Named after the massive 300-million-year-old supercontinent that broke apart to form the seven separate continents that divide us today, Pangea is a brand new, bespoke installation, created exclusively for Glastonbury. It replaces Arcadia’s famous Spider, which has inhabited the space for the past ten years, and marks one of the first major installations for MDG’s Me8 fog generator.
“As the first year of a five-year, permanent installation, we were able to ‘go to town’ with Pangea on a totally different scale from a touring show,” says Arcadia’s head of communications, Cyrus Bozorgmehr. “We wanted to explore possibilities with more scope for upward expansion into three-dimensional space, and investigate how to take over the area above people’s heads to make a fully immersible experience across the whole arena.”
To achieve this, a massive multi-level central structure was designed, sourced - as all Arcadia creations are - entirely from repurposed scrap material gleaned from a worldwide search. The centrepiece is a giant 50m dock crane from nearby Avonmouth Docks, rigged with lighting and pyrotechnics, the machine house of which serves as an operational space for control equipment. The crane is set upon a spherical ex-military ‘radome’ which is used as a projection surface and sited above a mesh-floored DJ booth on a 360° rotating table above the audience that gives fully immersive directionality across the whole site.
“We have different visuals on each level with an intense, ‘rave’ like atmosphere and warm tungsten-style lighting at the bottom around the DJ booth,” says Arcadia’s technical production manager, Dorian Cameron-Marlow. “The ‘radome’ sphere and upper levels add strong visual elements as projection surfaces, while the crane gives us access to the sky in a completely different way allowing us to play with the space. The jib arm lighting provides dramatic architectural looks and strong beam light effects and is perhaps the most important area for the MDG Me8 fog generators.
“We used the big beam effects to sweep through the crowds which became incredibly effective, and a really strong look, with this really consistent haze from the Me8s,” adds Cameron-Marlow. “Because the haze was so fine, it wasn’t really visible until this point so it was incredibly atmospheric when you saw this big sweeping beam rotating through the crowd. It really looked like an alien invasion!”
“The aim over the next five years is to take over the sky,” says Bozorgmehr, “so getting the lighting to stand out from a height of 30m in outdoor space is key to creating a vivid experience for the audience.”
Cameron-Marlow agrees: “We have a structure that we can fully interact with that gives us massive scope across a 50m rolling sphere of three-dimensional space, that needs to reach out across a crowd numbering tens of thousands, past the core 80m arena space, into the outfield and way beyond. The lighting and effects must be visible on a grand scale, and to do this, you must have great haze to show them to full effect. You can have the most powerful lights in the world but if you don’t have a really good haze distribution plan, the lights will be ineffective.”
Incredibly, Cameron-Marlow and the team were able to achieve this using just two of MDG’s Me8 fog generators, each of which has an 8-nozzle output and is capable of producing 800m3 (28,252ft3) of fine, pure white fog per minute. These are sited at opposite sides of the arena from where the fog is ducted through a complex manifold system to six tree/lamppost sculptures - long-standing features from early Arcadia installations that represent an intertwining of the industrial and organic. Each Me8 generator is connected via ducting to three of the tree sculptures then, from the central point of each tree, the fog is ducted up each of the little branches to exit at the tips.
“Our trees are a very effective, subtle means of distributing the fog as they are positioned in a circular configuration half way between the out-field towers and the central structure,” explains Cameron-Marlow. “Environmentally this is the ideal place from which to distribute haze, and the organic nature of the design is enhanced by not having giant fans to distribute it. With these we can achieve a nice, slow atmospheric trickle, particularly with these MDG units, which have a genuinely constant flow due to their 100% duty cycle. It is quite ethereal and the trees become sculptural elements in themselves as much as providers of atmospheric haze.”
Cameron-Marlow also noted they were ‘pushing the boundaries’ when ducting the fog along runs of up to 50m. “But from the outset, the MDG fluid just did exactly what we wanted it to, even over those distances. Generally speaking, fog or haze doesn’t like to be ducted that far because it can change states, condense and end up not producing the effect you want. But we spent some time configuring how we would use them and designing the ducting systems to suit and, with the overall system design in place, they worked an absolute treat. We were able to do some complicated things that we hadn’t done before because we knew the Me8 would be able to handle it.”
As with all outdoor events, wind and weather always present a challenge but the team were able to mitigate the effects by balancing the output of the MDG generators: “Having a well distributed system, particularly for the medium level constant output, means that, whichever way the wind decides to blow, we can always combat it by controlling the output of the Me8s remotely. They were fantastically easy to use and extremely reliable, just continuing to work problem-free for the whole five days of rehearsal and live stage time. They are perfect for this type of environment.”
Given Arcadia’s green credentials and interest in adopting the latest and best technology, environmental considerations were also important. “One of my favourite things about MDG generators,” concludes Cameron-Marlow, “is that they are incredibly efficient in fluid, gas and energy consumption. This is a great bonus when you take into consideration the volume and quality of haze and fog they deliver which have always been the best in the business for me.”