24 Hours with… Leo McDowall

We track Leo McDowall through a day at Boomtown Fair 2018 as he oversees the G-Smatt installation that creates the festival’s ‘Ask Ami’ installation

It is a very civilised start to day two at Boomtown Festival as I emerge from a rainbow coloured bell tent and head over to the lovely clean and warm shower block (I would definitely recommend the Boomtown Springs upgrade just for this small luxury at a festival). It’s then time for the first coffee of the day and to get ready for more running around one of the largest festival sites on the circuit.

I’d thankfully been able to sleep well, safe in the knowledge that our amazing six man crew had coped with the challenges of an 80 tonne install onto uneven (but thankfully dry) ground to deliver a sophisticated engineering solution to the highest of safety standards. Now we are live at the festival and we get to show everybody the colossal creative effort from Boomtown’s production team, which has transformed our already impressive structures into something else entirely. It’s very exciting to witness.

Boomtown Fair 2018

Even when you are out in the field, the emails don’t stop so the first thing to do is to head to the charging area in reception, find a couple of empty sockets, a comfy space on the floor and get some work done. By midday, its time to put away the technology and make my way through the ever-increasing crowds to the ticketing kiosk to ’round up our guests’.

Boomtown Fair 2018The quickest route to our encampment was via the artists’ camping area. I’m sure I must have rubbed shoulders with more than one artist whose performance we enjoyed later on but have to admit I didn’t recognise anybody! Definitely the best spot to grab a late breakfast though. Once the introductions are over and our guests are settled into their tents then it’s time for refreshment and a tour of the full site.

With a site capable of hosting up to 60,000 festival goers this is definitely not a ‘walk in the park’, but we quickly devised a route that made the best use of the site and eliminated too many climbs. Heading to the highest point at Whistlers Green provides a really good vantage point from which our guests could then decide where they might want to spend a little more time.

On my way through the sprawling Downtown area, I visit our installation and have a quick chat to some people in the two hour long queue to experience the tour of our structures. These have been dressed up to become ‘Bang Hai Industries’ HQ’, home of the fictional, evil corporation whose takeover of Boomtown forms the narrative for this year’s event.

Located within the G-Tainers are a series of immersive theatre scenarios manned by actors leading the audience through the narrative. It is a real buzz to see how Boomtown’s production team have utilised the unique spaces within the G-Tainers. It is also a chance to check in with the two members of our technical team who are based on site throughout the event to provide support, should it be required.Boomtown Fair 2018I’ve been on my feet now most of the day so it’s time to head back to G-Smatt’s base camp, refuel and prepare for round two in the evening. Now to prime our guests, a mixture of press, event professionals and festival organisers from both UK and further afield.

From inside the installation we watch the crowd as it responds and interacts with the media being shown; every 20 seconds somebody stops to photograph or video the installation. Venturing back outside, the real impact of this futuristic technology becomes apparent, with each and every one of our guests blown away by the level of production detail, the scale of the performance and the creative muscle of the entire event.

As the music and lights fade, along with our energy levels, it’s back to the tent for another night under canvas. My dreams are of dystopian futures, light and energy, and I for one certainly hope I’ll be back at Boomtown for “Chapter 11” next year.

Leo McDowall
Leo (right) and friends

Leo McDowall
Leo is sales director at G-Smatt. The company provides ‘media enabled’ glass products including the G-Tainer, a combination of smart glass and a steel modular system. G-Smatt supplied and installed 12 of these units at this year’s Boomtown Fair. www.g-smatteurope.com

Boomtown Fair
One of the UK’s most inspiring independent festivals, Boomtown is a vast open air theatrical production on a scale unrivalled globally. The four-day event is held in August at the Matterley Estate in Hampshire. Each year the festival is referred to as a “Chapter”, reflecting a continuation of an immersive storyline from the previous year (the series began in 2009).

The site is split into several “districts” and the storyline narrative is reflected in the design of the districts, streets and venues, which are populated by hundreds of actors playing the roles of ‘inhabitants’. The 2018 festival was entitled “Chapter 10: The Machine Cannot Be Stopped”. www.boomtownfair.co.uk

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