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Blackout back at the National Student Drama Festival

Drapes and rigging company Blackout returned to Scarborough’s National Student Drama Festival (NSDF) for the third year, donating time and equipment to help the next generation of production professionals learn their trade, April 2015.

Over 60 volunteer crew members, aged 16-25, join the production team each year. They have the chance to get hands-on with everything from drapes and rigging to sound, lights and special effects.

Blackout donated a 45ft arctic truck’s worth of rigging and draping equipment including 25 hoist motors, 100m of pipe and drape, 600m of black wool serge and red velour drapes and 350m of truss. Project manager Nick Brown was onsite throughout the three day build.

He said: “It’s always good to help young people in the industry get hands-on experience. Theory is all well and good, but you have no idea if you’re going to like the industry or not until you actually get out there and try it. This is particularly true for rigging; it’s the unsung hero of the production world and people often don’t realise you can specialise in it.”

And if anyone knows the opportunities rigging presents, it’s Nick. He’s been hanging from mothergrids and suspended from PA towers for the last 30 years.

Blackout ltd at National Student Drama Festival

“I started in lighting,” he explains, “but soon realised that it wasn’t for me. I was already a keen rock climber and rigging is largely about climbing, it’s all part of the skill set. Combine that with the technical aspect and not only is it a challenging and important role, but it’s exciting too. Opportunities like the NSDF – where the new generation of production pros can learn about the opportunities available – are so important.”

Taking place across the seaside town of Scarborough, the volunteer crew work to a tight budget, transforming five venues and getting them ready to host a number of theatre productions which are written, directed and performed by students.

Working with the students, Nick provided practical training in the Clive Wolfe Auditorium, a temporary venue, built inside Scarborough Sports Centre.

This year, the Clive Wolfe Auditorium capacity was increased. Nick and the team installed a 28m x 21m and 6m high mother grid with black wool serge sides and roof to create a ‘black box’ over the stage and tiered seating.

David Graham, technical director of the NSDF, commented: "Blackout's continued generosity, with both their time and equipment, allows us to offer the highest standard of production space to our visiting shows and audiences. Coupled with the fantastic hands-on learning opportunity that this build presents to our student Technical Team, this is an unrivalled experience for young people to come and learn. NSDF is a unique event which gives young people, both on and off stage, the chance to shine. Opportunities like this simply wouldn't be available without the help and support of companies like Blackout."

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