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A mid-summer night’s dream

by SUZANNE MIAO on Mar 13, 2012 in Architecture , Lifestyle
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Tucked away in the beautiful countryside of Shropshire, LudlowCastle dates back to the 11th century, with a complex stage cosntructed on its grounds every July for the annual performing arts festival

Every year since the founding of the festival in 1960, a small but dedicated team of skilled craftsmen erect a fully-functioning theatre – all in just 21 days. They build a huge stage, wire up power cables and plumb water, build dressing rooms and props stores, build scaffolding towers to mount lighting and sound rigs, create an entire set including scenery, paint it and much more. What’s more, the castle remains open to the public the entire time.

Lyn Jones, who heads up the play from the Ludlow Festival, is also on the festival management group and one of the Trustees of the event. “The stage design varies from year to year, but we are increasingly working with our stage construction team and the set designer to create a more standard infrastructure which works best for the castle setting and is most cost-effective,” she says.

“The stage set relates directly to the director and set designer’s vision for the play. However, we are increasingly finding that the castle itself is seen as a most amazing backdrop and that too complicated a set only distracts from the grandeur.”

Ludlow Festival’s team comprises Dave Hicks (electrician and site manager), Phred Chapman (set and auditorium construction), Keith Phasey and team (scaffolding), plus two volunteers: Mick Reese and Mark Watkins. Alistair Barton is responsible for health and safety.

 

One of the biggest challenges is getting all the materials on site, as everything has to be delivered (and removed) through the narrow castle entrance, a bridge over the moat and then the portcullis entrance into the inner bailey without damaging the castle infrastructure or grounds. “We use a small team of local craftsmen each year,” says Jones. “They are aware of the issues surrounding a Grade One listed building and Scheduled Ancient Monument – for example, nothing can be attached to the castle infrastructure, everything is free-standing.”

 

Read the full story in the April 2012 issue of Perspective magazine! 

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