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50 l November 2012


some from outside – other stakeholders, if you like, in the final product. It ranges from things like health and safety, which is right and proper, to how things are contracted – which often isn’t. “Generally speaking, our retail and leisure world is becoming more ‘themed’: there’s more than simple background music in a great many places and the whole experience is more targeted. It’s not so much that we’re putting sound in places where it’s never been before; it’s that it needs more explaining. Most people involved don’t know about audio – frankly, why should they?”

GAMES WITH FRONTIERS Hemming’s role at the London Olympic Games was also typical: less to do with specifying given technical solutions than with managing processes, linking communications and resolving problems. From this unique vantage point, he made some

the install side is like dealing with the Civil Service, as opposed to Parliament. It does deliver, eventually, but it’s like night and day.” Furthermore, Hemming does

'In the 10-year gap between the two mega-projects, Hemming has designed or managed projects such as Royal Ascot Racecourse (shown), St Pancras Station and Lords Cricket Ground.'

very sobering observations. “What it all put into clear perspective,” he says, “is the huge gulf in the understanding, enthusiasm and care that the live sound industry displays as compared with the majority of the installation industry. Whether that’s because the latter is, as I said, stymied by various factors that prevent it delivering 110%, maybe… but you just see it. Live audio is less compromising; it’s about doing the most you can do. “By its very nature, install is about reaching a minimum

standard and that’s it. That’s not specific to the Olympics, by the way, it’s generally true everywhere. “The working knowledge of audio that people have in the live industry is far better. It’s a different skill set, true, but on the whole it involves people who are more competent, more passionate and more committed to making things work on the day. I’m not saying that the installation side of the Olympics was poor, far from it, but there is a startling difference in attitude, skills and desire. Dealing with

not expect this situation to improve. “In fact, the indications are that it will get worse,” he adds. “The process works against you. You’re trying to deliver to a minimum standard, so you get non-audio people doing it. That means a consultant has no one to talk to, no one to engage with, and whole conversations never take place.” But the really huge showcase

projects are one-offs, Hemming insists. Each time, it seems like the greatest show on Earth – until the next one. So the goalposts – and don’t forget Brazil 2014 is coming up – are constantly being moved. Above all this means that RH Consulting, just like anyone else involved, is not to be associated only with these distorting monoliths. “I really don’t regard myself as ‘the guy

who does the big projects’,” Hemming reflects. “I’m a consultant, I’m someone who gives advice. I just happen to have been lucky enough to do these two large events. I’m not defined by them. They certainly don’t bring in all the money! But you take away the experience, a hugely accelerated learning curve, and the knowledge that you’ve worked with some amazing people. A week at the Olympics is like a year on any other project – and I love that pressure.”n

Working on the original Millennium Dome project, circa 1999

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