Rigger

 12 July 2012

Riggers work with complex audio and visual installations, moving light technologies, projectors and plasma screens.

Training can be gained on-the-job and via short courses.
Training can be gained on-the-job and via short courses.

What is the job like?

Riggers have a key role in live music events, which increasingly make use of complex audio and visual installations, moving light technologies, projectors and plasma screens. They work as a part of a team with other event technicians.

Health and safety is at the centre of everything they do – ensuring a safe environment for themselves, the entire production team, artists and audience. Much of the work is conducted at heights, when a safety harness is worn.

The work includes:

  • Setting up and dismantling all this equipment for live shows, using suspension and specialised lifting apparatus to include winches, pulleys and hoists
  • Installing equipment which is often suspended at a high level or ‘flown’ from the rigging using wires
  • Maintaining riggers’ own equipment including the harness
  • Sometimes working from mobile elevated work platforms
  • Inspection, testing and repair of rigging equipment
  • Using a variety of stretch and non-stretch ropes, and sometimes using ropes to abseiling for ascending and descending rigging.

Riggers may travel around the UK or overseas whilst on tour, or may be employed as local crew. The working hours are irregular with frequent evening and weekend work. 

How do I become a rigger?

A background in other live event technical jobs such as audio or lighting technician can be helpful. Others may start out in live events as a roadie or stage hand, and then train as a rigger. Physical fitness is vital for this job and you need to be very reliable and responsible with a head for heights.

Training can be gained on-the-job and via short courses.

A background in electrical installation/electrician work is also an advantage, and some riggers also have experience in carpentry or building work. Many employers will look for people with previous experience, and it can be hard to find a job with training.

Whilst at school you could gain experience of setting up sound or light systems for school and local events. There might be a theatre in your area who would welcome volunteers for backstage work.

What training and qualifications do I need?

Full training for anyone wanting to be a rigger is essential, which might be gained on-the-job and via short courses. The work is challenging, highly skilled and riggers need a comprehensive understanding of safe working practices.

Apprenticeships for lighting technicians or electricians can provide a good background for moving into rigging later on. Visit the creative apprenticeship website for opportunities.

Academic entry qualifications for apprenticeships can vary, although most employers look for a good standard of English, maths and science at GCSE level as a minimum, often at grade C or above.

Although an extensive academic background is not essential for riggers, training in technical theatre to BTEC National Diploma/ HND or degree level could be useful if you do want to continue in education after leaving school.

The Professional Lighting and Sound Association (PLASA) awards a qualification that assesses the competences of riggers within the entertainments and events industry. They do not offer training.

Several organisations offer training to riggers employed in the industry which includes topics such as safe rigging at heights, rescue techniques and rope access training. As riggers are normally self-employed, they have to pay for their own training.

What can I earn?

Riggers are often recruited on a freelance basis by a live events production company. If you are freelance you must pay your own liability insurance, which is essential in this job.

The BECTU (trade union) basic rates for an advanced rigger are £284 for an 8-hour day and £355 for a 12 hour day. The rates for a master rigger (supervisor) are £328 for an 8-hour day and £410 for a 10-hour day. These rates include holiday pay.

Not all employers offer BECTU rates and therefore rates can vary considerably. Rates might start at around £8.00 an hour for someone with limited experience and rise to £15-£20 an hour and more for those with more experience and relevant qualifications.


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