Staging the Plays: practicalities

Staging a multiple site and processional event is, by any standards, a challenge. Taking several hundred willing volunteers from the community and, with them, converting the centre of a major tourist and commercial city into one large venue for the Mystery Plays, is no small task.

Waggon passing York Minster

As well as the hundreds of community performers, musicians, costumiers, prop and set makers and waggon pushers, there are a number of professional people engaged to work behind the scenes to prepare the stage for the waggons.

The Pageant Master and the Event Manager work together to produce a ‘military like’ timetable, charting start times, playing, movement and waiting times for each Play at the four different stations. The schedule with its minute by minute detail is an essential tool to ensure that the audience are not waiting too long between scenes, that the waggons do not meet impassable points en route, and that the flow around the city works.

Consultation takes place with the police, the highways and licensing departments, and the City’s event teams, as well as those responsible for the Minster and Museums Trust. The detailed practical planning starts, unnoticed, months in advance with dozens of people inputting into the route and timings.

Professional teams are brought in from the fire, medical and crowd safety backgrounds. Road closures are put in place, licences are agreed, risk assessments written together with many pages of policy covering every eventuality from full scale evacuation to details such as the time it takes to get to the nearest toilet.

All of this happens out of sight, behind the scenes, smoothing the path for the waggons to roll out and the Plays to be performed.

– Ben Pugh, Event Manager

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