Face the Music

The iconic Reading and Leeds Festival demands eye-catching stage backdrops.

Each year as winter fades into spring, music lovers from around the world rejoice: It’s festival season. Drawing more than 32 million Americans to at least one event each year, it should come as no surprise when your social media feeds become saturated with outdoor concert photos and videos April through September. 

reading festival bannerMultiday music festivals have gained popularity around the globe, drawing between 800,000 and 1 million people to Milwaukee’s Summerfest, 2.65 million fans to Morocco’s Mawazine Festival, and upwards of 3 million attendees to Vienna’s Donauinselfest. In the UK, the annual Reading and Leeds Festivals (sister events that occur simultaneously in south and north England, respectively) draw tens of thousands of music enthusiasts with lineups over the years including Nirvana, The Cure, Fleetwood Mac, Panic! at the Disco, Adele, and My Chemical Romance

What’s a concert without Instagram-worthy graphics? UK-based full-service print service provider Imaginators serves as the preferred supplier for Reading and Leeds Festival, creating enormous stage backdrops that even concertgoers at the very back of the crowd have no trouble seeing. “Our relationship with Reading and Leeds Festival began almost 20 years ago when we were working with the brand sponsor and promoter who wanted to produce new graphics for the stage, which had previously been hand painted; advances in inkjet technology made it possible for us to print directly to specialty substrates,” says Matt Tydeman, Imaginators managing director. “The original stage for Reading and Leeds Festival was complex, but has evolved significantly to include advances in materials, lighting rigs, sound systems, and video wall technology – all of which we work closely with to ensure a seamless finished stage.”

soft signageImaginators has found a lucrative niche in the stage and festival market; the shop now serves as the go-to supplier for the music, event, and entertainment industry, providing branding for all the UK’s festivals and tours, says Tydeman. The PSP has even engineered its own soft signage substrates to elevate the concert viewing experience: Acoustic Mesh, designed to provide high-quality imagery without impacting sound quality for stages that require graphics in front of PA or sound systems, and Acoustic Interliner for preventing “light bleed” and aiding sound transparency. And all of Imaginators’ concert graphics can be re-used year after year for added cost savings and sustainability. 

When it comes to Reading and Leeds, “our client often pushes boundaries to create a visual spectacle,” Tydeman says. 

The large, imposing [stage] structures have become an iconic centerpiece within the music industry, and the branding needs to adhere to safety regulations and technical challenges relating to rigging and construction, yet be seamless in its appearance to create giant, highly visible and identifiable branding.

Two weeks prior to the 2018 festivals, Imaginators printed nearly 20 individual stage sections, carefully engineered to “join seamlessly together to create the appearance of a single wrap encompassing video, light, and sound,” explains Tydeman. The panels – imaged using Onyx Thrive software, a Durst Rho 512R superwide press, and heavy-duty, reinforced opaque PVC – varied in size, including a 131-foot-long header and pairs of 105 x 124.5-foot side walls. One week before the events, a team of six riggers worked alongside sound and lighting engineers to install the graphics over three days, often working into the night. After festivalgoers enjoyed a weekend of music, dancing, and fun, Imaginators took down, inspected for damage, repaired, cleaned, and stored the signage on behalf of the client.

Read more from Big Picture's 2019 "Soft Spot" soft signage feature.

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