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Cover Feature: Soul Survivor’s last summer

Cover Feature: Soul Survivor’s last summer
Photos courtesy of Isaac Stott, Big Blond Bear

Cover Feature: Soul Survivor’s last summer

Soul Survivor has been a big name in the world of Christianity, with the summer festival being its most popular event of the year. Becky Abel reports on the setup for 2019’s edition

Soul Survivor is a Christian charity centred in Watford, England. Since 1993, it has been creating events, from conferences to festivals, all celebrating Christianity with fun talks and popular worship sessions. In addition to its many events targeted at young Christians, the charity has also established the Soul Survivor Watford Church. The summer festival, which took place three times over three weeks, was its most popular event each year. British AV production supplier SFL had been supplying the event since 2003 and managing director Tom Jeffery had been working on it since 1996.

During 2018’s Soul Survivor summer festival, Jeffery felt that audience members became disconnected from what was happening on the main stage. ‘It was fine if you were in the middle of the tent, but if you were on the edges you had people coming in and out and you could feel a little disconnected because you were so far away from the stage,’ he explains. ‘We wanted to come up with something that could help everyone connect better with what was going on onstage, and that was where the idea of 360° sound came in.’

‘Quite early on during the planning phases for 2019, we began investigating the possibility of using d&b Soundscape in the big top – about six or so months before,’ comments Harvey Appleton, project manager of SFL. ‘It was a bit of a step-by-step process to explore the possibility with the client further, as well as working with the tent company to see how we could make the rigging work, let alone sourcing all the gear needed – so quite an extensive planning process.’

Subsequently, a d&b Soundscape system was employed in 2019 inside the big top with a KLANG:fabrik 3D personal monitor mixing system. Based on an audio system processor (the DS100 Signal Engine) and two software modules (d&b En-Scene and d&b En-Space), d&b’s Soundscape facilitates the configuration of 360° audio.

The main stage’s PA consisted of nine hangs: five hangs of d&b E5s with eight boxes in each hang; two hangs of V7Ps that were placed in the corners; and an additional two hangs of six Y10Ps. ‘For front-fill we had five boxes, so we could still do some Soundscape positioning, even for the people at the front,’ says Jeffery. ‘On the side of the screens there were probably 250–400 people so, even with the fills, we made sure we’d got more than one box to account for that.’

The ring around the tent consisted of 28 T10 loudspeaker boxes and V-SUBs for the subwoofers. The radial array was pushed back and placed under the stage with the main speakers installed in the conference area. ‘On events like this, it’s really important because when people come forward for prayer and ministry, you don’t want to be pummelling everyone at the back or front while music is playing,’ explains Jeffery. ‘That’s another reason for using surround sound; we can introduce the keyboard and violin from around the venue, which means we keep the level lower.’

The main stage wasn’t the only place that SFL was put to work as the festival also included several areas for conferences and seminars that required sound reinforcement. ‘There were a number of other venues around the site where SFL deployed either d&b or L-Acoustics,’ notes Jeffery. ‘These included a 3,000-capacity late-night worship venue, where the same band that performed on the main stage in the big top also played. Here, L-Acoustics Kiva and X12 wedges with LA8 and LAX4 amplified controllers were used and a volunteer operated the system with SFL providing them with support.’

Meanwhile, the Commissioned and Devoted areas were also equipped with L-Acoustics. ‘We also put plasma screens and a couple of loudspeakers in the children’s areas and Shuffle and Shake, which are popular with the teenagers,’ Jeffery adds.

Another space, Café Uno, served multiple functions. It was a venue for jazz bands in the evening, while in the mornings it hosted seminars. In the afternoons, it was used as a general hangout area. ‘Here, SFL supplied sound, lighting and video,’ recalls Jeffery. ‘Through Congo Blue, part of SFL Group, we also built the custom screen surrounds that fit in with the theme of the space.’

The view from FOH
The view from FOH

‘There were a few highlights for me from a technical point of view,’ says Appleton. ‘Seeing people engaged in a 10,000-capacity tent from the front to the very back was awesome and the ability to properly create an immersive-sounding mix for the first time was revolutionary. It reminds me of the sound of an organ in a cathedral – it seems to envelop you with sound from everywhere and draw you in. People were also commenting on how they’ve never heard the big top sound so good – a testament to the Soundscape system we put in. One of my highlights was working with a moving structure: the big top – it constantly threw us curveballs, from uneven ground, to queen poles around the sides moving to temperature swings from 15° up to 38°C.’

Sadly, 2019 was the final year that Soul Survivor’s summer festival ran. ‘I’m sad that this was the last Soul Survivor,’ concludes Jeffery. ‘I have been a part of it for the last 20 years. Some things you do because they’re a good business proposition and some things you do because you care about them and this is one of those. But it has been 27 years and Mike who runs it is now 60, so they felt it was time to make space for other events. If you were running a youth ministry, you didn’t set an event up like this in August because Soul Survivor was going on. This wasn’t just a festival in the general way you think of it.’

This article was first published in the January-February 2020 edition of Worship AVL. Subscribe at or read on Issuu.

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