Hundreds of television buyers from across the globe headed to ACC Liverpool on 9 – 11 February for BBC Studios Showcase 2020, the world’s largest international television market hosted by a single distributor. The event brought together top producers, talent and BBC executives as well as Britain’s most successful creatives. For the 14th year running, we supported the distribution powerhouse to showcase its premium programmes, delivering two hotly anticipated evening events.

Celebrating bold, British creativity, the exclusive events previewed some of the BBC’s top programmes including Doctor Who, A Perfect Planet and The Watch. Led by the BBC Studios team, Our head of creative technical Peter Harding helped to produce and deliver a spectacular production design for the two awe-inspiring evenings.

This year’s format saw a considerable shake-up with the construction of a curve-fronted 1000sqm 5-metre-high platform over a section of the arena’s tiered seating and floor. We worked with specialists Acorn Event Structures and Steeldeck to create the impressive structure which took a whopping 36 hours to complete. Created in two pieces, Acorn Event Structures build the semi-circular platform on the arena floor whilst Steeldeck created the structure that connected this to the higher concourse level. Providing a completely level walk through for guests, the infill section met seamlessly with the platform and as no seats had to be removed, it caused minimal disruption to the venue or overall build.  

Night One kicked off with a stylish drinks reception celebrating Doctor Who. Guests entered the event via the platform, located at concourse level, and were transported to the interior of the latest reincarnation of the TARDIS, with Oods, Judoons and Cyberman keeping their eye on guests. The Doctor herself, Jodie Whittaker even made an appearance, with the TARDIS materialising in the centre of the bar area thanks to a hydraulic stage lift.

Guests then moved downstairs into an immersive dining space themed on The Watch, a new BBC Studios series inspired by characters created by Terry Pratchett. The arena floor was completely transformed to create districts from the city of Ankh-Morpork An abundance of theming and 15 shipping containers created the industrial atmosphere – a logistical challenge that required the assistance of a crane to stack the units. When dinner for all 1100 guests was wrapped up, guests partied the night away to legendary DJ Mark Ronson. Three large ROE CB3 LED screens, supplied by 80Six, were installed around the space to display fictional adverts as well as displaying footage from the TV show and Ronson’s vibrant custom graphics. We used two Disguise 4x4Pro media servers for playback, with switching via two Barco E2s.

Our team then had a 13 hour overnight turn-around to completely transform the space into a glamourous gala dinner for 570 guests.

Celebrating BBC Studios natural history programme ‘A Perfect Planet’, the dinner took place on the platform structure with a whopping 30m wide x 7.2m high LED screen immersing guests in the spectacular BBC content. A stunning 4 metre-diameter sphere made of leaves created from recycled window sticker offcuts provided an incredible focal point in the centre of the space. To allow the sphere to descend and then the leaves to fall, we used Kinesys for truss movement whilst 16 specialist 4m electro-braked spiked kabuki bars were used to drop the 530m of leaves. 

Taking inspiration from the key themes in the programme – oceans, sunlight, volcanoes and  weather – our team deployed a series of effects to bring the footage to life which included rear-projected rainfall, red smoke mine pyrotechnics and 15m-high flames.

An impactful lighting design by Russ Grubiak perfectly complemented the on-screen content, with striking beams and dynamic effects delivering the wow-factor. For sound, we installed the latest d&b audio system, providing even coverage around the space, ensuring that each guest received the same excellent audio experience regardless of their position in the room.

Pete Harding, our head of creative technical, said “It’s always a huge honour to work alongside the amazing BBC Studios team to deliver the two evening events for Showcase. They have such a strong creative vision which always makes it an exciting but challenging project to deliver! Here at Hawthorn, we love collaborating with other industry experts to achieve excellence. Whether it’s collaborating with Acorn Event Structures and Steeldeck on the platform structure or getting disguise master Andy Coates on board, we’re able to work together to really transcend the expectations of technical production.”

Sally Brookes, Head of Global Events at BBC Studios said “This year’s event has once again raised the bar for the Showcase experience. The team at Hawthorn are absolute professionals who are incredibly passionate about what they do. Their skills and expert knowledge ensure that every year we’re able to pull off wonderful technical treats in a live environment.”


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