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Gearhouse SA Gets into the AquaFestival Spirit

Gearhouse SA Gets into the AquaFestival Spirit


Gearhouse South Africa supplied technical production for the first Cape Town Aqua Festival, a lively 3 week arts event, presented by MNet and produced by Hunta Live, that featured a series of world class performances by local and international artists. This took place on a purpose-built floating stage moored in the North Wharf area of the busy port's Victoria & Albert harbour.

The 2000 capacity seating stand - supplied by Havaseat (a Gearhouse company) - was on dry land. Industry and outstanding natural beauty nestled side by side, with a working dry dock right behind the specially created venue, which was also adjacent to the Two Oceans Aquarium. The marina behind the stage was constantly in motion with yachts and pleasure craft slipping in and out to sea, while the whole vista was overlooked in the distance by the magnificent landmark of Table Mountain.

The 3 weeks of the event spanned the peak festive holiday season, and included the resident AquaCircus, a special daily performance devised by Zip-Zap, a local Circus School dedicated to developing the skills and potential of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Other highlights included the H2Opera, AquaJazz, AquaBallet and concerts by a wide range of artists from SA's favourite rockers, The Parlotones, to the popular Afro-fusion of Freshly Ground and SA's greatest music export, Johnny Clegg.

Gearhouse's Cape Town branch supplied staging and roofing, lighting, sound and rigging to the project which was managed by Richard Blamire. Gearhouse has worked with Hunta Live on many previous occasions, and they specifically wanted one company to provide all the production elements.

The stage - made from industrial plastic and consisting of 1200 interlocking cubes forming a flat surface - was supplied and installed by Cubi-System from France.

On top of this, Gearhouse built a 24 metre wide and 16 metre deep Layher stage, covered by a 14 x 12 metre Slick Dome roof with clear skins. A semi translucent part-painted scrim at the back of the stage allowed the boats and harbour behind to be seen during the daylight shows, and when lit in the evening, it came alive with a giant octopus motif. The stage dimensions included PA wings and some side stage dressing room tents. The pontoon was loaded with a total of 45 tonnes of production equipment including the stage and roof.


The system was designed by Gearhouse's Johan Griesel and consisted of 12 L-Acoustics dV-DOSC elements a side. There were 10 x L-Acoustics HiQ115 wedges and both monitor and FOH consoles were Yamaha M7s, with monitors mixed by Bjorn Fielding. Mics and stands were also supplied as part of the generic audio package, with some artists bringing their own.

It was a 35 metre throw for the speakers to reach the back of the seating stands, and obviously, the sound system had to cater for a wide range of sonic scenarios from the 56 piece Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra to soloists, live bands and backing tracks. The biggest challenge - and the most unpredictable - was always the wind - for which Cape Town is renowned!


The house lighting rig was designed by Gearhouse's Philip Chames, and also had to be flexible enough to deal with the wide variety of performers.

The lighting fixtures were rigged onto the Dome roof, and included 12 Martin Professional MAC 2K Profiles for moving lights. Source Four profiles were used for key lighting, and also in the roof were 8 x 2K fresnels and bars of 6 PARs providing stage washes. Five 4-lite blinders along the crown of the stage were used for highly effective audience illumination, and there were additional 4-lites in the roof of the stage.

Front lighting was supplied by 500 Watt fresnels in the footlights position plus 2 Super Trouper follow spots on the FOH tower. Four Studio Due CityColor floods positioned behind the stage were focussed into the marina, highlighting all the yachts and enhancing this already highly atmospheric location at night.

All lighting was controlled through a Hog iPC console.

"It's always good to work on a new event, especially one that is in such a unique setting," says Richard Blamire, who reports that everything went extremely smoothly throughout.

He had a crew of 15 on site each day, and for the build period there were about 50 Gearhouse personnel on site including staging and roofing.

Seal of approval

One of the more offbeat site specific challenges for the crew and technical teams was not impacting on the home of the resident colony of Cape fur seals who hang out on the jetties that flanked the stage. The seals took an active interest in the performances, often swimming into the area of water between the stage and the dockside to take a closer look - and on occasion - joining in with the operatic shows!

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