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Vantage Retrospective

We take a look back over the past eight years at some of Vantage Event Structures key moments

Vantage’s Event Structures MD, Matt Bowler, set up his first business, Buckinghamshire Scaffolding Specialists (BSS) in 2002, providing scaffolding, solely for residential and commercial properties.  In 2007, with a recession hampering the sector, Matt decided to steer his business towards the events market.  A series of commissions ensued, firstly with an invitation from MK Gallery to work with installation artist Graham Hudson and then for projects to be carried out locally, at Stowe House and the Milton Keynes snowdome. As their reputation for craftsmanship grew, so did their commissions and by 2011, BSS had won the tender to provide forty media structures for the press, stationed around Buckingham Palace and along The Mall for William and Kate’s wedding.  A week later they were commissioned to build the press studio in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, for Barak Obama’s state visit. 

View from the Palace; Vantage’s Press Platform at the Victoria memorial for The Royal Wedding, 2011

From its humble beginnings, providing traditional scaffolding, by the end of 2011, BSS had evolved into an events company with teeth, winning bids from the World European Golf Championship, the 2012 Olympics, The Open and Formula 1 Grand Prix, to events like the Henley Regatta and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

In response to their success, Matt dissolved BSS and in 2012 created Vantage Event Structures, to concentrate solely on the events side of the business.  Not forgetting its roots, a second company, MK Scaffolding Specialists was birthed, retaining BSS’s original remit, to provide for residential and commercial customers, in and around the Milton Keynes area.

Today Vantage’s portfolio could only be described as eclectic and includes festivals like Creamfields and British Summer Time festival, to mass spectator events such as the London to Paris Bike Ride, The Royal Wedding and The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  Vantage’s ability to work with size and scale, is matched by their tenacity and ingenuity, for single bespoke structures, for private clients and artists like Graham Hudson and Carsten Holler. 

                                                           

                                                                           Carsten Holler’s Dimensions Installation, 2015

Vantage is unique in the events field, as they are not just craftsmen and engineers, but they have a proclivity for ingenuity and can take a client’s concept, however seemingly impossible, or brief, and turn it into a reality.  In 2016 Theme Traders approached Vantage with a unique project to create a temporary prison 25 meter squared, for a billionaire’s Halloween party.  They exceeded their client’s expectations by building a gaol to spec with reclaimed materials such as original prison doors and a fully functioning watchtower.  Specially fabricated floors and ceilings were designed then constructed, turning the philanthropist’s Surrey gardens into a penitentiary, worthy of a scene from The Shawshank Redemption.   For Vantage the design part was easy, their biggest challenge, was moving 25 tonnes of materials, by hand, without disturbing the garden’s flora and fauna.  Under normal conditions materials, such as the roof, would be moved by crane, but in this instance, situated in an intricate landscaped garden, the roof was installed via a keder system, which allowed the Vantage team to build the roof piece by piece, carefully and precisely and roll it out by hand.

Pop-up prison for a private client, 2016

Their eye for detail was apparent in an earlier commission in 2015, when they designed a pop-up Cinema for Volkswagen Group; a structure which consisted of a scaffolding frame wrapped around a marquee, encased in di-bond printed brickwork on wooden panels.  The interior was fitted with seats sourced from an Odeon cinema circa 1936 and was brought into the 21st century with an AV system, heating and a fully functional entrance foyer, complete with a popcorn machine and pick n mix stall.  

Pop-up cinema with original Odeon seats circa 1936 for VW Group

As well as authenticity and creativity, sustainability and keeping costs low are central to Vantage’s approach.  For Vantage there’s something magical about using the Layher scaffolding system, due to its versatility and capacity to transform from one structure to another.  A viewing platform from the Olympics, has new life as a pop-up cinema and a media tower at William and Kate’s wedding is remodelled to become the press studio for Barak Obama’s state visit.

For Matt, his proudest moment was sitting in his local, watching the Royal Wedding on the big screen and seeing his handy work all around The Mall and outside Buckingham Palace.  An achievement he had reached at the tender age of 28. 

Another key moment for Vantage was being asked to recreate the infamous Nation nightclub at Creamfields in 2017. Weeks of research ensured the festival nightclub was built to the exact dimensions of the original in Liverpool and with an attention to detail that saw the installation of the original glitter ball and the sourcing of the exact shade of paint for the walls.  Vantage’s pop-up Nation became a massive hit with DJ’s and partygoers alike and received 30’000 You Tube hits in only two days and has had 600,000 views to date.

Festival goers living it up in Vantage’s Nation nightclub, Creamfields 2017

 

Matt puts Vantage’s success down to his team’s creativity, engineering know-how and sheer hard work as he states, “we’re not afraid of a challenge and if someone comes to us with a project that looks impossible, we’ll sit down and keep going back to the drawing board until we find something that works.”  Have Vantage ever said no to a customer?  Matt ascertains “we pride ourselves on being able to accommodate whacky or seemingly far out ideas. For some event companies, if the idea isn’t ready-made, more-often than not, they will balk at the prospect.  At Vantage we love to embrace our client’s ideas, we get e  xcited and their baby becomes our baby.”

For the interior of the Hayward Gallery, Carsten commissioned Vantage to construct an intricate scaffolding system to support a second installation Decision Corridors, made of 200 meters of ducting, a galvanised steel product used for ventilation systems.  Matt explains “normal ventilation ducting isn’t strong enough to walk through, despite what you see in the movies.  The steel had to be specially thickened to 5kn per square meter, so it could support the weight of a large adult.” Carsten wanted the ducting tubes to appear to float in the air, whilst allowing people to walk through, which brought an additional design challenge for Vantage. “The challenge here was creating a scaffolding support which undulated and followed the line of Carsten’s design, complementing it, whilst being safe for the public to walk through.”

