls that we’ve had to build for local traders – so it’s quite a lot!” Says Carr, in what seems somewhat of an understatement!
So how many months does it take to build this mini town? “ We take ten days but it’s a very tight ten days! “ he explains. “ We have a core of about 15 and then we a lot of other contractors. The most we have on site at any one time is about 40, depending on what we are doing on what day.”
It seems an incredibly short time to create a complex environment. There’s a sigh of relief from Carr. “Everything’s going well and on schedule but it’s a bit tight as we’re doing a lot of new things this year.” It sounds like a massive jigsaw puzzle. “Four of the structures on site this year are brand new so haven’t been built before, so it’s always a bit of hard work for me and the production manager to get the drawings through to reality.” He explains, making it sound like the world’s largest IKEA flat pack assembly.
We’ve got a new main house, which is inflatable, and it fits by just a few feet either side, so getting that in was
difficult as it was so tight. It worked on the drawings but branches on trees tend to grow so the council have been very helpful with helping us to get it to fit in, but that was a very nerve-wracking hour, just getting it in and inflated!
So what are the challenges, apart from the timescales? “The biggest difficulty we face is there’s not enough space on site to store all the equipment. “ explains Carr, “We had 26 Tonnes of scaffolding arrive and two artics of timber, just to make the site work, along with an artic full of scenery from Cardiff and a new container bar as well.” Once all that is on the ground it’s very difficult to have space to work” admits Carr, describing a set up that would test the most inventive of builders on TV’s Grand Designs.
As if all that wasn’t enough, The Otherplace team, together with Brighton Fringe Organisers, are hosting Brighton Fringe’s first ever firework display at The Warren on fringe opening night.
“The fireworks have been in planning for several month,s as it takes a lot of time to get a custom display to work off the top of the building.” Reveals Carr. “ It’s quite an unusual display and there is a huge amount of safety planning that’s had to be undertaken.” He continues, “It’s the day after we launch, so maybe we’ve been a bit silly as it’s going to be straight into the next thing but we’re thrilled to be part of it and happy to have made work.”
For Carr and the rest of the Otherplace Brighton team, once the festival is open it doesn’t mean a month of lounging on the beach. “I’m one of the directors of Otherplace so I’m always around. Our production managers and a core team of 8 technicians stay on site and on average we do about 7 shows a day per theatre and we have about 600 performances over 31 days!”
After Brighton Fringe closes in June then it must be holiday time? “I’m a lighting designer, so I’m going straight into tech at Regents Park!” admits Carr. “Most normal people do, though! One of them has got a baby on the way straight after the festival – or maybe during the festival, we’ll have to see how that goes!” Let’s just hope there is a maternity structure built into the plans!
Images: Antony Pintus
For full details of The Warren Line up for Brighton Fringe visit www.otherplacebrighton.co.uk
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