Central Hall

Central Hall Hire List

Central Hall is the largest venue on campus. It is home to many events, such as the Pantomime and Fusion. Often referred to as a flying saucer or space ship, although the reasons for this are unclear.

The auditorium seats over 1000 people, although when used by the G&S society as well as many other performance groups blocks 1 & 5 are retracted, giving access to the side balconies. G&S will usually have an audience of 150 max (upto 200 with a popular show that has been advertised properly) so the reduction is not an issue.

You will need… (Checklist)


  • AV technicians to rig and unrig lighting (usually 2x6 hours, 4 to rig, 2 to unrig)
  • Porters to set up the staging
  • Porters for the performances
  • Technician to turn off smoke detectors for each performance (if needed)
    • Talk to Estates maintenance zone manager, fire safety officer, electrical technician and facilities manager.

Arrange to:

  • Open orchestra pit (arrange with portering and facilities manager)


  • Event booking form (AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE)
  • Risk assessment (Peter Kidd, YUSU)
  • Lighting plan (give to AV in advance)
  • Insurance for dry-hired equipment (Arrange through YUSU)


  • Microphones, radio and cabled (hired)
  • Multicore (AV or hired)
  • Mixing Desk (AV)
  • Lighting Desk (AV)
  • Follow Spots (hired)
  • Stage covering (~27 8'x4' hardboard sheets, ~150m each of gaffer tape, carpet tape and matt gaffer tape)
  • Secondary safety barrier for pit (usually a chainlink barrier from physics - ask the porters)
  • XLR audio cables, ~20. You will need to connect each of the radio mics to the mixing desk, and any other mics to the multicore.
    • AV will not hire XLR cables any more due to too many going missing
    • YSTV have lots
    • Various JCRCs have some
  • TV splitter for MDTV with 2 or 3 long cables (borrow YSTV), TVs (AV), Camera

Equipment and Facilities

Central Hall is a fully equiped auditorium (for a certain value of "fully", "equiped" and "auditorium"). Although not lending itself well to performances (due to the lack of flying set provision, curtain and a permanent sound system) it is the best venue on campus for this. The green room can be contacted via microphone set up backstage for cast calls from the Stage Manager1. There are four dressing rooms, which although reasonably sized, not enough for individual principles, no matter how massive the ego, to get their own. There are toilets on the top floor for cast and crew and the largest ones on campus in the foyer. Although there is a bar, Central Hall is not liscenced and the tills require an expensive engineer (ca. £175) to reprogram them each time.

Priority for booking Central Hall always goes to official University events. Even when a society has booked it in advance, they will have no qualms with ignoring this and booting them out in favour of a University or outside event. More or less under no circumstances can Central Hall be booked in the summer term due to the heavy exam season. Happily Ever After Soc have found a niche in the Autumn term when Central Hall is barely used, but that requires rehearsals over / around the summer holiday.


The lighting rig is permanent and can be customised by AV technicians during Show Week, the only thing that needs to be ordered in are Follow Spots (these can be shared with other performance societies and as of 2009, AV appears to be able to help with this). There are several spare cans (lights for the uninitiated) available in Central Hall that can be used if the Technical Director can figure out how to mount them and operate them. The box of light switches backstage is possibly the most complex array of switches ever devised by man2. Therefore, it is easiest during a performance to keep all of these lights off and use on the 'house lights' provided for on the lighting desk. During the week and when focussing the stage canopy by pole, it is easiest to use the 'rehearsal lights', with switches above and left of the complex array of switches just mentioned.


Most sound equipment can be provided by AV, but the some items such as radio mics need to be hired in. JSS Audio have the radio mics which used to belong to Entstech.

There is a sound/lighting box at the back of the upper balcony, but you can't use it without AV being present. To avoid this, we usually drop cables down from the box to a row of tables at the behind the last row of seats. The sound and lighting can then be operated from there.

The usual set up is to use 9-12 radio lapel mics. The receiver paddles can be successfully mounted on the lighting rig - although range is an issue with very cheap receivers. This has the advantage of running the boxes on the tech gantry so the crew can view the battery indicators and status monitors.

AV have a multicore in place in central hall which goes from the AV box to a connection panel near the stage left entrance. This has 10 XLR connections and 4 jack connections (IIRC). In the past we have run a separate multicore for the radio mics across the auditorium instead (possibly due to the limited number of channels?).

