The Devonshire Park Development in Eastbourne, on the UK’s South coast, is a £54 million infrastructure investment project that has redeveloped an existing but aging civic complex and created the Devonshire Park Quarter – a new sports, conference and cultural centre fit for the future and one that complements the recent £85 million transformation of the town’s retail hub.
As part of the project, the Park’s 1,689 capacity, 1963 Grade 2 listed Congress Theatre has had a comprehensive makeover, taken virtually back to shell and has been outfitted with new interior technology and furnishings while historic aspects have been preserved and restored. In addition, the Welcome building, a completely new two-hall conference space, box office and hospitality centre has been built, with the older conference centre demolished to make way for new tennis courts.
The Devonshire Park Development also required a completely new voice alarm, evacuation and announcement system, specified and installed by UK fire and security specialists, Global Fire and Security Systems. The solution was a Baldwin Boxall VIGIL2 voice evacuation system, chosen to meet a wide range of customer requirements across the contrasting theatre and conference spaces.
Chris Hartup is the Sales Manager at Baldwin Boxall. He worked with Global Fire and Security Systems, along with other contractors on the project. “The diversity there was as broad as you’ll get in any site”, he explains. “The Congress Theatre is a protected historic building and the Welcome building was brand new. I think this came with a number of installation challenges for Global and they did a fantastic job.”
The safety and evacuation requirements for the Devonshire project were, of course, paramount, but the environment also needed comprehensive cover and innovative technology for public address and communications. “The Theatre installation required microphone inputs for quite a few different positions,” notes Mr Hartup. “They included the control room, lighting desk, front of house, box office, reception, rehearsal desk and stage manager positions, stage-left and stage-right. “For the Welcome building, we’re using our ambient noise sensing technology, which automatically adjusts the level of the public address depending on the ambient noise in the space – so the PA is set at a lower level if there are only a couple of people in there, or at a much higher level if there are 600 people. Obviously for voice evacuation, levels are not set and varied.”
The voice alarm system
The Devonshire Park voice alarm system is a centralised system using the VIGIL2 BVRD2M router and a BVRD2S slave router to provide ample capacity for the 24 broadcast zones and the multiple microphone positions. VIGIL3 BV075Q quad amplifiers are used in conjunction with BVRDACO amplifier/line monitors, which provide full line and amplifier fault detection along with automatic switch-over if issues should arise. The Congress Theatre auditorium has additional rear ‘infill’ speakers, delayed for enhanced intelligibility and the entire system has battery back-up that can provide 24 hours of quiescent power or 30 minutes full alarm broadcast capability in the event of a mains power failure.
“The brain of our voice evacuation systems is very flexible,” says Mr Hartup. “We can add slaves to the main router to provide any number of inputs, outputs and messaging capability. The DSP provides many functions that take it beyond a simple evacuation system and make it fit for any modern or legacy infrastructure project of any scale.”
The Congress Theatre was officially re-opened on 24th March 2019 after two years of refurbishment with an inaugural performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The celebrated architecture of the venue, often compared with the National Theatre, now has new seats, a new performance lighting sound infrastructure, new heating and air conditioning systems and of course, the new voice alarm system. The new Welcome building was opened in June, with the whole Devonshire Park development due to be completed in 2020.
Robert Wathen, Project Manager at Global Fire and Security Systems, was pleased to meet the theatre’s opening deadline, as well as every technical ambition for the project. “Of course, there was a bit of stress related to that opening night,” he notes. “We had a final test event just before the building was fully handed over and the whole thing went without a hitch, which was great. We were very happy, as always, with the support from Baldwin Boxall.”
“We’re well known for going the extra mile when it comes to client and integrator support,” adds Mr Hartup, “And we certainly did that for this project. It was nice to be involved with something so local to the Baldwin Boxall HQ and so important to the Eastbourne community.”