During the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the beautiful church of St George’s West becomes The World@St George’s West, opening its doors and welcoming in the colour and vitality of traditional dance forms from around the globe.
The shows were the result of a an idea by international show producers Toby Gough and John Simpson, with the support of actor Brian Cox and Peter Gabriel, and were the culmination of much hard work and dedication from a team of volunteers, as well as generous donations from an array of audio and lighting manufacturers, amongst them XTA Electronics.
Featuring acts from what Real World’s Richard ‘Dickie’ Chappell – Peter Gabriel’s monitor engineer and keyboard technician, and the man who, along with his friends, brought together enough audio kit to make the shows possible – understatedly describes as less affluent backgrounds.
Including the Capoeira Knights from Brazil, the Zawose Family from Tanzania, Children of the Khmer from Cambodia and Hemingway’s Havana from Cuba, the shows proved a runaway success, with The World@St George’s West ultimately winning the Jack Tinker Spirit of the Fringe venue award.
The backdrop to these talented and vibrant artists, however, is as poignant a one as you could come possibly come across. Chappell expands on his initial description: “They all come from really hard backgrounds. Two of the main acts are from slum communities: one from Cambodia based in Phnom Pen, the other from Rio in Brazil.
“We want to help out, so we bring them over here to perform and hope to send them back with an experience they won’t forget, as well as a bit of monetary support. We want to do this every year and with original art forms rather than creating any sort of fusion.”
As this was a purely voluntary affair, Chappell needed to pull things together in the most cost effective way possible and, knowing that it was the busiest time of year for rental companies, decided to approach manufacturers direct for the equipment he needed.
“If I talk to anyone in the PA companies I know, they say that if you need a good crossover unit to do interesting things, you get an XTA in,” he smiles. “I don’t think there’s anything else that does the same job. It’s just a great and easy piece of gear to use. So I approached XTA and they were kind enough to give me a DP448 unit to use.
“We had quite a complicated way of setting up the system in the church and the 448 was brilliant for that. We had a balcony system and a main hung system and we had to split the audio between the two and separate off some sub bass. The unit was crucial for that. We couldn’t have done it without it.
“However, there’s not really much to say about it in terms of set up. It’s just really simple, it works really well and it did exactly what we needed it to do.”
The impact of what Chappell and his friends have achieved on the lives of those involved should not be underestimated. “I’m mainly responsible for the Cambodian group,” he explains. “They’re the youngest group there, being between 16 and 21. One of our 18 year olds has to sleep outside at the moment. She has no parents and has been looked after by her grandmother for most of her life, but now her grandmother is too old, so that means she doesn’t have anything. The money we were able to give her is going to keep a roof over her head and keep her fed for the next year and a half.”
Some groups are worse off than others, but all have great empathy for each other. “At the end of one of their shows, the main guy from the Brazilian group came on stage and asked everyone in the audience to stand up and welcome their brothers and sisters from Cambodia,” recalls Chappell.
“Then he broke down and said: ‘These people have come from hell. People have been put to death in Cambodia because of their art form. We come from a troubled background, but nothing compared to what these people have endured!’
“This whole thing is about people helping each other. All these art forms need help, they need people to see them – and people came in their droves and did just that. It was great that we had help from lots of different companies, including XTA. We couldn’t have done it otherwise.”