As we find ourselves in the third lockdown of this pandemic, we thought we would take the opportunity to look back on 2020: a year that presented unprecedented challenge to our business and to our industry as a whole.
In March 2020, when the first lockdown hit, I don’t think any of us could have predicted – or perhaps didn’t want to conceive – that the events and theatre industries as we knew them would be put on hold for as long as they have been. Our optimism for a return in some form kept us going in those first few months, but equally here at SLX we began looking to what might be possible and importantly safe when things began to reopen after Lockdown 1.0.
Our Virtual Events offering was rapidly increased in that time, utilising our brilliant new warehouse and transforming a section into Covid safe studio, gallery and greenroom spaces. It has so far played host to award ceremonies, corporate conferences, pitch meetings and celebrations.
Outside of our virtual world our broadcast team had a very busy summer delivering the technical and site logistics for Love Productions The Great British Bake Off. This was the first show to go into production during lockdown and required some serious logistical considerations, including Delivering the entire project whilst bubbled from the outside world. Our delivery team worked for a fortnight readying the site with generators, mains distribution, temporary structures, broadcast lighting, everything that would be needed for the team to shoot the project over six weeks We left the site head of the filming crew, our technicians and the participants arriving and then returned to dismantle once all members of the crew and cast had left. We are delighted to have been part of making this production happen, which felt more important than ever this year in lifting the mood of the nation!
We also spent much of the summer supporting the efforts of the WeMakeEvents campaign, which did vital work in drawing to the nation’s attention the plight of our industry. This included illuminating the Bristol Old Vic Theatre, and taking part in a socially distanced ‘stand-in’ on College Green, Bristol.
With the summer months drawing to a close, our attention turned – as it does every year at this time – to our Winter Lights Projects. Now well practised in COVID secure working, our teams set out in their bubbles to various sites across the nation – from Warwick Castle to Dalkeith Country Park – to begin setting up and programming. Our teams were working in the historic grounds of a number of sites across the UK, as well as along five heritage steam railway lines including, the Severn Valley Railway and the North Norfolk Railway. With some sites set up and others still in progress the second lockdown hit, this plunged us into uncertainty once more. As these events largely encouraged attendance in an outdoor capacity, all went ahead in some form once the lockdown eased. The delight of the audiences who were able to visit these attractions in a safe and well managed way made all the extra precautions of the build worthwhile.
At the same time as establishing our Winter Light Projects, in October, we also facilitated a COVID secure pre-show at our warehouse for the award-winning hit musical SIX. Having decided to relocate their West-End production to a bigger theatre, to allow for socially distanced audiences. Our warehouse team worked to customise a preshow area in our warehouse, designed to be physically separated from our main working areas, with only an equipment “airlock” between the two allowing for UV-C cleaning of equipment. The preshow team had their own dedicated access, green room area and facilities.
Sam Floyd, Production Electrician on SIX, says: “It was wonderful to be at SLX, prepping a show for the first time since February. Katy and the team at SLX did amazingly to implement very effective practices which kept us COVID secure in those crucial weeks as we prepared.”
Whilst theatre has yet again had to completely close its doors, we are confident that when the industry is given the go ahead, we are ready to provide safe working environments for all the vital production teams making theatre possible.
Where We Are
As a business, we remain open and working – in large part thanks to having clients across sectors and whilst live events and theatre may not be operating ‘as normal’, we continue to support our broadcast clients creating great television. We also continue to provide virtual events for those still wanting to connect with their audiences despite the pandemic with demand for this increasing throughout Spring 2021.
What We’ve Learnt
Working in this industry you have to be flexible and quick to adapt to change, our rapid adaptation of equipment and staff has meant we have continued to offer excellent service to all our clients.
We know how important people are to our profession and we do worry that some of our industries incredible freelancers may through having to seek out other roles may be lost to our industry forever. We also remain so grateful for the team of staff here at SLX, who are exemplary in their attitude and enthusiasm for providing the best service possible to our clients.
Most importantly, this period has helped us all reflect on the importance of connection. It’s something events, theatre and broadcast provide in different ways. We are all missing human connection at present but here at SLX we see it as our responsibility as a business to continue providing opportunities for connection, in whatever form they may take, as well as opportunities to create a bit of magic and joy, which is, and will be, needed more than ever.