With its core business wiped out during lockdown, Lucid Creates shifted focus to work on giant art concepts including new touring AV installation Together, which has since been adapted for use at festivals including Leeds. Access meets Lucid co-founders Helen Swan and Chris Carr.

During the height of the pandemic lockdown, pivot become one of the period’s overused buzzwords and while there were countless examples of companies shifting focus to survive there were few whose new work was as visually impressive as the results of Lucid Creates’ switch to producing art installations.

The Kent-based design and fabrication studio, run by Chris Carr and Helen Swan, has built a strong reputation since its launch in 2010 having created spectacular structures and installations that use cutting-edge visual technology to remarkable effect.

Among its many clients have been Wembley Park, Pacha, Festival Republic, Live Nation and Broadwick Live. In 2019 it presented a new, award winning, venue at Glastonbury called Samula, and installed the huge Valley Arena at Parklife festival.

The onset of the pandemic in early 2020 meant Lucid’s plans for the season ahead went up in smoke as swathes of contracts were cancelled. Rather than count their loses, the duo set about developing multi-functional sculptural structures that could be experienced outdoors in non-ticketed environments.

Swan says the move stemmed from a desire to “create a safe and accessible way for people to connect and experience art and music in spite of the pandemic”.

The first project to take shape in the workshop during the early days of the pandemic was a handmade, and self-funded, art piece called Exponential that was installed on Liverpool’s pier while the country was in full lockdown.

Not long afterwards, Lucid unveiled another piece – Futures. Described by Swan as an “immersive audio-visual space”, the modular light installation can take different forms, including a walkway of mirrors and lights, with the lights moving in synch with an ambient soundscape. It was used at Wembley Winterfest as a 100m long installation.

“The Together project was conceived during the isolation of lockdown, driven by a desire for communal experience at a time when our loneliness was at its peak.”

The third and largest of the new creations from Lucid was a pavilion-like structure called Together. It consists of four huge steel pillars, from which three giant rings are suspended. The structure is filled with video, light, sound and reflections. It was co-commissioned by Medway Council as part of their City of Culture Bid and by Culture Liverpool as the headline piece for its River of Light trial.

The giant touring AV structure presents words and audio from stories gathered from different communities, enabling the experience to be tailored to each setting. While the music plays, words from the stories are presented on video screens intertwined with visuals. It means audiences can be presented with the thoughts and expressions of the community whether it be festival attendees or a city’s inhabitants.

“The Together project was conceived during the isolation of lockdown, driven by a desire for communal experience at a time when our loneliness was at its peak,” says Swan. “We wanted to design a piece that brought people together and created a place to be able to celebrate the ways in which we, as communities, unite in love against adversity.”

Lucid was in the very early stages of fabricating the elements of Together when Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn contacted them and explained that he was looking to create a new late night dance arena called LS23 to replace the Relentless Stage at Leeds Festival.

The result was a stunning 360° dance area able to accommodate up to 20,000 festivalgoers at any one time. Measuring 15m in height and width, Together became a pavilion-like open space in a woodland setting that enabled the free flow of people in and out of the dance arena.

Together went on to be installed at Liverpool Pier Head to mark the 21st anniversary of the club night Chibuku Shake Shake. Branded Dance Together, the installation involved the use of archive music and images from Chibuku’s history. Having been a regular at the club, when she was studying music and art in Liverpool in the early 2000s, Swan says the project was particularly rewarding.

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Together is currently in Aberdeen where it will be used at Sprectra, the Aberdeen City Council-run festival of culture that is due to run from 10-13 February.

Swan and Carr state that sustainability is an integral consideration during the design and build of all Lucid’s structures, with the team’s core focus being on the potential for reuse and repurpose of component parts.

“We will not build disposable, single-use structures,” says Carr. “Our design methodology is to construct multiple structures from the same set of reusable components. These component parts are designed and made by us to work in multiple ways from resilient and recyclable materials such as steel. This allows us to create visually exciting new designs without using new materials for each structure and so reducing environmental impact.

“We have also developed a unique, patented, system of modular steel frames and brackets for attaching creative cladding to layher scaff. This hard wearing, reusable system allows us to reuse creative cladding over and over in multiple designs.”

Looking ahead, with the live events market getting back in full swing, Swan says Lucid’s focus is on continuing to develop its portfolio of multi-functional immersive public art installations while also collaborating with festivals and artists to create sustainable stages and spaces for live shows.

She says, “We are so grateful for the support we’ve received for our installations. In 2022 they are touring far and wide – Futures will be in Australia in August and we are working on an exciting project with a major recording artist for a performance in a spectacular location under the rings of Together. The beauty of our installations is that, like LEGO, they can be taken apart and rebuilt in entirely new ways and so we have endless possibilities to create stages.”

This article was published in the February edition of Access All Areas. Read it here, and/or subscribe for free here.