Sittingbourne’s Lucid Creates has been reimagining the biggest stages at the biggest festivals for years
Just off an unassuming country road, out the back of Sittingbourne, in what is as close to the ‘middle of nowhere’ as Kent gets, a mini factory of busy hands is creating arguably Glastonbury Festival’s most imaginative stage. Yes, that Glastonbury.
Lucid Creates has been designing and creating stages and backdrops for some of the biggest festivals and brands for 10 years and become renowned for pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved in structure experience and aesthetics.
Glastonbury visionary Emily Eavis (yes, that one) posted a 3am Instagram picture of what Has been dubbed the Rave Cave from this year’s festival, with the star of the show Lucid’s Samula stage right at the centre. How does that even happen?
“Fu*k knows,” says Lucid owner Chris Carr. “We got introduced to the guys that ran The Common area at the festival and they were looking for a new stage.”
He is, of course, playing it down. Lucid has won contracts for absolute monster festivals in the past couple of years – and delivered, which is why Glastonbury came knocking.
In 2019 alone, the small full-time team, led by Chris and director Helen Swan, have created a 100-metre-wide and 25-metre-high cityscape including eight tower blocks for the Valley stage at Manchester’s Parklife Festival (pictured); a Lord of the Rings-style Lighthouse for Boomtown Festival (pictured); and the industrial-looking Bulldog Gin Yard at Field Day Festival (pictured). This doesn’t include the work the team are doing with the likes of Adidas, Kraken and various other brands.
“Every festival is wanting bigger and better sets,” says Carr. “Boomtown, for example, is building cities.”
It is actually the hanging brackets system, or ‘raptor claws’ as it’s known at Lucid, that is setting it apart.
“It’s kind of unique at the moment, no one else is doing it,” Carr explains. “It’s enabling us to build these big sets with massive overhangs and to push things so much further.
“Most people are still doing timber flats with screws. But when you’re 30 metres up in the air and there’s 10,000 people in front of you and it’s high winds... somewhere, at some point, something bad could happen.”
The raptor claws use metal frames rather than timber frames, which have been load-tested to up to half a ton so far.
“We know how much weight it can take,” says Carr. “There’s a bottom jaw and a top claw, which is where we get the name, and it hooks into the scaffolding. It just means we can build massive sets that go up quickly and don’t fall down.”
Having studied at the University of Kent, Carr began creating stages and sets for friends at illegal raves.
“That progressed into working for artists like Sub Focus, Eric Prydz and those guys – that was a bit of a lucky break. It just escalated from there.”
While Lucid is commissioned to create specific structures, its reputation as a creative precedes it. But that is not always a good thing.
“There are two scales: the really narrow briefs can be difficult because the client already has something in their mind, they already know what they want. But complete free rein is also difficult because you literally have no idea what they want.
“But it’s the weirder the better for me. They’re the fun things to do.”
With 3D renderings signed off by the client, it is down to the engineering stage, the details stage and the ‘how the fu*k are we actually going to build this thing?’ stage.
“We want to be making art,” says Helen Swan. “It’s about continuing to create installations that affect people. God, we sound like wankers.”
“I know,” adds Carr.
“It is art that people are a part of. If people don’t go to it, it doesn’t exist. The people create the environment.”
Former violinist-cum-Liverpool club promoter Swan has worked with RAM Records and was part of the early Cream days; she met Carr during work on a festival in Sevenoaks.
The pair have the vision of bringing their own, more sustainable ethos to Lucid in the future.
“The events industry is full of waste,” explains Carr. “You look at a festival, the amount of tents that are wasted, and the waste of set is terrible. Out in the yard there are remnants of past sets and builds – we want to find ways of using it all again.”
Swan adds: “We want to be pushing the things we stand for as a business. So that the things we make breed inclusivity, awareness of the environment and sustainability. Consciously build and make things that improve people’s lives. Don’t just make a party, make something that has meaning.
“We want to tour a show. Festivals want exclusivity, so you buy tickets where you can only see that stage at that one place. But if you can create something that shifts and changes as it moves, then clients don’t feel they’re not getting exclusivity.
“We want to push people to realise that it’s important to spend a part of their budget on making something sustainable.”
Though some of the sets can take up to 21 days to build and break down – even longer if it’s in the driving rain, meaning they’re often sleeping in caravans in a field for weeks on end – Carr and Swan wouldn’t have it any other way.
Swan adds: “The only bad side to our job is we don’t relax at our own shows. We still get the buzz, but I fu*king love my house when I get home.”