Written by Claire Beeson, Deputy Editor of LSi Magazine
Published in Lighting & Sound International - September 2016
UK - The busy summer festival season has seen Peterborough- based Pearce Hire supplying a number of environmentally conscious events ranging from the Forestry Commission Concerts - all held on Greenfield sites to the Cambridge Folk Festival. The challenge is to provide a lighting and temporary power package that meets with each event's green credentials and. if possible, reduces the carbon footprint of each site, year-on-year. With festivals famously power-hungry beasts, this is no mean feat, but with 30 years' experience of this event, it's a challenge Pearce Hire is more than willing to accept.
CAMBRIDGE FOLK FESTIVAL
Originally organised by Cambridge City Council, in 2015 management of the Cambridge Folk Festival transferred to Cambridge Live - a charitable organisation whose main purpose is the advancement of art for public benefit. Each year, the festival’s team works towards the Greener Festival awards criteria and in 2014 employed a dedicated green coordinator, Liz Warwick.
All staff and vendors are encouraged to ‘switch off' when possible; punters are asked to reuse plastic cups from the bars to reduce litter and waste; backstage, water coolers are used instead of plastic bottles (this done by CoolerAid. which donates a proportion of rentals to charity). Organisers also commission wildlife investigations and go to great lengths to protect local waterways, land and the biodiversity of the area from negative impacts of such an event.
Dan Shelton, who oversees the festival for Pearce Hire, says: "The Cambridge Folk Festival has always tried to promote the greener side of things - they comply to the Greener Festivals initiative and take that very seriously, trying to reduce their electricity consumption year-on- year and to make those who use any sort of electricity on-site more aware of their usage. Certainly, for as long as I've been involved with the festival, Pearce Hire has made a number of changes which have helped the event to significantly reduce its carbon footprint."
LET THERE BE LIGHT
Initial changes implemented by Pearce Hire included swapping power-hungry tungsten floodlights for LED and festoon lighting site-wide. However, one of the most effective changes to the site's power consumption was the introduction, five years ago. of photocells. Manufactured in-house by Pearce Hire, these sensors switch site lighting on and off at dawn and dusk as required, resulting in huge savings from reduced energy consumption and diesel use.
"We used to send one of the team off first thing in the morning to turn the lights and distros off across the site. He'd then have to go back out in the evening and turn them all back on again, which as you can imagine, was wasting hours of someone's time and energy each day. So to streamline this process, we started to look at using photocells - similar to the technology that's used for streetlamps. Obviously, it's more efficient to have lighting come on and go off automatically because, for example, they will do so at four or five in the morning rather than at seven or eight when our crew member begins work."
“As a solution the photocells have worked out really well," he continues. “A substantial amount of electricity gets used just for site lighting, so having it going on or off as needed thanks to the photocells saves a good 12 hours of unnecessary electricity usage each day.”
Pearce Hire has now rolled the technology out to other projects it works on. “Even if clients aren't particularly worried about being ‘green’, everyone is concerned with money and cost savings • so if this solution means that they use less diesel, then they're happy." says Dan
For stage lighting, as with site lighting. Pearce Hire has instigated a shift towards LED fixtures. The festival includes four stages - all of which now feature predominantly LED rigs.
Dan comments: "With both Cambridge and the Forestry Commission contracts being long-standing, we've been able to invest in a lot of LED fixtures and moving heads. It's been a big investment but it has certainly paid off because we are able to use the fixtures across all of our contracts, so they're always out on the road. The use of energy efficient fixtures also means we can reduce generator size which helps in subsidising that investment.”
“Next year we're looking at a further push on stage lighting; to invest in some new LED profile moving head fixtures. We re just waiting for the right product.”
For Cambridge Folk Festival, stage lighting includes Robe Robin 1200 LED washes, Martin Rush PAR 2s and Robe Robin 100 beams. “The Robe 100s are brilliant little fixtures," says Dan. “They're lightweight which is key here because all the stages are in marquees so it's important for weight loading. They're also energy efficient for their size - a brilliant little light.”
Providing power, site lighting and stage lighting to the festival gives Pearce Hire the upper hand, says Dan, in that it allows them to easily push changes site-wide. "It wouldn't really be our place to ring up another lighting company and tell them to use LED fixtures, but because we do everything, as long as the client is will to pay for it, then we can push these initiatives further and really make a difference.
"The generators we use are all Euro Stage Three compliant - one of the most energy efficient, low emission generators you can get.” says Dan. "Instead of putting in two big sets - which is what we used to do here quite a few years ago and which is something a lot of other companies still do • we put in a lot of little gererators. This actually works out to be a lot more efficient: a lot of smaller engines actually use a lot less diesel compared to two big engines - particularly overnight. So, rather than having a large generator running not a lot of power, we can drop it on to a little 60Kva that just ticks along nicely. It just sips at the diesel rather than a big unit drinking it up just to provide that small amount of power."
Again, with Pearce Hire also controlling the lighting, they are best placed to identify where and when to turn on/off various generators and to not be wasting fuel.
Cambridge Folk Festival is somewhat unique in that much of the site has the luxury of running off mains electricity - and with the area on a green energy tariff, this further helps the team ensure their carbon footprint is as small as possible.
"To replicate the power supplied to this site from the mains would take a pair of largegenerators • you'd be looking at 12-15.000 litres of diesel being used. So obviously, mains provides a huge cost saving and is a much greener option. It's very unique to get so much mains running on site," says Dan.
Throughout the duration of the festival, green coordinator Liz Warwick conducts energy profiling, taking metre readings once every three hours and calculating the carbon footprint of the event. From this the team can identify where the festival's major impacts are and where improvements could be made.
Liz Warwick comments: "This is my third year on this event and last year we reduced electricity consumption by 8.6%. A lot of that was in the build period - a factor we were able to identify thanks to energy profiling and monitoring usage at set times each year."
"We've calculated that over the last five years we've reduced diesel usage by a third thanks to Dan and the team at Pearce Hire resizing the generators and converting things such as the tower lighting to festoon and LED."
Andrew Keightley. the festival's production manager, comments: "The festival is run by a very small team - about three people look after it until the beginning of July each year when it expands out. but then it very quickly contracts back down again. So if you have a contractor that you can use and trust, and that is flexible enough to look after all the changes we bring in as part of Greener Festivals and such, then you hang on to them. And that's why Pearce Hire has been doing Cambridge Folk Festival for about 30 years.”
Festival organiser Eddie Barcan agrees: "Environmental and ethical issues are really important to the value of the festival and have been for a number of years - it's something that is increasingly coming to the fore. For us, a big leap forward occurred when we appointed a green coordinator - Liz Warwick, who's wonderful - so rather than myself and other members of the team trying to push through our passion, we actually had somebody that could coordinate all of the areas of the festival. And it's great to work with companies such as Pearce Hire - when we spoke to them about what we wanted to achieve, they embraced it and have run with it. They have taken the theme and introduced
so many innovations."
"It's great that a festival of this type can get so highly commended by the Greener Festivals scheme, considering we don't do some of the things which typically get lots of press attention. We don't use bio-diesel - we've been resistant towards that due to some of the issues surrounding it. So we approach things in a slightly different way. And. as I say. with Pearce Hire's help we've really taken things forward."
Dan concludes: “This festival has led our way in becoming more energy efficient as a company. A lot of the initiatives we've adopted with Eddie and Cambridge Live have gone on to benefit other events. A lot of festival and event organisers are asking now for what Cambridge Folk Festival was doing several years ago ... others are playing catch-up as green credentials become more crucial to events."