BBC Blast 2009, learning off the back of a lorry

The concept for the main truck
The concept for the main truck

One of the most delightful projects I’ve been involved in recently has been the redesign and recommissioning of the BBC Blast touring vehicles. In October 2008 Cleveratom were asked to put together a proposal and we were frtunate enough to be asked to undertake the work. This has been a huge undertaking, but ultimately incredibly rewarding. Starting off by reviewing the Blast trucks both from our experiences of them as facilitators in 2006, and by visiting them in Salford we were able to detail the various shortcomings and strengths, and work on how to improve the experience for young people.

Much of what I have been involved in has been the physical layout of the main truck, amending the spaces and changing the orientation and mechanics of what is possible. One of the more subtle changes was a realignment of the internal partitions to provide more versatile spaces. What we had noticed before was that the main workshop room was used as a throughfare and the constant interruptions were a real disadvantage. Additionally, the small circular tables being fixed in four locations really restricted the way the room could be used. By moving the main partition wall across the truck to reduce the workshop space, we removed the ‘corridor’ that was actually dead space. By rotating the space ninety degrees we re-orientated it so that the door in to the room became part of the back of the space instead of being at the front left. However, we also wanted to change the flow of people through that truck and introduced a small ‘porch’ which had access directly into the edit suite from the outside instead of having to go into the main workshop. This immediately calmed the flow of bodies in and out of the main area. We then moved the studio wall to enlarge the third space and this has had a massive impact.

The edit suite originally had the main server cabinet in it which considerably restricted what could be done in the room. By moving that out into the main workshop area, and positioning it as part of a large ‘storage wall’ concept we created a physical and virtual store in one place. This freed up the edit suite and has introduced incredible amounts of room in what was once a fairly claustrophobic facility. There is now a door through from the edit room into the studio, too. Previously, to get from one to the other you would have had to go through the main workshop. Now, that space is protected and can be a much calmer area.

Storage was a major consideration and much of the time in redesigning has been spent on creating storage where there was none before. The storage wall has been developed and will hold every last wire, connector, tripod and camera that is needed on the truck. In the studio space a new set of cupboards have been created and these are superior in every way to the previous ones.

Lastly, the main truck operates in two modes now – with three spaces as described, or with just two. The studio wall can be folded back to add to the main workshop space if necessary.

There are two other vehicles joining the tour this year. The first is a ‘Discovery’ space where visitors can drop in and sample some of the activities they

The Discovery vehicle concept drawing
The Discovery vehicle concept drawing

will be able to undertake in the main  workshops. This vehicle also houses the tour office but must fold up into a major storage unit for hauling the kit to each location. This has been one of the biggest challenges – to provide an exciting and dynamic space for the young people and visitors, but to give as much storage for the tour paraphanalia as possible. I think we reached a suitable solution!

The third vehicle is an outreach van, which will visit schools and communities ahead of the main tour. It is a much smaller unit but has the capability to deliver as many workshops albeit for fewer numbers of people. The idea is for it to stir up the interest ahead of the main visit, and I think this will be a very busy bus indeed!

There are literally hundreds of other changes this year, far too many to list here for you. The flight cases that are now the main welcome desk (a great idea by Tony Kavanagh) and the new tables and chairs provided by MJF, the mood lighting, the rear projection windows… the technical infrastructure we have specified that should provide ample opportunity for creativity and much, much more!

The 'Advance' vehicle - a smaller truck for outreach work
The 'Advance' vehicle - a smaller truck for outreach work

You can get a feel for the space in these images, taken recently just as the last fit was being completed in White City:

I hope that as the tour progresses many people will be able to enjoy and experience the BBC Blast programme. It’s a winner!

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