CPL, the technical production specialist, was poised to deliver a show environment to event organiser Pandora Events for a motivational event and sales conference occupying Hall 4 of the NEC Birmingham, complete with in-the-round staging, live band, dancers and roller-skating artists and high-level presenters – for 2,500 guests when, during the dress rehearsals, COVID-19 intervened.

The latest UK Government advice – at that time, 10 days before the national lockdown came into force on March 23 – was announced, and the organiser took the unanimous decision to stop guests journeying from all over the UK to be there.

Instead, with less than 24 hours’ notice, the event was transformed into a four-hour webcast.

The band still played, the dancers moved and grooved, and the skaters gyrated and glided – all the routines were pre-recorded by CPL video/camera crew and inserted into the webcast – keeping the good energy flowing across the ether.

The most successful delegates were recognised for their achievements and sales and the new season’s products revealed all in a near surreal setting for Mike Radford, CPL project manager,  and crew (up to 70 during peak times) who were working on the event’s combined technical aspects.

The load-in had originally commenced on the Wednesday for the Saturday event. The design theme – initiated by producers Vanessa and Andrew Carter of Pandora Events – was “disco” in a Starlight Express vibe.

The stage was built in the centre of Hall four, an 18-metre diameter circle with an eight-metre revolve in the middle and runways coming off two sides.

A 12m diameter circular main truss in the roof above was clad with 3.6 metre deep Roe CB5 LED panels covering 360 degrees, and in the centre of this was a 2.8 metre diameter mirror ball on motors.

The original event format comprised three sections – recognition, achievements and incentives, which was followed by the new product launches, and then an after-show party all of it interspersed with the various live entertainment segments.

Instead, for the webcast, the huge glitter ball was lowered down to ground level and the three presenters – dressed like disco divas – sat in front talking to camera in a pop-up TV studio-style space.

The live camera feeds were cut in with the recognition VTs, trip launches and product slides.

Radford commented: “Although we were already aware that the Covid-19 situation was volatile and could change at any minute, when the decision was taken to stop the audience for their own safety and well-being, everyone snapped into ‘save-the-event’ mode and also into being extra conscious about the safety of the working conditions.

“The change in circumstances entailed a lot of quick thinking on the feet – all instincts for which our resourceful industry is renowned – but all worked together and were united in their determination to deliver a highly memorable event for the client.”

Image: Ben Daure