Three stage mics are placed along the front of the stage, either on stands, or clamped to the rear pit rail. For Mikado 2010 we hung mics from the canopy, but the sound was not greatly improved.

When additional chorus will sing from backstage, it is useful to have a microphone located there too (with a 3rd MDTV backstage).

A monitor is placed in the orchestra pit so that the MD can hear the cast more clearly.

Wireless frequencies

Note: These may only be valid until September 2011 as frequency licenses are subject to change

Channel 67

  • 840.875
  • 841.625
  • 842,875
  • 843.875
  • 844.500
  • 845.375


The electrics in Central Hall are extremely sensitive and trips will go at the least spike. You should be careful not to turn on too many lights or other electrical equipment at the same time.

Trip switches are located in particularly inaccessible locations. The orchestra pit and many other sockets have trips in the AV cupboard outside the Vanbrugh side backstage fire exit. The sockets in the retracted seating and stage sockets have trips behind the lowest seating in block 5 at the stage wall side.

The sound desk can be run on the same phase of power as the amps to reduce interference. AV should already have this set up.

Arc lights (the better version of followspots) need special attention. Do not leave them plugged into the socket when not in use. Do not turn them off in the interval as they need over 15 minutes to cool down before turning them on again. Avoid turning them on and off too many times as this reduces their lifetime considerably.

MD TV & Stage cam

AV can provide two small B&W television sets which can be placed above the exits. From the stage, these allow the MD to be seen if a camera is set up in the pit.

A TV signal splitter is usually borrowed from YSTV to allow the single camera source to be run to both tv sets.

There is a camera in the AV box which can be connected to a large TV set back stage to allow the stage manager to see what's going on. You will need to ask AV to set this up for you.


Use of smoke in central hall is possible, but you will need to let estates know in advance. An electrician is needed to turn off the smoke detectors.

The AV website says this costs £40 per call-out, but it's actually £80 (presumably 2 hours each time while they wait for smoke to clear). Therefore for a typical production you will need call-outs on at least Wednesday, Thursday, Friday nights (out of hours re-activation) and two on Saturday for a total of £400.

The use of smoke needs to be mentioned:

  • On the booking form
  • On the risk assessment
  • On the posters

You need to make sure you have approval from:

  • YUSU H&S Officer (Peter Kidd)
  • Facilities manager for Central Hall (Steve Wilkinson)
  • Estates Manager (Rich Brown)
  • Estates Fire Safety Officer (Mick Ellison)
  • Estates Maintenance Zone A Manager (Mick Willsher)

You may also need someone to operate the smoke machine (depending on what TSS says) or insurance for dry hire.

All in all, I estimate the cost of using smoke to be >£500. Only £100 of that is to hire the machine.

Dry ice

Dry ice (solid carbon dioxide at -78 OC) creates a fog that sinks rather than a smoke that will fill the auditorium, it is just condensed water vapour so does not require the fire alarms to be switched off. However, use of dry ice is often frowned upon because it is slightly more dangerous. It can be used with permission from Peter Kidd and under the supervision of someone experienced in using it. To generate a decent fogging effect, a large quantity is needed, but for smaller effects, a cupful is all that is required. Either (carefully) add dry ice to warm water to generate the fog or pour water onto a cup of dry ice. This will froth and bubble quite violently (depending on quantity) so be sure to test it and be confident of quantities beforehand.

Dry ice should be stored and handled correctly. It should be handled with gloves and stored in vented containers.


Use of pyro will need at least 28 days notice. We've never managed to use it, although we did plan to for Sorcerer 2010, to the extent that the TD and Director went on a training course.

If you do use it, you will need:

  • Trained operator - the operator should be a member of the Association of Stage Pyrotechnicians, which just means they've been on a safety course. Well worth doing - it's great fun!
  • Proper equipment - hire in Le Maitre ignition boxes, or whatever matches the pod system of the pyro you are using
  • A really good risk assessment
  • Fire resistant set
  • An electrician to turn off the smoke detectors (see Smoke)

Central Hall Legends

The tiles on the ceiling are soundproofing and accoustic tiles. However, they were put on backwards. Therefore, nothing inside can be heard from the outside, but everything outside can be heard inside and greatly amplified, such as the Tap-Dancing Ducks. Actually they are the right way round but have been raised about 1.5m to allow the projection through, so their carefully calculated acoustic properties are considerably dimished.

Central Hall is sinking into the lake.

The Boomtown Rats once played there and were the reason that the auditorium is no longer liscenced for standing audiences during live music.

More information

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