UNITED KINGDOM – The Over a couple of summer evenings way back in 1989 a small group of friends performed Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to raise funds for the care and support of children suffering from life-limiting or terminal illnesses. Today, The Pepper Foundation is a registered charity which raises funds for The Pepper Children’s Nurses who provide care 24/7 for children throughout the Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire area. The Pepper Rock Event Show is performed each year over two weeks in the Centenary Theatre within Berkhamsted School in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.
The annual event is staffed entirely by volunteers; Andy Mahaffey, Head of Lighting at Blitz Communications has been the show’s lighting designer since 2004/5: “Each year has a theme to it and, in this 25th Anniversary year, it’s ‘The Best of British’. Over time the show has grown both in performance and from a technical perspective: from a purely lighting point of view we have gone from a couple of 6 x lamp bars of PAR 64s to a full moving light rig consisting of over 100 moving lights some years. For this anniversary year we’ve been fortunate enough to secure a rig of Clay Paky fixtures so we haven’t had to have the same volume of lights to create the look I was aiming for. The lighting fixtures have come from local company Light Smiths in Tring; as Clay Paky customers, they will have support and service from Ambersphere Solutions who look after Clay Paky in the UK.”
From Mahaffey’s choice of fixtures it’s clear that this is a design guaranteed to cover all eventualities. Along with the Alpha Spot HPE 700 and the Alpha Spot HPE 1200 with their seemingly endless options of gobos and prism wheels, he included a selection of A.leda Washes from each of the models available: the K5, the K10 and the K20. “The K20s were used as extremely bright front light and I can honestly say that, with the exception of the finale, were rarely used at more than about 20% but still giving the output and impression of having double the amount of PAR64s. The K10s were interspersed within the video wall and were used predominantly as back light eye candy while the K5s were floor mounted and more than held their own down there amongst the Alpha Beam 300s.’
‘The Alpha Spot HPE 1200s were used FOH to provide texture to set and performers,” continues Mahaffey, “While the Alpha Spot HPE 700s were on stage providing the break-up looks and adding to aerial beam looks”.
“I hadn’t used the Sharpy Wash units before – what a lovely fixture. They provided comprehensive stage cover as well as creating high impact beam looks to replicate ‘old school’ ACL looks. This works a treat as it gives me the functionality of multiple types of fixtures within one small unit – without doubling or even trebling the size of the rig.”
“Because of the nature of this event, my crew can consist of both people from within the industry and from outside it which can be interesting. It also attracts a high proportion of local students who are interested in a career in lighting, sound, stage management etc… and it allows them the opportunity to work with real equipment in a real world scenario. In fact, that’s how I started twenty-two years ago; it led me to drama school and beyond to where I am now. Although this lighting rig consists of really bang up to date, cutting edge units, it remains user-friendly for all.”
‘Pepper 25’ ran from 12th to 20th July at the Centenary Theatre in Berkhamsted School, Hertfordshire. The show featured a multitude of live artists who all focused on the ‘Best of British’ theme. With a capacity of about 520, the event ran for seven performances and was almost entirely sold out. A busy and demanding schedule for both crew and equipment but as Andy Mahaffey concludes, “For the first time in quite a few years we did not have to swap out a single fixture.”