Outdoor Digital Productions, a collaborative enterprise between ADI, Outdoor Places Unusual Spaces (OPUS) and JA Productions (JAP) combined the companies’ expertise in live production, innovative event technology and cultural programming to create the Commonwealth Games’ Festival and Neighbourhood sites on behalf of the Organising Committee.
We talk to JA Productions managing director John Adkins about the event’s delivery and the importance of diversity, inclusivity and sustainability to the event’s legacy and overall success.
Can you tell us how you got involved in the delivery of the Festival Sites?
We have a track record of successful event delivery for cultural events in and around Birmingham. This resulted in us being contracted to deliver the first Commonwealth Games project in the city back in 2018 for the Athletes Homecoming event. From there we went on to provide event management, operations and technical production for the 3 Years to Go and brand launch in 2019; 2 Years to Go and media launch in 2020 and the launch of the Countdown Clock in 2020. We also delivered the Queens Baton Relay Launch at Buckingham Palace 2021 with OPUS and the ‘Wondrous Stories’ spectacular, the official launch event for the Birmingham 2022 Festival.
Can you give us an overview of the sites and your highlights?
Designed as Birmingham’s Front Room to the Games, the Festival Sites delivered vibrant, inclusive environments featuring live sport and the very best of local culture. Free to attend, they featured live coverage of the sporting action and the very best of local culture. Over 1800 local acts, performers and artists were engaged across the Festival and Neighbourhood Sites.
Highlights from Victoria Square included the arrival of the Queen’s Baton Relay into the city; live broadcasts for the BBC’s The One Show, BBC Breakfast and Radio 2 breakfast show with Zoe Ball; a royal visit from the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall; the official finish line for the Marathon events and a stage that featured Mr. Motivator and DJ Zee amongst the 318 artists that performed there.
Over at Smithfield ACE Dance and Music brought the carnival vibes; there were days dedicated to Asian culture with takeovers from Birmingham and Sandwell Mela and BBC Asian Network; Working with Pride House ensured a visible platform for queer athletes and LGBTQ+ activists from across the Commonwealth and performances celebrating identity and individuality were delivered at Break Mission’s inclusive event, QueerSide.
Clearly the content was designed to be diverse and representative of Birmingham’s multi-cultural heritage. What else did you do to ensure that it was as inclusive as possible?
There were British Sign Language interpreters at the sites, an Audio Description service, access points with a wider angle for viewing and all sites were free to attend. Sites were geographically spread in Castle Vale, Spark Hill, Edgbaston, Yardley and Sense Touchbase Pears was a relaxed site for people with disabilities and neurodiverse conditions.
What suppliers did you work with to deliver the event, and how important was sustainability in the procurement process?
For me sustainability is about more than just environmental considerations; human, social and economic impact are equally important. We always try to ensure that we contract the local supply chain creating opportunities for employment and upskilling the immediate workforce. We worked hard to employ local people wherever possible and did our due diligence to find quality suppliers who were within an hour’s drive of Birmingham City Centre.
We also looked at the environmental impact of the materials that we used. We worked with Service Graphics to source responsible branding that was manufactured from an eco-banner material that was fully PVC free, fire rated and recyclable product. Once the event was over the banners were de-rigged by the company’s team and taken back to its principal production site to enter its recycling waste streams.
The Globe, a custom piece of set, commissioned for the Wondrous Stories launch event and manufactured by 4 Square was repurposed and utilised at the Smithfield site. It has since been gifted back to Motionhouse and will be re-presented at other international events.
Cube Modular supplied cabins, storage units and catering outlets for the city centre sites. The collapsible nature of its kit meant that there was a significant reduction in the transport requirements. No generators were used at the Victoria Square and Smithfield sites, we were able to connect directly to the grid. For the Neighbourhood Sites we worked with Pearce Hire and all generator sets were run on sustainably sourced HVO.
How did the Festival and Neighbourhood Sites add to the overall legacy of the Commonwealth Games?
Sustainability and legacy are terms widely used during major event planning and delivered correctly there’s a real opportunity to effect change. Even if you didn’t have a ticket to watch the sporting action, the Festival and Neighbourhood sites brought you to the heart of the action and brought the event to life.
Birmingham has raised its profile and is being viewed more positively than it has in years. It’s vital that we keep the momentum going, it means nothing if it all grounds to a halt now the Games are over.
Augusta Events Fencing and Barrier
Central Stage Crew
Charles Wilson Plant Hire
City Furniture Hire
Event Prop Hire
Star Live Staging