Access caught up with Serious Stages’ Steven and Holly Corfield, who are celebrating 35 years of enterprise working alongside Glastonbury Pageant, and an Business Legend award on the Occasion Manufacturing Awards
Serious Stages’ headquarters is nestled in rural Somerset in the picturesque metropolis of Wells, with a vista taking within the historic cathedral tower and Glastonbury Tor. Access sat down over tea and biscuits to look fondly back at three and a half many years of staging.
We additionally stopped by Worthy Farm itself, where the primary skins have been being installed onto the skeleton Pyramid stage that has laid silent for almost two years. En route, we ran into the person himself Michael Eavis, who shared his accounts of Serious’s humble beginnings and subsequent rise to success.
Our trip concluded on the Corfields’ farm where they proudly displayed some of the 2,500 timber they have lately planted.
Like his shut pal, Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis, Serious Stages’s founder Steven Corfield additionally hails from a farming background. And, like Eavis, his life – and his spouse and business associate Holly – took a dramatic twist when a humble occasion in Somerset ballooned into one of the world’s most well-known gatherings they usually entered the world of occasion staging.
Serious now employs more than 100 staff and repair more than 200 international occasions yearly, however I was eager to return to the beginning, when Serious Stages (initially referred to as Upfront) was one of the pioneers of Glastonbury Pageant’s iconic Pyramid Stage. From that first stage, the company will set up greater than 50 levels and website buildings across the 2019 pageant.
How did all of it begin?
SC: I was farming in Pilton, and my now great good friend Michael Eavis was farming on one aspect of the village, with me on the other. He had a much bigger farm, and once I came down in 1975, the primary few festivals had already occurred. However, it actually obtained moving into 1981 in a bigger approach, when Michael took it on himself.
HC: The original Pyramid Stage was funded by one of the pageant founders Andrew Kerr, who had some cash left to him, and didn’t need to be encumbered by belongings, so he put on a celebration with a stage built out of scaffolding and tin. The second, in 1982 had a picket framework which later burnt down in 1994, just some weeks before the pageant. We obtained a call at 4am in the morning to help, as they have been clearing burning embers. In fact we obtained the stage – one of our Orbits – and crew in place and the pageant went forward as planned. It was all arms on deck with a “show must go on” angle.
SC: Michael had an ideal imaginative and prescient for the pageant. I keep in mind speaking to him about it in the mid-70s as we have been sat on a tractor at our farm. We both owned tractors, however neither of us might afford a brand new battery, so we left them on a hill so we might bump begin them if they failed. And failing that we had a sequence that might assist tow the other one should it break down. Michael stated his ambition was to sell a present without saying any bands. That was his major goal, and one he’s definitely achieved. He took great delight ultimately in his achievements, but back then he was only a local farmer.
SC: Serious Stages was linked with WOMAD pageant and we built a second Various World Stage as Glastonbury expanded. The Orbit staging system, with its characteristic curved roof, had grow to be synonymous with Serious again then and we put in them into tons of of classical exhibits in stately houses and parks.
HC: The Orbit idea was devised by a Scottish structural engineer referred to as George Weemyss as a lozenge building form they usually used it for on shore oil purposes, because it was highly resilient in robust winds. Tim Davis helped make it appropriate for staging, dividing up the building, placing a cantilever on the entrance and making it into an open-fronted stage. That was in all probability the time we employed our first structural engineers and we actually needed to perceive the engineering behind what we have been supplying.
SC: That was an 18m stage, and we then developed a 15m and 12m variant which have been highly regarded. There was so much of enterprise from orchestras at stately houses within the 80’s. It was a very English start, but the fashions shortly turned common internationally.
What’s so totally different concerning the Pyramid?
SC: We employ CAD designers, structural engineers, fabricators, logistics specialists, financial professionals and of course, the crews and drivers who get on website from our Somerset base. All our levels, buildings and sit buildings are designed and manufactured here.
There’s little question that Glastonbury pageant has been an incredible part behind our improvement. Nevertheless it’s wider than that: I feel we’re people who need to make it special, all the time end the job whatever the obstacles and for all of the lengthy hours there are household values and a sense of fun.
How have staging laws changed?
SC: Thirty-five years ago nobody was even taking a look at us! We started in trainers and t-shirts. I consider we have been some of the primary pioneers with the introduction of metal toe cap boots and Hello-Viz PPE gear for our crews. Because the business grew in measurement and professionalism, totally different local authorities utilized a variety of licensing standards across the years.
From 2008 to 2012, the rise of CDM laws have been a huge change, prompted by the Olympics – when development met entertainment. We shaped an in depth relationship with the Well being & Safety Government, notably Gavin Bull, in trying to establish a practicable set of greatest working practices suitable for the reside occasions business. There have been quite a bit of assets targeted on the Olympics, however as soon as they’d left city we in all probability solely have 21 inspectors with information of stay events left throughout the entire of the UK, and entertainment is an alien area as a result of of the distinctive sites and brief lead occasions. On the back of what we discovered at the Olympics we invited other staging corporations to collaborate inside a steerage group, which saw rivals sitting around the table for the larger good of the business. That produced a doc that was acknowledged as a greatest follow ‘guidance for temporary stages and buildings’, overlaying the whole lot from wind loading to main edges and the licensing has largely accepted the content material to work to, which has been very helpful for the whole business.
