The Gearhouse Group of Companies has served as the chief technical supplier for the DStv Delicious International Food and Music Festival since its inaugural edition in 2013. Over the past six years, the Gearhouse team have been tasked with keeping the event fresh and engaging for the thousands of festival-goers who return year-on-year for Joburg’s most prestigious celebration of great food and live entertainment.

Speaking to ETECH magazine in a recent interview, senior designer at Gearhouse, Robert Grobler, explains that the Gearhouse team have worked in close collaboration with festival organisers over the years to achieve a unique look and feel for each iteration of the festival while ensuring consistently high technical standards over the two-day event.  

“We have been supplying the bulk of the technical services for the DStv Delicious Festival since the first show in 2013, and we, therefore, have a very clear understanding of what is required from us to ensure a successful festival. However, every year we try to bring something new and exciting to the table, ensuring that visitors are provided with a unique experience, especially for those who return year-on-year,” says Grobler, who took a leading role in designing the main stage for this years’ event.

During the planning phase of this years’ festival, the DStv Delicious Festival production team indicated that rather than focusing on a specific theme for the 2019 iteration of the festival, they wanted to solidify the identity of the brand, with the view to establishing a distinctive look and feel for the festival that would become synonymous with the brand in the years to come. In response, Grobler presented a number of ideas for the main stage design. In the end, the team agreed that Grobler’s idea to use out-sized set elements to make the stage unique, yet distinctly follow the Delicious Festival feel, was the clear winner. The result was a gargantuan fork and mic mounted to the left and right of the main stage. The set pieces, each some 12m high, were custom designed and manufactured by Gearhouse’s specialised set construction and installation business unit, Sets Drapes Screens (SDS), for the event.

Rigging operations manager at Gearhouse, Johann Moolman, points out that adding set pieces of this scale to an Outdoor Structure is a technically challenging task. “You don’t want to have a situation where the set pieces are permanently fixed to an outdoor stage, as environmental factors such as high winds or rain could necessitate removing them in the middle of the show.” As a result, Moolman worked in close collaboration with both Grobler and the SDS team to ensure that the set pieces were rigged in such a way that they could be safely fixed to the structure of the main stage while also being very simple to take down at short notice and in difficult conditions. “One of the benefits of having multiple specialised business units operating under one umbrella is that we are able to collaborate between departments to ensure the best possible results across disciplines. The set elements that we designed, installed and managed to remove during windy conditions during the last day of the festival are evidence of the success of this approach,” reflects Moolman.

Gearhouse team at FoH, DStv Delicious Festival Main Stage

In addition to the rigging challenges involved in incorporating large set elements in the design of the main stage, Grobler also had to ensure that all of the other elements of the stage were integrated seamlessly with the set elements. “There are a number of factors that you have to take into account when including such large set elements on a stage,” Grobler explains. “You have to make sure that the set pieces don’t obstruct the PA system or the lighting rig. Also, this year’s stage incorporated large-scale LED screens, which also needed to work with the set elements.”

Reflecting on the success of the set design for this years’ DStv Delicious Festival, technical manager for the event, Dave Tudor points out, “The inclusion of a refurbished lightbox displaying the festival branding in the rig, in conjunction with the set elements designed and manufactured by Gearhouse, resulted in one of the most successful main stage designs that the festival has achieved to date. We will be placing the fork and mic set pieces into storage and look forward to using them again next year.”