New horizons

The inside scoop on Al Laith Scaffolding's new events division.
Al Laith Events Services? first major gig was the Sting concert staged at Dubai?s Meydan racetrack.
Al Laith Events Services? first major gig was the Sting concert staged at Dubai?s Meydan racetrack.

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Dubai-based staging specialist Al Laith Scaffolding has launched a new dedicated events division steered by former HQ Creative director of production Jo Marshall.

Al Laith Events Services is a new company launched in Dubai with a mission to provide innovative staging and roofing systems and solutions for a range of events.

It is the fifth division of Al Laith Scaffolding, formed in 1995 by Tony Nobbs, an enterprise already well established as a major provider of scaffolding, access and seating elements to events and construction projects in the region.

Al Laith Events Services harnesses the impressive resources of Al Laith, which includes 2.5 million cubic metres of scaffolding, as well as a range of design and engineering capabilities.

Jo Marshall previously worked as production director and executive producer for HQ Creative, a leading Dubai-based event production company.

“I enjoyed five very happy years at HQ during which we worked on some of the most unique live events and presentations in the Middle East,” says Marshall.

“I wanted to find new challenges and horizons,” he explains, adding that through his work at HQ Creative, he was also able to identify a gap in the market for the type of services and products offered by Al Laith Events Services.

While the economic downturn hit Dubai hard, reining in some of its hitherto hyperactive construction programmes, Al Laith’s turnover in 2009 was only just short of what it achieved in 2008.

The company has maintained its 1200 staff and a healthy order book as Dubai has adjusted to a deceleration that has also seen other areas of the Middle East experience growth.

When Marshall approached Nobbs with the idea of Events Services, he was confident not just because of the available plant and skills resources, and the fact that events – albeit not in such a fully integrated and specialised context – were already familiar territory to Al Laith.

Another timely element of this new equation fell into place when an initially informal partnership between Al Laith and UK-based Serious Stages evolved into a full-scale business plan.

Serious’s MD Steven Corfield wanted to expand the company’s focus internationally, and already had tie-ups with Butler Hire in Australia and Atlantic Enterprises run by Shane McCarthy in London.

During one of their visits to the UAE, Corfield and McCarthy had shortlisted some ‘potentials’ to approach including Al Laith, on the recommendation of S&S regular Lee Charteris, operations manager at Abu Dhabi promoter Flash.

The pair also met with Marshall who gave Al Laith the thumbs up, and to cut a long story short, they struck a deal.

Serious/Atlantic agreed to send a quantity of their Orbit, Space Roof and Black Deck systems, plus Luna and other PA towers to Dubai.

With the convergence of these almost serendipitous developments, Marshall thought it an ideal time to pitch his commercial ideas to Nobbs.

“I had been Al Laith’s client pretty much since starting with HQ,” explains Marshall, “The company provided many production elements for our events, so I knew the calibre of their offering, which is why I wanted to work with them.”

Al Laith has built a myriad of scaffolding stages in its time, but having Serious’s specially engineered, modular designed, high weight loading and wind-tolerant systems in the portfolio has taken them into a completely different category of event services provider.

Al Laith’s facilities and ability to custom-build a range of staging equipment – in steel or aluminium – also makes it well placed to meet the more unusual and idiosyncratic needs of a demanding and highly competitive market such as the GCC.

Marshall currently oversees 300 staff co-ordinated by four project managers – Jaco ‘JJ’ Trichardt, who also runs the office and operations, and Freya Downton, Jacques Smalberger and Ross Cameron.

Part of the deal with Serious Stages involves sending specialists from the UK to work on the larger systems. These specialists are also responsible for training the Al Laith crews to work on their stages and roofing systems.

The plan is to ensure that stage/venue engineering and design consultancy is another service offered either integrally or as a stand-alone facility by Al Laith Events Services, maximising their knowledge of what’s possible and practical – and what isn’t – and how to deliver it.

Marshall is considering expanding his team further over the summer in readiness for what he believes will be a busy autumn season.

He also aims to ensure that Events Services becomes a self-supporting and top performing division of Al Laith, in the process undergoing a gentle contemporary style branding exercise to give the new division its own identity.

Meydan’s sting in the tail
Al Laith Event Services’ first major production staged in Dubai was anything but ‘standard’.
The company was contracted to supply and install a massive roof and stage at Dubai’s new Meydan racecourse that incorporated the track’s impressive trackside LED presentation screen for Sting’s recent concert in the emirate.

After careful consideration, a 19.5m x 25m cantilevered flat roof was installed, which had to be rigged over the top of the 100m x 11m multi-million dollar permanently installed LED screen, leaving a 16.5 metre depth of usable roof space above the stage.

Events Services and Serious Stages designed an elegant stage venue which ensured that audience members – those immediately in front of the stage, plus several thousand more packed into the new grandstands a few hundred metres back – had clear sightlines along the full length of the video wall for the entire proceedings.

The roof ‘bird-cage’ support structure had to be dovetailed perfectly into a very tight space, fitting in around the numerous power and services buildings behind the screen – whilst leaving access to all of them for maintenance and in case of emergencies.

The Sting concert is just one of many major events the division has been involved in in recent months.

In addition to playing a key role supplying staff and kit to the Wakestock wakeboarding festival in Abu Dhabi, the company was also involved in the Ultimate Fighting Championships at Yas Marina, where it delivered a large steel ground support system and roof. It also supplied equipment to the Il Divo concert staged at Emirates Palace.

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