In September 2017 Birmingham City University’s new Conservatoire was opened to the public and to students. The state-of-the-art project, which was several years in the making and was granted Royal status shortly after it opened, cost £57 million and features five public performance spaces, including the 500-seat concert hall, 150-seat recital hall, a 100-seat organ studio and the UK’s first permanent conservatoire-based jazz space. In addition, students benefit from 9,000sqm of purpose designed teaching, rehearsal and state-of-the-art performance space, designed to allow them to experiment with new technologies.
A major element of the teaching space is the seven industry-standard studios offering both digital and analogue recording.
AV and IT integrator Vanti got involved in the Conservatoire in December 2016, when they were charged with supplying and installing kit for the production AV side of the project. As Kezia Nathan, Project Co-ordinator at Vanti, explains: “This was a really interesting project for us. While we’ve worked on performance venues before, we’re probably better known for office fit outs to commercial companies, so this was a great project to be involved in and one that allowed us to work with some companies for the first time.”
This included SSL, which supplied nine consoles to be used across the venue, and Meyer Sound, which supplied a large selection of loudspeakers, subwoofers and controllers; it was also the largest Crestron fitout the company had ever done.
Vanti also turned to VDC, who they’ve worked with on many projects in the past, to supply “an epic amount of cabling”.
“We used Van Damme cable throughout the venue, particularly in the studios to the desk consoles, racks and patchbays,” adds Nathan. “In one of the main studios we had 27 cable runs of 16-core and 8-core Van Damme Blue Series, so it was heavily wired. We also got a lot of pre-made cable from VDC with 25-pin D-Subs on the end which ran from patchbays through to the console table.”
The extensive project was completed in September 2017 and, perhaps not surprisingly, on a project of this scale and complexity, timescale and working to very tight deadlines proved a challenge. “If one element of the project over runs it means everything gets pushed back so we had to work to some very tight deadlines. VDC were invaluable here; they processed orders straight away and got me everything I needed when I need it, delivering the next day. Even with the pre-soldered cable that we requested the turnaround was great. They got everything to us in a timely manner, labeled up exactly how we wanted it. For example, we requested 25-pin D-Subs but we needed some at 13m, some at 10m, some at 11m for different spaces. We created a spreadsheet outlining each element and they pre-labelled everything and sent it all through, which made our lives so much easier. They were absolutely brilliant, they always go above and beyond to help us out.
“Quite often no one really thinks about the cabling because it’s all hidden away in the background but it was crucial to the job and we couldn’t have done it without VDC.”
A couple of months after opening, Vanti has received positive feedback to the venue from a number of quarters. Nathan explains: “The most mind blowing thing for me was Meyer Sound – we worked very closely with them on the install and had very talented people come in to do the set up of the speakers; to hear such positivity and such good feedback from them was really rewarding. Principle contractor Galliford Try were really positive too – we pulled out all the stops to make it happen and they appreciated that. And, of course, the students love it – they’re really excited by the kit they’re able to use.”
This isn’t the first project VDC and Vanti have collaborated on, and it won’t be the last, Nathan concludes: “VDC are very much up there in Vanti’s world, we use them all the time for connectors, cables, you name it; their flexibility and reliability really is invaluable.”
Picture: Birmingham Conservatoire