HC: We had found that some local authorities had totally different guidelines. We have been expected to verify to some H&S that different corporations didn’t comply with, despite being on the identical website, so we needed some blanket cowl.
SC: You’ve got a development website that legally modifications right into a efficiency area, and artists are underneath a special set of guidelines to staff. Nevertheless, the requirements have improved enormously, and have been accepted throughout Europe.
Inform us about your other pageant work
SC: After Glastonbury, we started working at Studying in the early ‘90s with Melvin Benn. He’s an outstanding promoter and has been so supportive. That affiliation has led to us taking our levels to Australia, America, North Africa. Melvin’s all the time been very progressive and eager to increase the production values and buyer experience. At Latitude Pageant, which he created from scratch, we included parts like decking beneath the water, to offer the looks of walking on water! Melvin asks us to rise to the problem – and we do. He has a exceptional passion and power, which in inspiring and tiring on the similar time!
What have been your largest challenges?
SC: One technically challenging venture involved replicating an EDC US touring set for a one off show in Milton Keynes. We had to fly out, see what they have been doing, come again and fabricate it. Typically we’ve had in a single day challenges, like on the 2012 Olympics, where we needed to make modifications to buildings overnight and drive them back in time for the subsequent day. Within the Middle East, we frequently work to very brief lead occasions to create some very spectacular levels and short-term buildings.
The Olympics was an excellent time for us. We worked on the know-how help buildings, producing 40 buildings in 2012, and lots of company buildings from early on within the cycle.
Some other area of interest work?
SC: We’ve labored on film set buildings for Star Wars and other films since 1985, which developed into creating giant scale movie buildings. These tasks often have unbelievable non-disclosure clauses that they own the rights ‘across this universe and all others discovered’, so we will’t say too much. But it’s a vibrant sector and we’ve got simply taken down our newly designed and built MegaNova building, which was a 70m span x 105m long short-term film studio.
Michael all the time pushes the envelope too. He had the thought to create the Bullring at Glastonbury, and it involved rather a lot of heavy steel work, huge lock gates and we created an enormous amphitheatre around it.
What does the business’s future hold?
SC: I’m watching their expertise develop – the Max’s [Steven and Holly’s son], the Emily Eavis’/ Nick Deweys and Frankie Tee’s of the world – I’m positive they’ll attain new heights.
From a technical manufacturing sense, I feel lights can solely go to date, however we’ve barely begun to see what may be achieved with screens with shifting screens, display walls, 3D, HD and VR – they are turning into integral to painting new artistic horizons.
It’s all the time nice getting creatives in a room. Typically although, it’s about managing expectations of what might be accomplished within cut-off dates. For festivals, the brief run time is usually an obstacle. You’ve only received that occasion to create one thing for – with a tour the budgets reflect that a special might be used many occasions over.
In phrases of the longer term, we additionally like to provide again. Holly and I have planted hundreds of timber (2,500 thus far) to stability the carbon influence of our work and invest sooner or later of our (native) setting. I say you possibly can by no means plant enough timber in your lifetime.
Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis reminisces on Serious Stages’ critical ascent
Steven turned up in Pilton on a BSA motorcycle in 1975 and advised me he’d purchased Bornes Farm, however he’d changed the identify to ‘Borne Farm’, taking the ‘s’ off, which brought on a stir on the time.
The location was previously run by some everlasting Pilton-dwelling varieties, and nobody knew who they have been so we have been quite relieved to have Steven right here.
When he bought the location I stated to him: “That’s where the commune was, isn’t it?” and he stated, “well it’s every man for himself here now,” and I laughed and our friendship started there.
Holly is a superb woman, and she or he’s on the Parish Council and is nice at that.
Steven ran just a little farm and a had few Jerseys. He didn’t know what he was doing, but he was making an attempt arduous. Pretty milk though!
So Steven started building the picket Pyramid Stage with figures together with Roger Heighton. They didn’t have a lot money however they did rather well. Steven was there daily and ultimately began his personal company.
We knew him as a young boy, and caught with him by way of thick and skinny. It wasn’t all the time rosy, however he came by way of.
When the Pyramid burnt right down to the ground, we heard there was a fireplace round 4am within the morning and I pulled the curtains again and I couldn’t consider it. The thing was completely ablaze, and so I needed Steven to usher in a stage in two weeks. I stated you’d better sweep that up, type it out, and begin constructing a new stage, which was the Orbit stage, and that was actually the start of one thing. He pulled off a spectacular job out of the ashes, it was really the start of something.
It was a Tim Davis design, and we ran the present. The subsequent one was constructed especially for the 2002 pageant. We had to check it, and he acquired as many people on it as he might, and referred to as it a ‘load test’. He advised everyone to leap, after which shouted ‘not all at once’. Steven now does umpteen other levels for us.
Stages do range tremendously the world over. I was chatting with Large Assault this morning, they usually stated they played in Mexico final night time they usually might hardly get on the stage – there’s so much of them within the band. So we’re greater than lots of levels.
Serious Stages has grown as Glastonbury has, in proportion to the pageant.