Unusual leads the Processions march through London

4th July 2018

Unusual was the technical production company of choice for Artichoke when it staged the Processions march in London last month. The mass artwork took place on June 10th in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London and saw thousands of women and girls come together and march, wearing either green white or violet – the colours of the suffragette movement - creating the appearance of a flowing river of colour through the city streets.
Jim Dugan, production manager at Unusual explained: “We’ve been working with Artichoke on its major events and art installations for some years now – Lumiere London and Durham, the Sultan’s Elephant, Great Fire 350 etc, so we were excited to get involved with an event that celebrated something so fundamentally important in our country’s history. Our role on this project was to facilitate all the technical elements – from the barriers, the marquees and the road closures to stage management, security, production management, sound, signage and also the toilet facilities. In addition, the truss gantry at the end of the march route was overseen by our senior rigger Leon Ingram.
The Processions in the other three capital cities were managed by other locally-based UK production managers and a small team of freelancers – but Jim explains it was vital they were all working in sync. “The event was filmed live by the BBC so we had to ensure we were all communicating clearly and effectively with each other as it was extremely important that imagery and timings were tied up together. While the job itself wasn’t technically difficult, the organisation required for this type of event was extremely challenging. Although the event took place in June, we started conversations with Artichoke back in January – almost as soon as we’d finished working on Lumiere London.”
Helen Marriage, director of Artichoke added: “I’ve lost count of the number of different agencies Jim and his team had to liaise with in order to make this event work – from the City of Westminster to the police through Transport for London, buses and the underground.  Obviously our number one concern when staging such big productions is participant safety. Not surprisingly, London being London, there were also other marches scheduled to take place on the same day which added the additional complication of working around them and making sure the different events didn’t clash. The amount of paperwork was phenomenal.”
One of the key objectives for the Unusual team was to help keep the three coloured bands of marchers as uniform as possible – no mean feat given the challenges of street furniture, traffic lights and general improvement works taking place on the city’s streets. Jim added: “The scheduling of this event was quite difficult. We had a very small window to install the infrastructure, mainly due to the limitations of road closures. Whenever we work on something like this, our main aim is to minimise how much we disrupt London. We had a fantastic, big team working with us on Processions – nine stage managers, eight production managers and a core team of 20 people to help make it all happen. We closed the roads at midday and participants, of which there were between 35 – 40 thousand, started turning up at 12.15.  There were tens of thousands of people taking part – and everything was struck and gone away by 10pm that same night.”
Helen concluded: “Once again, Unusual pulled it out of the bag for London – as did all the other teams across the UK. We’re currently part of an initiative funded by the Gatsby Foundation called Technicians Make It Happen – we rely on Unusual for all our big jobs simply because they do exactly that.  The vote for women was such a momentous part of all our history, we wanted to do it justice.  Jim and his team were a fundamental part of making sure that we achieved that.”

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