Clocking up a landmark quarter of a century of business in the industry, lighting, rigging and visuals rental company Fineline celebrates its 25th glorious year in 2015, with a schedule that is already action packed with a wide range of work from music tours and festivals to corporate events.
The Bristol based operation was founded by Darren Wring in 1990 as a lighting rental and touring company and expanded in 2004 to include a manufacturing facility for bespoke staging and scenic elements.
Current MD Rob Sangwell joined in 2002 and managed the production lighting and rigging aspects of Fineline until 2011 when he purchased the company with a view to focusing more on the rigging and lighting production, leaving Darren to concentrate on the more esoteric design and manufacturing projects.
Rob enjoyed the vibe and the challenge of running Fineline enormously in his initial nine years, and having built up copious amounts of goodwill and a great client base, the time was perfect to re-launch another era of Fineline.
Rob was able to make a really strong start with the ‘new’ company.
“The messages and sheer volume of goodwill we received on the start-up were truly humbling” he commented, “It was clear that people appreciated and respected Fineline and understood where we came from and where we’re heading, which really reinforced the decision. Although it had been an easy one to make in some ways, it was a big risk in others”.
He added ‘MD’ to his job title of Senior Project Manager and is every bit as involved hands-on in the day-to-day running of Fineline. Sevim Sangwell is the Financial Director and they are joined by Operations Manager Stuart England, Warehouse Co-ordinator Patrick Watson and their first apprentice Ben DeSousa, who has just enrolled.
The main objective is to forge ahead and establish Fineline as one of the best and most respected SME production rental specialists in the UK.
The process of investing heavily in new technology started immediately and has continued steadily over the last four years, along with the task of getting – and keeping - all the right people on-board.
In addition to the full time employees, Fineline has a regular pool of freelancers which peaks at around 40 – 50 during the busiest periods - many of whom have worked for the company for several years.
Rob highlights the desire to keep the company small and agile in terms of full time employees. “I was wary of having to become a full time personnel manager as my skills are needed at the front end, generating new business and project managing some of the more ambitious undertakings,” he comments. Above all Rob believes that with staffing compact and manageable, clients know they can talk directly and easily with the person at the heart of their job.
Surrounding himself with experienced, knowledgeable and hard-working individuals who share the same work ethic and dedication to excellence has been a key to Fineline’s success and has enabled him to stay at the sharp end of the business action.
There has been a big commitment to new moving light and quality LED technology. “The requirements have moved on massively – and quickly – so we need to be able to deliver the best and most appropriate technologies for all our work,” he says.
The first major bookings for the new Fineline included work associated with the 2012 London Olympic Games. They supplied lighting and rigging for the Coca Cola Torch Relay Concerts in Cardiff, Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow, and won the rigging contract for the Box Hill Road Cycling circuit.
The latter involved a gargantuan amount of ‘technology cabling’ which had to be run across a huge site and over roads, through trees and some very challenging terrain. Fineline won the tender for this in part due to their experience in specialist rigging and knowledge of working on various greenfield sites.
“Getting these jobs directly after purchasing the company really set us on our way” confirms Rob.
New work like the Eden Sessions – which Fineline is servicing for the third year this summer soon followed, while long term clients like Glastonbury continue. Glasto comes at one of the busiest times of the year and everyone l in the company loves supporting the festival where they regularly look after lighting and rigging in the Acoustic, Theatre, Cabaret and Circus arenas as well as the Wow Stage.
In fact, Fineline’s involvement with the world’s most famous festival of Music and Contemporary Arts dates back to the company’s origins 25 years ago!
Another new festival client is the Bristol based music extravaganza Love Saves The Day, which this year moves to a new site with an expanded capacity, and Fineline supplying lighting and rigging to the three largest stages and also video to the main stage and 2nd stage.
Motion is regularly voted one of the UK’s best dance clubs creating some of the best EDM grooves in the country with a busy line-up filling their charismatic old warehouse space in central Bristol each week. They are another regular long term rental client for rigging, lighting and video.
In addition to the action-packed music events, Fineline’s corporate work continues with brands like Tesco, Dell, Sainsburys and AgustaWestland.
New dynamics in the company are developing all the time, and a full rebranding exercise took place at the start of 2014 to consolidate the new directions and outlook.
The structures side of the enterprise is being consciously developed so that a variety of both off-the-shelf staging and roofing products can be offered, as well as innovative custom solutions with all the relevant safety certification.
Rigging and structures consultancy is another developing area. At the end of last year, Rob was commissioned to oversee all of the structural safety elements of a high profile Football Fan Park in Mumbai, India, including the construction of a 100 square metre video wall using entirely local contractors.
Looking forward, video and LED screen technology is an area that Fineline has in its sights, which started with the integration of new Ai media servers and LED screens during 2013.
With the increasing convergence between lighting and video, “There’s definitely a market for Fineline Lighting also being able to supply LED screens and media servers as a more integrated ‘visuals’ package”, states Rob, who appreciates it’s more efficient for production / tour / client project managers to only deal with one source for both disciplines. “We now supply video packages on a large proportion of the shows we are involved with”.
As for a 25th anniversary party, current plans are to schedule this next year which will also coincide with the 5th anniversary of the ‘new’ Fineline.
Fineline Team photo : from left to right:
Patrick Watson, Ben DeSousa, Sevim Sangwell, Rob Sangwell, Stuart England, Rob Watson and Will Dale