Decision Corridors, Carsten Holler, 2015

 

Other fine art collaborations have included working with Israeli artist Eyal Burstein on his installation Scaffolding Brut, for the V & A.  The work involved constructing a scaffolding representing function and beauty on which porcelain clips and other objects were displayed.  For Matt this was a one-of a kind opportunity “Eyal asked us to freestyle with him putting the structure together, which consisted of inter-locking tubes representing a kind of Devil’s Causeway.”  Boxes inside boxes of scaffolding were constructed through the night, with Eyal and Matt working well into the wee hours, in readiness for the gallery opening to the general public.

 

                                                                                  Eyal Burstein’s Scaffolding Brut, V&A (2011)

 

         Graham Hudson’s A considerable extension in time and an insignificant extension in space, MK Gallery (2009)

Design Vertigo for Fendi: Milan (2009)

Hudson says that he took to Matt, not just because of his ability to get things done, but because of “his craftmanship and openness.” Hudson explains that it’s quite difficult to get people in the scaffolding events industry to always take what you’re doing seriously, but with Matt and his right-hand-man Tod Hodge, it was uniquely “collaborative…I don’t just give them a drawing..it’s more a hand-made response…involving intuition and emotion.”  In Milan Hudson’s installation for Fendi involved working through the night to get it finished. Hudson explains that “for most of these (installations) the trick is to make them look as though they’re falling over…so that entails stretching what can be engineered, and they respond intuitively to that.”

Another Dimension, London (2012)

In 2012, a project for Nintendo found Vantage assisting Hudson with his scaffolding themed creation, Another Dimension.

 

Hudson’s installation for Comme des Garcons at Dover Street Market, saw Vantage working with the artist from scratch, to produce an installation which consisted of a scaffold structure adorned with fabric sails and umbrellas. 

 Graham Hudson’s Selfridge’s window installation for Comme des Garcons (2017)

In the same year, Vantage were called upon for their engineering know-how, to assist Hudson with his striking, in-store installation for Selfridges, which featured an explosion of scaffold poles in the shop front and complemented an installation in the interior of the store, which featured a Venus de Milo replica, a punch bag and an 8ft crane digger.

Graham Hudson for Comme des Garcons, Selfridges (2017)

Vantage’s modus is experimentation and delivering something unforgettable. Their design The Harbour, was originally created for Creamfields 2018 and though it didn’t win the tender, it’s a project Vantage spent several weeks designing and one day hopes will come to fruition.

Matt believes Vantage’s success is down to their can-do approach and their ability to not just design, but fabricate, as he explains “if it doesn’t exist, we’ll make it”.  This kind of ingenuity has been applied to both experimental projects but also to their public access constructions, including viewing platforms, ramps and staircases, which Matt acknowledges is the “bread and butter” of the business.

In 2017 they designed a new type of handrail made of glass and metal, which not only looked elegant, but was weight bearing and did the job of keeping the public safe and secure.  

When it set out in 2012, Vantage’s mission statement was to “surprise and delight, integrate and innovate, embrace resistance and leave their mark.”  In just six years this small events company has done just that.  From Royal Weddings to innovative private pop-up structures, Vantage has become an events company to watch.

 

Vantage’s Temporary Structure Commissions.

International Sporting Events

Wimbledon (2017, 2018)

146 Open at Royal Birkdale (2017)

European Athletics (2018)

146 British Open Gold Championship at Royal Birkdale

Henley Regatta (2016)

Cheltenham Gold Cup (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)

Silverstone F1 Grand Prix (2016)

Goodwood (2014)

Olympics (2012)

 

Major National Events

 

Chelsea Flower Show (2017, 2018)

Chatsworth Flower Show (2018)

Natural History Museum: Kate Middleton visit (2017)

Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (2012)

The Royal Wedding (2011)

Barak Obama’s state visit to Buckingham Palace (2011)

 

Festivals and Public Events

 

Creamfields (2017)

Jamie Oliver’s Feastival – Moretti Bar (2017)

Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park ice rink (2014, 2016)

V – Festival (2013)

British Summer Time Festival – Hyde Park (2013)

London Eye Ice Rink (2012)

 

Television and Film

 

BBC Proms (2013)

 

Special commissions

 

The Harbour (2018)

Tricycle Theatre Upgrade (2017)

Temporary Prison for private client (2016)

Blenheim Palace – gigantic marquee (2016)

MCM Comic Con, Excel Centre, London (2016)

Pop-up Cinema (2015)

Elvis Exhibition, 02 Arena (2015)

Ski Slope, Milton Keynes

DJ Booth for VS Creative (2013)

Catwalk for Fendi: Milan 200 (2009)

 

Fine Art

 

Carsten Holler – “Decisions” Hayward Gallery (2015)

 

Graham Hudson - Regent Street, Burberry (2018)

Graham Hudson - Dover Street, Comme De Garcons (2017)

Graham Hudson – Selfridges, Comme des Garcons (2017)

Graham Hudson – “Another Dimension” Nintendo 3DS Photography (2012)

Graham Hudson – “Lost and found” Milton Keynes Gallery (2009)

Graham Hudson – “Design Vertigo” for Fendi/Design Miami, Milan (2009)

Graham Hudson – Art Basel (2009)

 

Eyal Burstein, Victoria & Albert Museum  ‘Wave Sculpture’ ‘Scaffolding Brut’ (2011)

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