UK based rigging systems supply specialist Lift-Turn-Move (LTM) joined forces with long term partner J&C Joel Limited to design and install an elegant and practical moving truss grid solution into the magnificent former Victorian Harpurhey Public Baths, now beautifully converted into a new contemporary performance, exhibition and gallery space at The Manchester College's North Manchester Sixth Form College in Harpurhey.
LTM was consulted about the restoration and rejuvenation project for the Baths, (originally designed by city architect Henry Price and opened in 1906) by Jonathan Hartley who is heavily involved in developing Manchester College's creative apprenticeships, performing arts and community training programmes.
He had been tasked with the challenge of making a flexible workable space into a modern theatre and performance facility, capable of staging a wide range of events including art, fashion, music, dance and drama shows not just for the College, but for the benefit of the whole community.
Hartley first met LTM's John Jones while the latter was pioneering professional Rigging courses back in the 1990's, some of which were run at Liverpool Community College where Hartley was teaching at the time. Subsequently, LTM installed a theatre style grid system into Edge Hill University about 5 years ago on Hartley's recommendation.
He says, "I didn't think twice when it came to asking the right people and company to get involved - I wanted quality, dedication and ingenuity". The specific brief was to create a hybrid flying system that embraced the working styles of both theatrical and rock 'n' roll productions, that would be quick and easy to rig/ de-rig with equipment and also practical for training and teaching purposes.
Dan Holme (for LTM) and Stuart Fraser (for J&C Joel) managed the project from design to commissioning. The installation team were on site for a week engaged in the physical installation, all of which went very smoothly due to the diligent pre-planning that had started several months earlier.
The grid design consists of 4 x 13 metre Litestructures LitePro 520 mm box trusses which traverse the space horizontally. This trussing was chosen for its cool aesthetics and also because due to its strength, the cross bracing construction features wide gaps which don't affect the amount of natural daylight streaming in through the glass apex roof.
To add to the challenge facing the design team, Harpurhey baths is a Grade II Listed building, so nothing could be physically hung from the ceiling. Instead, the trusses are mounted on special adjustable brackets that were custom designed and fabricated. Once installed, each bracket had to be inspected and load tested under the watchful eye of the structural engineers. The brackets are RAL coated to match the original cream colour of the Baths' brickwork (which was kept as a feature of the space) as stipulated by architects, Walker Simpson. This is one of many original features which have been faithfully and meticulously preserved in the building's renovation.
Each of the trusses has 2 x 500 Kg LoadGuard® BS7906: Part 1, Category A hoists suspended from them. These were specified by LTM because as well as being light in weight, quiet in operation and coming with black load chains – the integral double brake and clutch system installed outside the drive train means they require no secondary safeties as the load is not compromised in the event of clutch problems. These are rigged inverted - rock 'n' roll style - and they have also been de-rated to 350 Kgs giving an additional safety margin, demonstrating the adaptability of the LoadGuard motor in entertainment applications.
Sub hung from the mother trusses on the LoadGuards® are two 10 x 8 m rectangular grids made up of LitePro 290 trussing. These are robust and ideal for the rigging of sound, lighting and video kit for events taking place in the space.
The grids are moved in and out via a Guardian 8 channel motor controller. This would normally be wall mounted in a venue, but for additional flexibility, it was supplied in a portable flight case housing - more true to the rock 'n' roll elements of the spec - and complete with a hand-held rigger's remote.
Large glass windows run along one side of the venue, so to finish the grid system installation, J&C Joel fitted a Triple E track - also matched to the brickwork colours - along the sides of the grids, and supplied a complete set of black Molton blackout drapes. This enables either the whole perimeter of the space to be blacked out or selected segments.
All the grid trusses had to be supplied in maximum of 2 metre lengths, allowing the whole system to be dismantled and stored and also giving the option for it to be re-rigged and reconfigured in different sizes.
Says Dan Holme, "It was a fantastic project to be involved with from many angles - there were all the physical challenges, plus the history and significance of the building and meticulous thought and planning by everyone involved that went into not just the grid, but the complete project, making the whole place very special". Communication was also a key to the process, with LTM and J&C Joel liaising closely with the architects, structural engineers Arup and the College to deliver to their requirements. "I think the end result is something of which we can all be proud to have been involved with because the end result is an elegant but practical working space," concludes Holme.
Harpurphey Baths, once a pillar of municipal pride in north Manchester, had been disused since 2001, and is now ready in its new configuration to again be a central hub of the local community.
For more press information on LTM please contact Louise Stickland on +44 1865 202679/+44 7831 329888 or Email me - [email protected] To contact LTM direct, please call +44 151 649 0467 or check www.liftturnmove.co.uk and for J&C Joel, please check www.jcjoel.com