How do I get into rigging?

Joe is currently at school completing his GCSEs and would one day love to work on big music productions and gigs as a rigger.

I am currently doing my GCSEs but have been starting to think about what I want to do in the future as a career. I love going to music festivals and gigs and would love to work behind the scenes at these types of shows, maybe as a rigger.

Where do I start if I do decide to pursue this as a career, and what exactly does rigging involve? Should I be looking at getting some work experience or concentrate on getting some good qualifications, such as a degree?

— Joe


Expert answers

David Mayo's reply:

​At the moment, there seems to be a sufficient number of riggers in the marketplace to service the needs of the entertainment industry. However, it follows that as one person leaves, the industry needs someone else to take his or her place - and when the industry is busy, everybody is chasing the same riggers. The way the industry is identifying new prospects is still in a state of development.

Generally speaking, rigging in the entertainment industry consists of three elements: use of plant, working at height and rigging.

Use of plant

Fork lifts, cherry pickers, MEWPS and a whole plethora of plant can only be operated by those who have trained and have up-to-date certification. There are many courses available and the more certificates you have, the better.

Working at height

There are also a range of working at height courses but these vary according to needs of firefighters, armed forces, steeplejacks, window cleaners and so on. Having been trained to work at height and to operate plant doesn’t make a person a rigger, because they have yet to learn about the core element, which is rigging.

Rigging

Historically, one started as a stage hand, flyman or lighting or sound crew in either the theatre or rock and roll business. This incidentally, is still a very good way of getting started.

An experienced flyman in a theatre could easily move on to a more diverse existence as a freelance rigger or a full-time employee of a rigging company. Eventually you would pick up enough experience and (at some indeterminate point) you could make a claim to be a rigger.

Alternatively, you could start working for a rigging company and work through the ranks in some form of apprenticeship. However, the world has moved on, and the inconsistencies of an industry built on apprenticeships and ‘picking it up as you go along’ are finally changing.

Specialist rigging companies need a more consistent form of evidence of competence. There is an increasing need for an industry standard qualification, which is now being managed by PLASA.

Having got the basic rigging training in place, any individual is going to have a better opportunity in being engaged by a rigging company. Once engaged, the serious learning process begins through experience in the workplace. This new training initiative is very much like a driving test for riggers. Eventually, this will become an industry standard requirement. New employees will need a licence.


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