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London Pleasure Gardens: a joy for NCA

Noise Control Audio is supplying the PA, and more, at the UK’s newest festival site, the London Pleasure Gardens, soon to be home of the Bloc Weekend festival.

Something wonderful is happening in Newham’s Royal Docks. This once overlooked area of the Thames – just south-east of the ExCeL exhibition halls, on the approach to London City Airport – has been transformed into the ‘London Pleasure Gardens’. The ex-industrial site is now an urban festival ground constructed to recognise and celebrate the best of state-of-the-art culture. With bars, cafes, a sculpture park, a number of onsite venues and more, the LPG echoes a pleasure gardens that originally occupied the docks in the mid-19th century. It also makes for a quirky, unique and strangely alluring (and – yes! – accessible) site for any festival organiser who doesn’t want to head out of London’s city limits.

At PSNEurope press time, the LPG has already been initiated by the jaunty Paradise Gardens free festival, and was about to host the electronic supernova of the Bloc festival, as it transfers from last year’s home of Minehead in Somerset.

Principal venues on the site include the Dome and the Hub, designed to stay standing for the next three years at least. The PA systems installed in these – around 40 boxes in total – will be delivered by Noise Control Audio.
It’s been a while since Steve Stavrinides’ NCA has featured in PSNEurope, but this summer the company is back with a vengeance. Stavrinides is a veteran of the Glastonbury ‘after hours’ scene (the festival is ‘fallow’ this year, of course). He can be seen, replete in high-vis jacket, talking to Michael Eavis in Julien Temple’s recent film Glastopia for BBC4.

“We do 13 of the late night areas, from theatre shows to DJ areas to live bands and backstage bars – the Common, Block9, the Unfair Ground, that’s NCA and one of our biggest users, Positive Focus,” Stavrinides tells PSNEurope two weeks before Paradise Gardens. “So when the guys from Shangri-La and Mutate Britain won the tender to construct the Pleasure Gardens, they naturally came to us – not just for PA, but to help with design, the acoustic element, noise reduction outside and so on. So we’ve worked with them through the design process right the way through to supply and setup.”

This goes beyond just NCA boxes, he says, though this is not the norm for the loudspeaker company. “It’s desks, mics and PA – we don’t want someone to use our speakers and then a desk or mics that ain’t up to it. Every element we’re supplying.”

“The London Pleasure Gardens is something different, and quirky, which is why we are pleased to be involved,” he adds.

The Hub will be a duplicate of what PF Events specifies at Glastonbury, “although we’ve beefed it up a little”: eight stacks of the I-Fly concert system, powered by NCA’s Full Frequency series of amps and processing. Also featured will be the new ASYM 2D2 three-way enclosures and NCA SM15/CX121 wedge monitors. Of the 2D2, Stavrinides says: “It’s a double 12, 1.5” box with the two 12” drivers being different… the internal box design allows us to avoid a passive crossover inside – the box itself becomes a crossover because of the acoustic design inside the box, rather than doing it electronically. It’s all about chambers and shapes – the internal shape is more important than the external. We’ve been working on this box for two years, and it’s only recently that we’ve said that it’s ready to go out.”

In the 1,000-capacity Dome – half a giant golf ball – there are six more ASYM 2D2s, four VSB218 subs and six ASYM 2S2 delays plus 218 subs. “It’s a difficult venue because it’s spherical – in fact it’s the worst venue I’ve ever had to do sound in! Anyone who has worked in such venues will know the challenges we have had to deal with, but working closely with Ryan Willmot from LPG we have added a 4m high, 70cm deep sand wall and 11 tons of sound proofing to the interior which has left us with a great acoustic space.” The Dome PA is a multipurpose system that can cope with “70% of the events they are planning,” says Stavrinides, “including theatre and comedy and live bands”.

The LPG project is a timely win for NCA, reveals Stavrinides.

“The recession hit us hard,” he admits. “We have a core of UK customers, who are really happy, but most of our business has been abroad. The UK market is a tough nut to crack because it is full of established brands. But we’re still here because we’re committed to our fantastic products that work in all scenarios, and we have a team of people who believe in the product. ‘Made in Britain’ has meaning again, and it’s working for us abroad.”

He highlights sales via Silence electroacustica SLin Spain (“He’s really worked NCA there, and dropped a lot of brands to take us on”); C Audio and Paul Hammick in the south of France, and Wavefarm in the North; and Martin Mayapur in the Czech Republic.

NCA kit will also feature in the ambitious Tree of Light project around Oxfordshire this summer, and all stages at the Strummer of Love festival in August.

“A lot of people who use our kit say it’s easy to handle, easy to set up and sounds great – even though we don’t have the ‘branding’ – we come from a touring background so we know how to design and build in a way that works for roadies and engineers alike.

“This year we really want to push forward and show people we have gear that can work for them.”