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David Green & Tim Roffey, SPS

We talk to the duo that founded Special Project Solutions in 2007 about the company’s origins and the markets for its work.

As Installation Europe reported last month, Special Project Solutions – a technical project management and design company working in the entertainment and industrial fields – was recently acquired by AV rental company Media Powerhouse, although SPS will continue as an entity in its own right.

How did you get into this industry to start with?
David Green:
I started at a scenic construction company, moved from there to another one, and then further into the industry to look at the management of projects. I know it’s an awful thing to say, but I really haven’t ever done anything else.

Tim Roffey (pictured): When I was at school I worked on lights and moved from there into local crewing. I went from university straight into Unusual Rigging, where I spent 10 years. I can’t remember not doing it, basically.

How do you define what Special Projects Solutions does?
TR: We like to think of ourselves as a solutions company. We deal in problem-solving for people. The problems generally take the shape of structural suspension, maybe if you’ve got restricted access for your show, event, or permanent installation. Due to the nature of what we do, that is why Media Powerhouse is keen to keep the brand going as a standalone entity, as well as having it as a bolt-on for their services.

When you formed the company, did you see that there was a gap in the market for these sorts of services?
TR: We wanted to take a specialist problem and either manage it for the client, or offer our own solutions. We noticed that you could get a rigging solution for something, and you could get a more technical solution for things like displays. But there weren’t always clear cut-offs between, for instance, the set and the staging solution. What we wanted to do was fuse some of the edges together, where things needed to be tailored to provide what the client wanted.Can you give me a real-life example that you’ve worked on?

DG: A UK event production client, which had been contracted by a US-based agency, came to us for a cocktail of solutions: design, survey, construction, labour – we even supplied the plant on that event as well. I oversaw the event for Special Project Solutions and we had sub-departments running inside our brokerage as well. We looked after all of those different aspects and facilitated them for the production company. They told us what they wanted – we decided how that should be achieved.

TR: On that particular project we needed to get a very large crane into a site where there was not much room, so the whole detail of the trackway, how the site worked for all departments, had to be microscopically considered.
DG: It was a 300-ton road-going crane, one of six in the world. Because of the size of that vehicle, we had to go so far as to undertake ground-penetrating radar, just to make sure that we weren’t suddenly looking at a hole in the ground.

How do you define your markets – and how are those markets faring at the moment?
TR: I would say entertainment and advertising. We are currently undertaking a lot of work in shopping centres and we do a lot of fixing solutions on modern-clad buildings.

DG: It’s a thriving market for us at the moment, especially with so much building going on in the London area. We’re seeing new shopping centres springing up and obviously there’s a very large building site in the east of London at the moment that we’re hoping might become important to us in the months to come.

TR: We regularly tender for work all over the world – we’re happy to work anywhere. It just happens at this moment in time, a lot of it is UK based. I’d say probably about 60% of it is UK based, 30% is in mainland Europe, and the rest further afield.

Are there any new or recently introduced technologies that you’re excited by?
Flexible LED – no doubt about that.

TR: Funnily enough, I was just about to say some of the larger-scale LED stuff. We’re working with some companies in France that have developed ways of using LED to cover whole sides of buildings. We’re helping them implement that and finding ways of installing it sensibly and cost-effectively.

Can you name a favourite recent project that you’ve worked on?
The one I’m most proud of from most recent years – simply because of the achievements we made on it and the sheer scale of it – is one of our Christmas decorations projects at the Westfield shopping centre in White City. ‘Christmas decorations’ sounds a bit blasé, but it’s a very complicated project with an enormous amount of infrastructure. Logistically it’s an enormous challenge, design-wise it’s an enormous challenge, and then there are the specifications for the electrics and control.

TR: One which I’m particularly proud of: we consulted and then assisted the English National Opera with A Dog’s Heart, where they had to effectively take an existing show from Amsterdam and make it work with the services in their building. We assisted them with how to do that, particularly from an automation point of view. There was one large piece of scenery that we had to look at controlling, in a way that can be replicated on tour if necessary.

David Green and Tim Roffey were talking to Paddy Baker.