Interview: John ‘JP’ Partridge and Tony Martin, Live Events Summit Keynote speakers

Interview: John ‘JP’ Partridge and Tony Martin, Live Events Summit Keynote speakers

Celestial’s John ‘JP’ Partridge and Tony Martin discuss the use of drones in live events.

John 'JP' PartridgeIn what has become one of the fastest growing technologies within the live events space, drone shows are becoming an ever more common addition to large scale production. With swarms of drones taking to the air and creating jaw-dropping looks, it seems that the sky’s the limit for this new visual technique. One of the leading names in this burgeoning medium is Celestial, who will be one of the speakers at this year’s Live Event Summit at ISE on 1 February 2024.

During the panel conversation, Celestial Production Designer John ‘JP’ Partridge (pictured) will discuss some of the major events the company has been involved in during the past 12 months and talk about the impact large-scale drone shows can have on a live event. In the past year alone, Celestial have created shows for several large-scale events including London New Year’s Eve, the Eurovision Song Contest, Secret Garden Party and Christmas at The Grove in L.A.  

TPi Editor Stew Hume, who will be hosting the Live Events Summit in 2024, spoke to JP ahead of the conference to learn more about this flourishing technology.  

“Many clients still have this misconception that a drone show is limited to eight minutes, but this isn’t true,” he commented. “Not only is the battery life of drones getting longer and our technology flying more efficiently, but we also now have the capability for multiple swarms that can seamlessly take over from one another and options of recharging a swarm during the show. This would move drone swarms from a single effect used once into a preeminent tool for a performance.”  

To demonstrate the level of dependence for Celestial, the internal team grew from a team of five to 50 in only two and a half years. However, interestingly when recruiting for staff members, Celestial is not looking for specific aeronautical experience but individuals from a creative live events background. “You need a team with live events expertise,” stated JP. “Working on a drone show is more akin to being a lighting operator or production technician. It’s all about fault finding, problem solving, and managing a complicated flying Wi-FI network. A background in live events also helps people understand that the show has to happen precisely on time and accurately sync up and integrate with the wider production.”  

JP himself has this background working for PRG as a Production Technician and then over a decade touring as a Production & Lighting Designer. Similarly, Celestial’s CEO Tony Martin also has a background as a show and lighting designer and acknowledged the advantage of having a live events background while working in the drone show space. “We did the performance for the Eurovision Song Contest this year, one of the biggest drone shows ever to happen in the UK,” stated Martin. “Others didn’t see any option to place the drone take off grid and ruled the show ‘not flyable’. Whereas JP devised a solution for taking off from a nearby urban location, utilising a comprehensive temporary staging system to get above the takeoff obstacles. Our background in live events and in house knowledge of temporary structures meant we saw a solution that others didn’t.”  

'Many clients still have this misconception that a drone show is limited to eight minutes, but this isn’t true.'

Along with the Eurovision Song Contest, the team also lent its support to the 2023 rendition of Secret Garden Party. In collaboration with a firework, lighting and laser display, this event reportedly marked the largest multimedia airborne act UK music festival. The captivating drone display, titled Cosmic Wisdom, added a signature touch to the festival’s Saturday Spectacle. The commissioning of Celestial by Secret Garden Party supported the festival’s pursuit of a more sustainable experience by adding cutting-edge and environmentally friendly drone technology to their traditional fireworks.  

“It’s hard to put into words the excitement felt by myself and my team when working with Celestial to realise this vision. The creative journey we have been on to produce this multi-media spectacle with Cosmic Wisdom at its centre has been exhilarating and life affirming. This was collaboration at its purest and doing this is everything we have ever wanted Secret Garden Party to be able to do and hope to continue to do,” commented Freddie Fellowes, Secret Garden Party founder.  

“For years we have dreamed of combining the timeless wisdom of Alan Watts with our ethereal light displays, which appear like the stars brought to life,” stated Tony. “We have finally created Cosmic Wisdom, a mesmerising and thought provoking show which pairs animated sacred geometry with some of Alan Watts most profound messaging. We are so grateful to The Secret Garden Party for allowing us to design this unforgettable intersection of innovation and beauty.”  

The Live Events Summit runs from 10:30-14:30 on Thursday 1 February in CC5.2. Book your place.

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