Bloomsbury Theatre, University Of Central London

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J&C Joel was appointed by Overbury to complete their stage engineering package at Bloomsbury Theatre, University of Central London.

Bloomsbury Theatre is considered the home of cutting-edge performance in the heart of London. The theatre originally opened in 1968 and showcases the best of theatre, music, dance, comedy and everything in-between.

To begin with, J&C Joel designed and built two forestage elevators manufactured from steel beams varying in size from as large as 305 x 305 x 97, to allow for the 50-tonne load capacity. The first lift measured 11m wide by 2.5m deep and had the same floor space directly underneath it, the second measured 12.4m wide by 3.5 deep with built-in handrail sockets. Six Serpaid LinkLifts per lifts were designed to raise and lower the front row of seats in the auditorium and extend the thrust stage or lower both to achieve a combined orchestra level.

These were all integrated with the University of Central London’s emergency fire door exits sequence, along with several other doors around the theatre proscenium that were designed to open and close when required via the control system, provided by J&C Joel.

As mentioned previously, one of the two lifts could hold up to a substantial 50 tonnes combined over both levels, this was proven during a J&C Joel safety test that was carried out as part of the process.

In addition, the lifts had two sets of removable fasciae at different sizes, both with safety features to ensure the safety of actors on stage, for example, if the scenery was to become potentially hazardous or fall onto the lift, the lift would immediately stop.

Next, the company completed the reconfiguration and maintenance of the theatre’s existing counterweight sets. The counterweight sets were a double purchase with 25 individual lines, set one and set two were both reconfigured to be operated from stage level and set 24 and 25 were moved downstage to create accessibility for an access ladder. The other 21 sets had the bearing and wheels changed but remained in the same position.

Furthermore, all of the counterweight sets, steel wire rope and hemp lines were
replaced, along with 25 new ladder bars and terminations.

Along with this, J&C Joel updated two existing motorised advanced bars in the auditorium with new steel wire rope, ladder bars and load monitoring load pins in the head pulleys. This was also controlled by the touch screen control pendant. J&C Joel also provided a safety cage around the units with a proximity trip switch that would shut the unit down immediately if anyone was to access this area, to ensure health and safety.

For another part of the project, J&C Joel manufactured and installed a 60-minute burn time fire curtain (an impressive 30 minutes longer than industry standards set by the Yellow Book), with a concrete clad rear, Zeetex plus front cloth and steel frame structure. The curtain was positioned between the audience and the stage. This was raised and lowered with J&C Joel’s 500kg motorised Winch fixed to the fly gallery and an individual counterweight cradle to the left of the stage, to assist the winch. To the top of the fire curtain was a smoked seal and to the bottom was a yield pad, the curtain was guided from the top to the bottom in large C-channel steel beams.

Finally, J&C Joe also provided fixed rigging bars to the rear proscenium wall to the back of stage and eight individual swivel arms (stage legs) manufactured from J&C Joel’s black Wool Serge 565 (WS090) measuring 2m wide by a 5.5m drop, all operating on Triple E UniBeam tracks, to allow maximum flexibility to the wings of the stage.

Fraser Davidson, J&C Joel’s Head of UK and EU Projects, commented: “A project this size and this demanding showcases the talent and skill of J&C Joel’s manufacturing, design and installation team, whilst simultaneously boasting the range of services we are able to offer.”