London Staging Scene

The Pinnacle Crew is the leading staging crew for entertainment and events in London. The company provide workers to businesses for various types of manual labour tasks in the events industry. These mainly include; loading and unloading trucks, the assembling and dismantle of stages. The large employee base increases leading up to summer, during which time the industry is at its highest demand. During this period, workers are pushed to their limit, often with no breaks and working through the night. It is during this period that it is possible to simply work as many hours as you can physically endure. There is money to be made for anyone willing to put in the time and strenuous effort. This is a dynamic industry, full of interesting and polarizing characters. The job requires no qualification or any great deal of intellect. The ability to lift heavy things, quickly, continuously, on minimal sleep, are particularly admired employee character traits.

I joined Pinnacle crew at the beginning of March 2016 and worked with them for four months. Id been travelling in Europe for ten months prior to life as a stage hand. My pockets were empty. With no previous background in building stages or any idea of the chaotic lifestyle I was about to commence, I signed up to work with the simple aim of working as many hours as possible to earn some quick cash.

Most of the stage crew are men from eastern Europe. These guys are tough. In the Eastern countries there is limited opportunity to make any sort of decent money regardless of occupation. In countries like Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, the wages are low and the cost of living is high. These men travel to the UK in search of a good wage and better life. In essence we were there for the same reason. Opportunity is here to make good money, because theres so many hours available to work. So for four months, we work non stop, around the clock, through the night and into the morning.

Job details are sent the day before via txt message. The txt contains hours quoted, client name, client number, start time of the job, and address. If you reply YES you are required to arrive at the job fifteen minutes before the quoted time or risk a £10 fine for being late. If you reply NO expect a call from the boss demanding why.

Jobs range from the minimum call out of two hours to approx fourteen hours. The most common are two hour jobs. During peak summer period, I would often be given up to six of these per day. There’s a reasonable gap in between each job allowing for travel time between job locations, therefore, six two hour jobs in a day, equals twelve hours pay, but could easily be spaced over a sixteen hour period.  

The nature of the events industry is that its busiest at night. Generally, concerts finish late, the happy drunk audience that clapped and cheered and danced to the performance on stage gets replaced by a bunch of tired, stinky men in black shirts who rip and tear at the stage hoping it will collapse quick enough to load into the truck and disappear to the next mind numbing job.

It became somewhat a competition between work colleagues. Who had gone the longest without sleep and clocked up the most hours under the harshest environments. A form of boasting that I’m sure pleased the bosses handing out the jobs, feeding the egos of these money hungry men. I was caught up in the game too and despite my ability to see beyond the antics, there was something oddly thrilling about this work. The constant work and chaos of it all became somewhat addictive. The intense fast paced stage crew environment was a chance to see what the body was capable of enduring. Pushing my tired body to its limit and earning some decent cash out of it. Since experiencing life as a London stage hand, every job I’ve had since then is simple in comparison. 

There were occasions I went without regular sleep for days on end. One typically cold London night in Brighton, I slept in an eight seater van full with workers, the motor still running so that we could warm ourselves from the car heater. Another occasion after finishing at 2am I went to my local 24/7 gym for a sleep before my scheduled 8 o’clock start. I went into the empty gym and found a changeroom big enough to fit my body on the floor. I lay down with my rucksack as a pillow, trying to keep my body rigid in an attempt to avoid the sensor light turning, while the latest pump up tunes blared from the speaker outside.

Despite the physical strain, it truly was a pleasure, and a treat, to be a part of the backstage workings on some of the biggest events in the world, to go inside and see the progress at some fantastic venues. Transforming from a bare floor to massive structure sometimes in a few hours. Jobs varied from erecting tents and big tops for massive scale events over several weeks like the Farmborough aeroplane festival. High security Jobs such as Buckingham palace and Windsor castle where guards confiscate passports and prohibit mobile phone use and standing on the grass, top performing musicians at the O2 Arena, the Roundhouse, and all the many ancient palaces and museums across London. I’ve worked for well know people like Queen Elizabeth, Justin Bieber, Florence and the Machine, Paul McCartney, and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. An enormous amount of work goes on to make these events happen. The sheer amount of kit, props, and man power to get it going, then tear it all down in a couple of hours, like it never existed until the next gig. The hard sweat and toil of The staging crew is forgotten in an instant when the stars arrive, hidden with black t-shirts behind dark curtains or quickly ushered away from the venue entirely, out of sight of the rich and famous until we are welcomed back with open arms to start our shift at all hours of the night for disassemble.

Staging crew was an experience Im happy to have had, but one I’ll never seek to experience again. I was tired all the time and lost a great deal of physical weight. It was a strain physically and mentally. I could only recommend this job to a young traveller in need of quick cash. It gave me enough to continue my travels and certainly many more valuable life lessons, I learnt what real hard work is, how to function on four hours sleep or less, and gaining respect for people who come from disadvantaged life circumstances such as the eastern europeans i was lucky to meet. I have seemingly unlimited opportunities in life simply by being born with a passport containing an attractive badge on the front. Others unfairly don’t have this luxury and fight a daily battle because of it.

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