Home TypeNews Female NEC rigger describes her demanding job to celebrate International Women’s Day

Female NEC rigger describes her demanding job to celebrate International Women’s Day

by Emily Wallin

To celebrate International Women’s Day NEC groups Lucy Gardner, one of only two female Level 3 riggers in the UK, tells EN tells us about her role.

With almost 10 year’s experience at the NEC Group, Gardner has been working on the build for the world’s biggest dog show, Crufts, this week.

Gardner’s main responsibilities include placing kit into the roof of the arenas, providing drapes and truss for events and liaising with production teams to ensure requirements for each show are met. She also manages the venues’ maintenance program each year by repairing hundreds of metres of drapes as well as testing equipment and handling compliance checks.

 How did you become involved in rigging and what inspired you to take that career path?

 Ever since I was a child, I can remember being super hands-on and practical – never turning down an opportunity to get my hands dirty. Helping my dad around the house with certain DIY projects, for example, are some of the fondest memories I have. Therefore, it was in my very nature as a young girl to go against the grain and opt for a more practical line of work rather than any type of desk-based, 9-5 role. That’s what ultimately led me to become involved in rigging, but it wasn’t as straightforward as it sounds.

After studying theatre performance and event design at university, I landed my first ever full-time job at the Birmingham Rep doing scenic carpentry. After almost a years’ experience making all the pieces of staging and sets for the theatre, I managed to get a more exciting job at Alton Towers Resort. During my four-to-five-year stint there, working as a construction assistant in its entertainment department, I became part of the rescue team responsible for Skyride – Alton Towers’ cable car system – where I got involved in tasks such as rope access work. It was only from this point did I start to become more curious and think to myself “wait, what could I do with this experience?” The lightbulb moment came to me one day as I was walking through the Resort. In the corner of my eye I saw people who were up on the ropes doing something which looked interesting, so I asked, “what job is it you do?”, “rigging” they replied. The rest, as they say, is history.

 Are you surprised that so few women are riggers?

The reality is that rigging isn’t going to be for everybody – male or female – as it’s a dirty job with unsociable hours. There’s a lack of female representation, no doubt about that, but I think the real challenge currently facing the industry is attracting new, young talent.

How challenging was the training?

What’s key for any new starter or trainee rigger, in my opinion, is their attitude and willingness to learn and ask questions. If you’re able to demonstrate these qualities, more often than not you’ll get the help you need. The NEC Group was extremely supportive, attentive and offered plenty of knowledge and advice to help with my career development.

What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?

I love being a rigger for so many different reasons, but the ones which stand out to me include the flexibility of the job; being part of a dynamic team with a family culture; meeting new and old faces at all the different shows.

As a woman, I also value working for a company with a wide range of benefits such as maternity leave, rather than working freelance which many people go on to do in our line of work.

Have there been any particularly challenging or rewarding moments or projects over the years?

I particularly love working on the big shows. At the NEC Group, it’s all about working together to create unforgettable live experiences for our customers, and it makes me proud to say I play a key role in that.

What do you think needs to be done to inspire more woman to take on jobs like yours?

First and foremost, we need to remove the stereotype that rigging is just about how strong you are or how many motor chains you can pull to the roof. Guess what, the need for clear thinking and multi-tasking are just as important.

The industry needs to provide more information about rigging to ensure it’s perceived as an accessible, realistic and rewarding career, regardless of gender. If you asked 100 people on the street what a rigger was, for example, most wouldn’t have a clue. So, not only is it important to attract more female workers, but it’s also about doing more to support, champion and empower young people from all backgrounds into the sector.

Do you feel there is a gender imbalance across the live events industry as a whole and if so do you think enough is being done to address it?

Put simply, yes, there is a gender imbalance in certain sectors such as rigging, but the live events industry as a whole has a great number of women in a wide variety of roles.



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