Jim Griffiths, Founder and Director of Vanguardia Consulting has been in the stadium sound business for three decades.
He has provided expertise to national sporting venues such as London2012 Olympic Stadium, Wembley Stadium, Twickenham Stadium, Cardiff Millennium Stadium, Croke Park, Lansdowne Road Stadium, Wimbledon Tennis Club and the O2 Arena. He also works with many of the premium tours and music festivals in the UK.
TheStadiumBusiness (TBS) caught up with Jim Griffiths (JG) on a nearly dry weekend at Reading Festival to discuss Vangaurdia’s diverse projects and future developments.
TBS: Is the weather always wet at Reading Festival?!
Jim Griffiths (JG): Some years its lovely but the august bank holiday weather has a reputation almost as big as Reading Festival itself!
TBS: Who’s playing this year?
JG: Eminem and Green Day are two of the headline acts.
TBS: What is your role at the Festival?
JG: Ww work for the Promoter (Festival Republic) to help them gain and maintain their Premises license with respect to sound levels achievable on and off the site. We provide sound system design and acoustic modeling and present the evidence at the license hearing to give the local authority confidence to approve the event. We then work on the site during the event with the sound companies to optimize the sound levels achievable for the show, whilst meeting the limits agreed with the local authority at locations off the site.
TBS: That sounds like quite a juggling act?
JG: It does have its moments! One of the most important factors for any large event is getting the right acts to book into your venue, and the negotiation between the bands and the organization can be very interesting, but we’ve made some great friends along with some more interesting “discussions”! I think the most important thing is that everyone does the preparation before the event, the worst thing is to be un-prepared, although the artists themselves can always bring a bit of unpredictability (along with a truck full of extra sub-bass bins in some cases)!
TBS: So how does this relate to Vanguardia’s work in Stadia?
JG: Over the years we’ve seen a real progression in the expectation for venues and events. And this is grounded in our work on live shows from U2 to UEFA, and Reading Festival to the Olympic Games. We have also seen a real progression in the role of technology. We provide architects and stadia projects with design services in acoustics, sound and audiovisual systems. Our expertise is based on both our engineers’ qualifications and unique experience in the live industry, so we speak from experience, but with the understanding and capability to deliver design team documentation, drawings and specifications etc as part of the project.
TBS: You mentioned the London Olympics, can you tell us some more about that?
JG: Yes, we have been involved with the Olympic Stadium since the project began in 2007, we worked on the stadium design team providing sound and acoustic engineering and continued through the project to the completion of the stadium construction and then we had a role working for the ODA to provide operational support to the installed sound systems in all of the permanent venues on the park, including the stadium. It was amazing to be involved during the games times and this, for us, is where we like to be, experiencing the outcome of the work and the enjoyment of the fans and spectators who had such an amazing time at the event.
TBS: The atmosphere at the Olympics was praised by many commentators, how much does design contribute to this?
JG: I always tell club owners that the atmosphere is primarily a response to events on the pitch. It’s really important for players, athletes and performers to engage with the crowd. But there are important aspects of the design and construction of venues that can help to encourage a great atmosphere. It’s about proximity to the action and communication between spectators, it’s also about being enveloped and being engaged in the event. We work with the architects to optimise the shape and types of construction used along with the integration of technology to ensure that everyone can see and hear what’s happening and really take part in the event.
TBS: So what do you see as being the direction of stadia in the future?
JG: Stadia are increasingly realising that they need to be multifunctional and support a number of different event types. I think the expectation of fans is set with the touring industry and working with incredible shows such as, Rolling Stones, U2, Robbie Williams, ACDC, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Take That, Muse, Lady Gaga and others really sets the production standard. The Olympic Games in London also really pushed the standard forward for sport presentation and I think that more stadia are realising that they need to view themselves as a production venue. Stadia will be seen in the same way the theatre, concert hall, playhouse and arenas already are. The level of production facilities that have become common in modern arenas will translate through to stadia as the market to engage with fans is becoming so competitive with different entertainment types, stadia can’t afford to be left behind in terms of technology or quality.