GGR Group, the UK’s leading provider of lifting solutions, recently played a starring role in the construction of the brand-new timber framed Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot, Merseyside.
Representing an investment of more than £20m, the newly constructed theatre has been designed to closely emulate a traditional Elizabethan theatre, as the region bids to become the third point on the so-called ‘Bards triangle’ that already includes iconic venues closely linked with Shakespeare in Stratford-Upon-Avon and London’s Globe theatre.
The 350-seat arts venue includes a faithful replica of Jacobean timber candlelit theatre inside a 21st century shell. This meant that the entirely wooden framed structure would need to be constructed within a concrete building, a design concept that required special consideration from Kier, the contractors leading the project.
From the outset of the project, it was clear that highly specialised lifting solutions would be needed to ensure the safe, and effective, installation of multiple large timber beams of what was a highly specialised build. After considering a number of solutions, it soon became clear that the contractors needed something bespoke to meet the demands of this build.
Enter GGR Group. The UK’s leading lifting solutions provider with their extensive experience in developing bespoke offerings for complex builds, and it was this reputation which led the contractors to get in touch. After the initial consultation with the contractor, GGR developed a tailored solution centred around its innovative MultiGrab, a next-generation hydraulic lifting clamp; an attachment that would soon prove pivotal to the Shakespearean North Playhouse.
To best meet the exacting needs of the brief, GGR fitted the MultiGrab to its URW 706-2 mini spider crane, one of the most versatile machines in its range. For ultimate peace of mind, and conscious of the delicate materials the grab would be handling, the team GGR organised a product demonstration for the contractor at the lifting specialist’s Haddenham, Oxfordshire, headquarters. Alongside providing training to the site operators at this demo, GGR was also able to showcase the unrivalled handling capabilities of its innovative attachment, even liaising with the MultiGrab’s manufacturer to have specially-tailored grab arms produced to best suit the lifting of the hand crafted timber beams.
Alongside the full contract lift solution, GGR was also able to provide four 1000mm x 1000m rigger mats to spread the load point pressures induced by the crane, alongside a contract lift box with assorted slings, shackles, tool selection and first aid kit to ensure those on site had everything they needed. Due to the sensitive nature of the development, GGR also supplied ply wood sheets to ensure the crane tracks did not damage the floor and power leads for when the crane was working internally to ensure it could run from the onboard electric motor and eliminate the risk of any noxious emissions.
What’s more, GGR was able to call back to its extensive experience within this sphere, having previously supplied a UNIC mini-spider crane during the construction of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at London’s iconic Globe theatre.
Kier explains: “The construction of a brand new, Shakespearean-inspired playhouse is an incredibly unique, yet exciting, project to be involved with, and we knew it would require only the very best lifting solutions.
“The job was complex, with an entire timber-framed playhouse needing to be erected in what was a very tight space. That’s why we needed a lifting solution which could offer both strength and enough dexterity to allow us to carry out precise movements, all within a compact footprint. After seeing the MultiGrab in action at GGR’s Haddenham HQ, it was clear that it was the exact solution we needed for the new theatre.
“Due to the new playhouse being built within an existing concrete structure, the wooden beams couldn’t be lifted from above or underslung, and it was here that the MultiGrab really came into its own. Its unique design meant it was able to safely lift each beam and hold enough pressure to ensure a firm grip, without damaging their wooden exteriors.
“By supplying us with the basic lifting unit and the innovative MultiGrab attachment, alongside the specially trained operator, GGR played a vital role in bringing the project’s unique and ambitious design to fruition. From the first enquiry in December 2018 to the commencement of onsite works in January 2021 – slightly delayed by the onset of COVID – the whole team at GGR have been nothing but first-rate. After the portion of the work in which the MultiGrab was required was completed, we sent that back to the depot and held onto the crane to perform further lifts as and when necessary.
“Despite a complex brief, they tailored a solution so effective we managed to complete installation ahead of deadline – helping us make up for some of the time lost due to lockdown delays.”
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