DBN Helps Launch Turku’s European Capital of Culture Year

DBN Turku eur151742070Stephen Page from Manchester, UK, based company DBN Lighting designed the lighting scheme for the acclaimed Opening Ceremony of Turku’s year as 2011 European Capital of Culture.

Page was asked to work aboard the project by Salford based Walk The Plank, who won the tender for the concept, and were commissioned to produce the 35 minute OC show by the Turku 2011 Foundation. The fire and lighting spectacular was written and directed by Mark Murphy, creatively produced by John Wassell for Walk The Plank and staged at the fabulously charismatic former Wärtsilä Shipyard on the River Aura which dissects the City.

Page is a long time collaborator with Walk The Plank, and also designed the lighting for their shows to open and close Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture year in 2008.

DBN Turku eur151238485Page was assisted by Tom Ralston and Pete Isherwood – and DBN supplied 36 Clay Paky Alpha Beam 700 moving lights from the UK, with an additional two Alpha Beam 1500 units supplied courtesy of Clay Paky. In Turku, they partnered with Helsinki based lighting rental company RMC, who supplied 10 crew and all the rest of the lighting equipment needed to illuminate the massive 500 metre wide by 200 metre deep performance space, which included the completely frozen over river.

Page explains:  “The piece was a combination of intimate small scale theatrical moments, coupled with large scale spectacle and pyrotechnics and the key challenge for the lighting design was to link all the different elements at various scales across the huge site so that the audience could follow the language of the piece as a whole.  I used Alpha Beams as the key element of the design, both to link the smaller theatrical moments and provide big, dramatic looks to complement the larger scale parts of the show.  There were no relay screens so we had to work really creatively to communicate the story across the site to a huge audience, as well as meeting the needs of a live TV broadcast”.

The action included aerial performers swinging from cranes, a massive fire drawing rigged from the rock-face at the back of the shipyard, a choir of 500, a row of performers in cherry pickers just in front of the audience and some awesome pyrotechnics. The narrative was a love story set against a historical backdrop of the City.

There were 3 main areas for performance, centred around the historic shipyard area of the city.  On one side of the river a Gantry running along the top of a rock face at the rear of the shipyard (effectively ‘upstage’) and a huge Slipway below this where ships had been launched into the water. The third area was on the opposite side of the River, based around a large historic crane and running down the riverbank in front of the main audience position. A walkway on the crane was used as the principal stage area and the crane itself was utilised for rigging a substantial amount of lighting equipment.

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Along each of these 3 areas, he positioned three rows of 12 Clay Paky Alpha Beam 700s, which were his main effects lights across the site, shooting tight, bright beams up into the night sky and swooping down to texture the iced up and snowed over river with gobos and colours. At either end of the site on the shipyard riverbank were two Alpha Beam 1500s which were used to accurately track aerial performers and define the extent of the site.

For the Alpha Beams located in the pyro fall out zones, DBN designed and fabricated special Perspex weather domes, as the standard inflatable ones could not be used.

Other lighting fixtures included Martin Professional and Robe moving lights, Studio Due City Colors, Atomic strobes, lots of LED and conventional PARs, a host of 500 Watt floods, 4-lites and i-Pix BB4s – over 400 lights in total.

The whole site was covered in heavy snow for the entire period of the get in, rehearsal and show, so this, the cold and the cabling distances were the biggest challenges.

Page pre-programmed as much of the show as possible using a WYSIWYG 3D visualiser, and ran it on a Jands Vista T4 console with the latest version 2 “Byron” software, with a T2 running as hot backup.

He concludes, “It was a privilege working on this event and a real pleasure to partner with RMC and engage in the great teamwork that made it happen so successfully”.

Bitterly cold temperatures of minus 20 degrees C didn’t deter a live audience of 50,000 people attending, and it was also broadcast live on TV. The Opening Ceremony is the biggest single event of Turku’s cultural year and one of the largest live performances yet staged in Finland.
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