Production design and solution specialist Central Presentations Ltd (CPL) provided full technical production - lighting, sound and video - to Bright Productions for a major global sales conference event hosted by Education First’s corporate solutions division. The organisation specialises in the development of language training, educational travel, academic degree programmes and cultural exchange.
The event encompassed a two day conference with two evenings of themed entertainment and was staged in the beautiful and majestic environs of Ashridge House in Hertfordshire, UK. Nestling in 190 acres of impeccably preened gardens and parkland, the impressive stately home was built between 1808 and 1814 on the site of the original Ashridge Priory dating back to the 13th century. It is now owned by the National Trust, and more recently, full business conference facilities were added.
CPL’s John Radford project managed the conference elements of the event working closely with Andy Oswan from Bright, while CPL’s Simon Haydon co-ordinated the evening action together with Bright’s Alistair Paul.
This took place in Ashridge House’s main conference room, where the set – designed and supplied by CPL – became the main focal point of the room. It comprised twin screens with graphic-wrapped panels and was inspired by a previous successful set design by Bright which was adapted and developed especially for the new event and location.
The set and the room were attractively up-lit using a series of Miltech LED battens and Martin MAC Aura moving LED wash lights.
For the projection used in the presentations, CPL provided two Panasonic 10Ks which were flown from the existing house metal roof superstructure, which also provided positions of the general stage lighting provided by ETC Source Four Juniors and Selecon Acclaim fresnels.
A d&b sound system featured left and right stacks of E12s with a QSUB array run through a Yamaha QL1 console.
The hub of the two evening social events was Ashridge House’s Main Hall, a fabulous neo-classical two level space with an impressive staircase that turns 180 degrees giving access to the gallery level.
Branded ‘Best of British’ and ‘Baroque & Roll’ respectively, guests rocked some elaborate and interesting costumes as they enjoyed the conviviality of the two different nights that allowed them to relax and network after the intense daytime conference sessions.
On the first night, the first level landing area of the staircase was utilised for the DJ booth and as a band stage – both used their own portable PA systems, while on the second night, it served as the platform for an Awards presentation.
An important part of the lighting brief was to highlight key architectural features of the room and simultaneously ensure that the equipment blended into the background.
Simon explains that they constructed a series of vertical trussing towers on MPT bases at gallery level which were rigged with lights, which from that vantage point were ideally positioned to shoot down into the room / dancefloor below as well as up into the ceiling and around the walls.
The juxtaposition of the pristine metalwork of CPL’s trussing and the stone walls, arches and columns of the room evoked an industrial-classical aesthetic harmony and provided a distinctive look for the room “that was a bit of a risk, but it really worked” commented Simon.
The selected lighting fixtures were a mix of Clay Paky Mythos multi-functional moving lights, MAC Auras and MAC 350 Entours.
Around 40 SmartBatt LED uplighters were used to graze up the walls in the reception and feeder areas leading in to the Main Hall, helping get everyone in the mood.
On the first night, the jaw-dropping symmetry of the Ashridge’s famous Italian Gardens was accented in red, white and blue light - following the ‘Best of British’ theme - using high quality CORE ColourPoint Mark 2 LED uplighters.
On the second night in front of the library, a different part of the extensive gardens, based on Humphry Repton designs in 1813, were lit as delegates enjoyed a fireworks finale.
For the Awards presentation, Clay Paky A.leda. K20 LED wash moving lights fitted with B-Eye lenses were added to the Main Hall lighting scheme, together with CP Sharpies and ARRI L5 wash lights. Sixty-five inch LED screens on stands were dotted around the room so everyone could clearly see the nomination and winner information.
Guests passed from the Main Hall into a new space, the Lady Marian Allford (LMA) room which was set up with DJ, a d&b Q1 line array sound system and lit with more Sharpies and B-Eyes for a full after-party vibe.
All stage and room lighting was run off an Avolites Quartz console.
A major overall challenge for the CPL team, particularly on the indoor evening events, was ensuring that the installation and production work was executed with great care in the Grade 1 listed building, and that no elements – like noise or pyro – activated the alarm system, protecting many priceless paintings hung throughout the property!
This meant paying special attention to focusing the sound image into the correct areas of the room and the choice of pyro – like glitter, confetti, etc. and firing methods.