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in Sound, Light & Vision

Chas BESA - British Education Suppliers Association
An image of the Zinc Arts Centre

Zinc Arts Centre

Ongar, Essex

The Zinc premises in Ongar, Essex looks quite humble from the outside but is filled with the most noble of aspirations, to develop talent and joy that will spread outside of its walls.  Zinc is a charity dedicated to inspiring individuals through the arts to achieve their full potential, regardless of background or disability.

Clarity has been proudly associated with Zinc since 2002. Over that time period we have designed and installed, probably our broadest range of facilities enabling Zinc to stage theatrical performances, film shows, conferences and classes such as music, singing, dance and numerous others.

Our most recent large-scale installation at Zinc was for the theatre itself, won in a competitive tender, where we designed, supplied and installed lighting, sound, projection and drapes. As a trusted partner we also oversaw other aspects of the build from different contractors and disciplines on Zinc’s behalf.  Rather than providing an exhaustive description of everything we did, this article focuses on some of the more interesting or unusual features of work.

The theatre’s equipment room is situated off the balcony that we equipped with two sound racks including Shure radio microphones and most notably for the purposes of this account, a communications system that links to the “green room” (a backstage dressing room). The communications system allows the sound and lighting operators, located at the rear of the venue on the balcony with the Soundcraft audio mixing console and Zero 88 lighting desk, to talk to those in the green room and keep them appraised of any delays or technical issues via a Talkback communications system from Tecpro. A second communications feature called Show Relay uses a stage facing video camera and a microphone both supported from the lighting grid to transmit the real-time performance to the green room so that all parties are aware of their cues.

For smaller events and classes Clarity provided a custom built portable Zinc branded lectern with one special feature, that its height is electrically adjusted to suit either standing or wheelchair seated users. The lectern houses an audio mixer plus a variety of sound sources such as DVD and CD players from Denon, radio microphone systems and inputs for computers, MP3 and conventional microphones. The lectern can also seat a laptop computer for speaker notes or visual presentation purposes. An important aspect of the overall design is to permit flexible use of the performing floor space meaning different configurations of audience and performers or instructor and pupils. To facilitate this we fitted two floor panels, one at the side of the hall and the other towards the rear. The lectern is wheeled to either position and connected into the floor panel linking it to the digital signal processor and amplifiers in the communications room and thereby to the hall’s Martin Audio loudspeakers.

As part of our overall task Clarity specified, selected and oversaw the installation of an electrically deployed raked theatre seating system. Our seating design conveniently provides access, via a central staircase, to a door leading directly to the balcony and control area.

Zinc offers its own users and private hirers an incredibly well equipped and versatile facility but as with developing talent it is often the attention to small details that makes the difference between good and great. And so it is for Clarity. In order for us to deliver our reputed quality of installation we designed unobtrusive custom fixtures for the lighting bars and secure custom metal containment for the cabling and painted these in the same colour as the theatre’s recently finished décor.