What If Your New Theatre Isn't Going To Get A Grid?

What If Your New Theatre Isn't Going To Get A Grid?

CX Staging Tower Grid

Here at Jands Staging, we come across small (and not so small) theatres, both existing and planned, that do not have a grid in the tower over the stage. When we talk about the stage tower grid, weíre talking about that floor made of steel channels with all the slots in it, sitting anything up to 20m above the stage floor, not a lighting grid made of pipes.

The most common reasons for not installing a grid in the stage tower are lack of funds and lack of height in the building or building approval (constraints in the building envelope).

There is only so much that can be done to make that extra height appear when it isnít there or when it canít be added, but if the driving force behind a decision at the planning stage to not install a grid is commercial, then itís worth considering what it is going to cost a venue in the long run, to maintain, service or modify a flying system in this grid-less stage tower.

When a grid is installed, a venue has the option of easily rigging spot lines, electrics cables and dead hanging set pieces, and without a grid, these options become problematic.

These issues can be, and often are, worked around with that most valuable of assets Ė an inventive and diligent crew of riggers and mechanists.
The issues that will cost dearly, both in commercial terms and in terms of continuing safety, are the issues of inspection, maintenance, repair and service of lofting and head pulleys.

During the construction phase of a theatre, the lofting and head pulleys are generally installed and reeved from a scaffold, or one of the high access machines on site.
Take away these construction tools, however, and you are left with the prospect of standing on the stage and staring in frustration at that one loft pulley that has developed an annoying rattle or squeak, and could be fixed in 5 minutes if you could just get to the thing.

Ropes can jump out of sheaves on older systems, rope keepers can come loose and bearings can develop a sound like a mouse doing time in a treadmill. These things can happen no matter how well the equipment is installed and checked before the scaffold comes down Ė Mr Murphy will always come to the party and make certain that you discover these problems as soon as you canít get to them to fix them.

More concerning however, is the issue of the inevitable compromises in safety that will occur when it isnít really feasible (or it is just plain inconvenient) to make those routine and periodic inspections of equipment that is holding heavy loads over peopleís heads.

For a system of inspection and maintenance to be effective, that system must be able to be implemented fairly easily, and it must be embraced by both the management and the operating staff of the theatre.

If a boom-arm lift has to be hired, or in the (not uncommon) case of a theatre whose stage cannot accommodate a boom-arm, a scaffold has to be erected, just to inspect, tighten and lubricate lofting pulleys, then the system of inspection and maintenance is doomed to get, at best, lip-service only.

Given the lifespan of a typical installation of theatre machinery of the order of 30+ years, then the capital cost of installing a grid is not so significant, when compared to the twice-yearly cost of closing the stage for a few days, hiring that boom-arm, or erecting a scaffold in the theatre tower.

If a theatre project is planned with BOTH the initial construction cost (capital expenditure) AND the ongoing maintenance costs for the lifespan of the theatre (recurring expenditure) accounted for, then the added functionality and safety that a grid offers, suddenly becomes an investment with little or no net cost.


Jands Staging provide articles to the "Staging What If" section in CX Magazine. If you have any questions regarding this article then please comment below or email info@jands.com.au

Bookmark and Share


Please comment using the form below (email will not be displayed)





Please note that your comment will only appear after it has been moderated.


Security key