MANCHESTER, UK—On May 22, a suicide bomber detonated a device in the foyer of Manchester Arena in northern England, killing 22 and injuring 59 as they were leaving a concert by pop sensation Ariana Grande. Just thirteen days after the attack, a hastily convened benefit concert for victims and their families took place at Manchester’s Old Trafford Cricket Ground. Christened ‘One Love,’ the event brought together the community within the largest city in Northern England, and likewise revealed the intrinsically cooperative spirit of the pro-audio industry alongside a powerful vindication of recent rental company business consolidation between the UK and the US.
“It was a really good indication of what we can do, the collaboration we have,” Britannia Row co-founder Bryan Grant, speaking exclusively to Pro Sound News. The long-running UK sound reinforcement company was purchased in May by Clair Global (Lititz, PA), and the events that followed the attack made the most of the new corporate arrangement.
Clair Global provided audio for Grande’s tour, and accordingly, its gear was stranded for almost a week inside the Arena as forensic examinations took place. Grant recalled, “There we were, faced with Ariana Grande’s long tour with the system beautifully put together out of Lititz, PA, and for the best of reasons the artist and her production—and the BBC—got together and said dammit, we’re going to do a concert! We’re going to stand up and say ‘we’re with you’. That in itself is really cool, and then for a bunch of commercially minded pop stars to stand up alongside her was amazing.”
As the idea of the One Love concert quickly took shape, Brit Row leveraged the new relationship to install RF gear, microphones, IEMs and two DiGiCo SD7 consoles at Wembley Arena, 200 miles south of Manchester in London, so that emergency rehearsals for the event could begin. The company also augmented Clair’s Cohesion CO12 system used on the tour, and adopted a solution tried and tested on key live events such as The Brits music-industry awards night and the MTV European Music Awards. For this, 56 channels were added in DiGiCo SD Racks, even though simultaneous tours by Phil Collins, Robbie Williams and Depeche Mode had just begun to stretch resources to the limit.
“We had just over a week [before the event] when we were contacted by Ariana’s production manager,” said Grant, “and we soon realized that people like [Brit Awards producer] Guy Freeman, [Reading and Leeds Festivals promoter] Melvyn Benn and [concert promoter] SJM’s managing director, Simon Moran were involved and the venue, stages and infrastructure were all secured—including Clair’s Cohesion CO12 system from the tour. Coldplay announced they would bring their controller-monitoring rig and we came in with the presenter boards and the splits for the broadcast. Clair flew over Jim Bowersox, one of their top system designers from America, just to make sure everything went smoothly, and everyone jumped in. I guess it was all done so quickly that no one had time to panic! If you look at the line-up, it was quite fierce. Our productions director, Lez Dwight, led the team, while Colin Pink was at FOH.”
Securing Pink was a fortunate consequence of his short break from Hans Zimmer’s current world tour, and was typical of the resourcefulness and commitment generated by the context of the event.
Dwight has commented, “It’s very reassuring when broadcast and live sound meet up for something like this and you all know each other, and all know each other’s ways of working. When you’re very tired and under pressure that’s a big plus. The fact is, the touring industry rose as one to support a really worthy cause.”