Next up in our Crew Q&A series is Shane Grieve, Director of Rogue City Pro – a national live event production company based in Edinburgh.

Shane has delivered production management or design on festivals such as Elrow Town, JikaJika!, Parklife, Terminal V and Tramlines amongst arts festivals, craft beer festivals and sporting events.

We chat to him about event logistics, streaming and get his thoughts on the future of the industry >

Your career has taken you through many of the UK’s biggest venues and events to owning your own Live Event Design company Rogue City Pro. How did you get from your first job in the industry to where you are now?

I’ve always had a passion for music and wanted to pursue a creative career in that field. After graduating in Music Industry Management back in 2001 I started work as a Production Technician, mostly servicing venues with audio visual equipment (including old school overhead projectors and flip charts…. it was that long ago).

From there I progressed to Project Management for one the Scotland’s largest event production companies, specialising in corporate events and private parties including numerous By Royal Appointment events.

After 8 years I felt I wanted to get more involved in the live music scene so I pursued a freelance career while developing the rough idea of what Rogue City could do. This lead to a year as Stage Manager and Production Manager for a few festivals and sporting events.

It was during this period I founded Rogue City Pro to provide event design, site design, production and operational support for event management companies, venues and festival organisers. I’ve been lucky enough to not only work on some of the UK’s largest and best loved music festivals, but also some amazing smaller arts and experiential festivals, brand activations and venue launches. 

You’ve worked across many events with big props and floats such as Elrow and Manchester Pride. What’s the craziest aspect of an event you’ve had to design, produce or manage?

Since the sales of physical music declined, there has been a massive investment in production levels for live tours, and this in turn has increased expectation for venues and festivals to do the same.  

Video and lighting installations are year on year becoming far more complex and outdoor stage structures are more diverse than ever. Printworks and Warehouse Project at Manchester Depot are constantly delivering high end shows and as for festivals, Parklife and Terminal V are pushing the production boundaries year on year.  

In terms of crazy though…….Elrow Town is a show to remember. No matter how many designs and renders you see in the planning process, you are still taken aback when the trucks arrive on site from Barcelona, and all manner of craziness comes into your world. There are props on those shows you won’t see anywhere else and there is no limit to what you might see.  It’s like being transported to another world. I do remember standing on the roof of a four storey high stage structure beside full sized, body popping Super Mario Brothers with 10,000 people going crazy down below – brilliant!

Producing large events and working with TV and broadcast media, you must know a thing or two about televised and streamed set ups. What advice would you give to anyone who has a live event in a venue or festival that they would like to stream?

  • I would say the first thing to consider is the content. Really plan that out and think about design; what do you want to say and how.
  • Research the channels you want to showcase your stream and ask for assistance from show partners and sponsors about promoting your stream. 
  • Technically, make sure the venue/site has a robust internet, preferably a dedicated connection.
  • Think of your stream as a bona fide production. Lighting and sound should match the high standard you’d expect from your live show, or people will turn off within 30 seconds.
  • The sound and lighting designers should be involved from the outset. These are the guys that can help the stream look and sound the best it can, and it benefits everyone.
  • Some additional lighting may be required to highlight performances for the broadcast. 
  • I always feel that along with the live sound feed, it’s good to have microphones collecting the “ambient” crowd noises. This really helps those watching feel the live vibe – the heart and soul the show.

Quality broadcasts, done well, could then open up future revenue streams via subscriptions and sponsorship.

How do you envisage event design and production changing beyond 2020?

Beyond 2020 certain effects will be present for a long time.

  • I think on the production and design side that there will be an even bigger presence of streaming and video capture to allow audiences to continue to enjoy the experience remotely. Everybody has gained a new insight and respect for streaming during the 2020  lockdown,  and following the recent resource investment this format will be more prominent.
  • The audience expectation on safety will be much more than before and I expect audiences won’t be keen on the same level of crowd density we have seen up to now.
  • Sanitary, cleaning and waste management practises will be more under the microscope. Expect hand sanitising stations and wash stations to be highly prevalent from here on in and there will be introduction of temperature checking at some venues.
  • People will be more aware of social distancing from the outset not only in the main arena but including queuing systems to access an event and also internally at bars and other concessions. This in turn will require redesigns of site layouts and crowd management strategy which result in more complex and robust security deployment.
  • Certainly in the short term, transportation will be quite different. Airlines and rail networks are going to have a long painful recovery which will impact the accessibility of more remote events. Will people want to be immediately crammed into trains/coaches with each other? That may impact demand for events without parking facilities.

All of those things will have an impact on how we approach designing and planning shows. It is an interesting time for the event industries and they will never be the same as before.

However, with change comes development so it is also an exciting time. Event producers on a global scale are having to rethink the traditional format so expect to see a lot of interesting new concepts as we move into a new event era – we must produce with empathy.

What’s your favourite memory from your career to date? 

Delivering any show, on time, on budget and with everyone having a safe and brilliant experience is an amazing feeling that lives with you forever – it’s why we all love this industry so much.

The one that sticks out for me is in 2019 at Terminal V Festival. I have been involved in this show since its inception. There are really fond memories of the initial chats around an old table in the festival directors kitchen, about what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it. That was in 2017 and the first show had an audience of 3500. Fast forward two years and three more shows (it’s now a bi-annual festival) and we had hit 20,000 capacity.

I tend to get emotional about the shows I manage after the event, but looking around the site that day, witnessing what we had achieved from scratch, was a memory I’ll never forget.

Follow Shane Grieve online