Metal in the Mud – 11th Hour Powers Steelhouse to Success

The Steelhouse Festival near Ebbw Vale, South Wales celebrated its sixth anniversary in some style in July this year with headliners Skindred and Saxon earning rave reviews – in fact all the bands who played over the two days of the event went down a storm…and a storm made certain that conditions underfoot were a little on the boggy side. In fact, ‘near Ebbw Vale’ is something of a misnomer since the festival site sits atop a hill at the remote Hafod-y-Dafal farm and is accessed by a rough (in places) single track lane. Steelhouse is without doubt one of the UK’s most successful underdog stories of recent times. What began as almost a DIY event has quickly become, without losing any of its passion or brilliant hospitality, a self-styled Welsh International Classic Rock Festival, attracting 60% of its audience of more than 5000, from outside Wales. At this year’s renewal, Cardiff-based events specialists 11th Hour, who had worked at Steelhouse in a limited capacity in previous years, saw their responsibilities expanded and enjoyed a highly productive if rather damp week.

The complete build took five days with five crew on site daily. Mains power and distribution was supplied for the whole site, covering main stage and production (4 x 100kVA sync), catering (40kVA), bars and toilets (2 x 100 kVA sync) and tour-buses (40kVA). Two of the company’s newly acquired 100kVA Bruno generators made their debut at Steelhouse. 11th Hour also installed a 12m x 10m stage under a CLT structure, adapted with 3m x 3m and 6m x 4m cowsheds for production and load-in, respectively. The stage included a built-on thrust and rolling Litedeck risers. A FOH structure, all stage-lighting (by Chauvet, Aurora and Martin) and site lighting completed the picture. Veteran headliners Saxon closed the event on Sunday night accompanied onstage by their legendary Flying Eagle prop. To enable the safe suspension of this 800kg addition, 11th Hour sourced Super Truss from Fine Line Lighting of Bristol to create an independent ‘goal-post’ structure to support its weight.

Conditions at the site deteriorated rapidly during the build and the performances, creating very demanding conditions for the 11th Hour team. Hafod y Dafal sits at over 1000 feet above sea level (officially the highest music festival in Britain) in an exposed position. Persistent rain resulted in crew members working shin-deep in mud to maintain the smooth running of the show. 11th Hour ensured that in spite of the added pressure brought on by the elements, the show’s production team was able to manage events punctually and with maximum rock and roll impact.

Three articulated lorries had delivered all 11th Hour’s kit to the site (itself a logistical triumph given the nature of the mountain approach) and left their trailers behind in order to ease and speed up its removal. The returning tractor units had to negotiate dire conditions to exit the site but consistent with the 11th Hour mantra that nothing is impossible, the team succeeded in extricating everything safely without drama.

11th Hour Project Manager, Jason Venables, reflects on overcoming some trying circumstances:

“Steelhouse is a brilliant event with a real community vibe. The conditions at times were pretty grim but everyone on site worked very hard together to make sure that the whole thing went off without a hitch. We prepared very carefully and so were able to adapt to anything that was thrown at us -including the rain – and in the hands of a dedicated team, the gear we installed worked efficiently to ensure a safe and enjoyable time was had by all.”