The live event industry has traditionally been reliant on a pool of skilled freelance professionals to execute ambitious stage shows and lengthy tours. For this reason, the industry was one of the hardest hit by the COVID pandemic, which rendered live touring and any kind of shows virtually impossible.
To raise money and awareness for affected people within the industry in the UK, CHAUVET Professional’s Sam Bowden decided to embark upon a 101 mile “Light Walk” with Tom Lightbody from the ALPD to raise money for both Backup’s COVID-19 Hardship Fund and the Lumière Design & Production Schemes for 2022. Thanks to huge industry support and a generous donation from CHAUVET Professional, the pair have already racked up almost 15,000 pounds worth of sponsorship for their grueling four day walkathon.
“While I was lucky enough to be in stable employment during last year, I was acutely aware that so many of our industry colleagues did not have that luxury,” commented Bowden. “I wanted to do something to show solidarity as an industry and help my colleagues. The walk seemed like a great way to raise support for young production and design engineers who have been left most vulnerable by these constraints.”
Beginning at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon and finishing 101 miles away at the National Theatre in London, the start and finish points of A Light Walk were significant in tying together the overall concept of the scheme, which ultimately aims to draw attention to the importance of keeping the UK theatre and live production industry afloat during the worst pandemic in a century.
“When you think about the routes of theatre and indeed live performance in the UK, you can’t help but look at the Elizabethan era and thus William Shakespeare as being seminal in the development of modern performance,” continued Bowden. “For that reason I felt there was a certain romance in taking the journey that Shakespeare himself would have taken from his home in Stratford to London when trying to do something to raise money for those who are involved in making live performance what it is today.”
While the Backup charity provides financial support to industry technical professionals working in the UK entertainment industry, the Lumière Scheme provides a pathway for young lighting practitioners into the world of live performance. Because the full spectrum of the industry ranges the practical to the artistic, it was important for Bowden to cover both organizations in his sponsorship.
Although Bowden relished the opportunity to be out in the open and appreciating what the wonderful landscape of Britain has to offer, he commented that the biggest difficulty he personally faced was a mental one: overcoming the size of the task in his mind and ignoring doubt as to whether he could make it through the grueling walk. The support of the industry, however, was the main motivating factor in reaching his goal.
“We didn’t do it for any accolades; but if by doing the walk we have helped to spread the word about the causes we walked for, then this is as equally important as the money we raised for them,” concluded Bowden. “I want the legacy of this walk to be similar to any of the great fundraising that people do for Backup and Lumière – that we as an industry are a strong family and are here to support each other.”