Industry unites for ‘The Woodlands’ donated cinema project
Some projects leave those involved with a different kind of job satisfaction following their completion. Charlotte Ashley visits children’s charity Sebastian’s Action Trust’s ‘The Woodlands’ site with those involved to see how the joy of cinema is being shared with those who truly need it.
Some would say Shaun Wilson of KNEKTD’s heart was already committed the most recently completed project for children’s charity Sebastian’s Action Trust, before founder Jane Gates (OBE) even approached the London-based installer about it.
“My beautiful daughter Ava, who is 1 now, has been the inspiration behind this whole project. When she was born we had a shock as she had a few problems – she’s recovered now, but it was quite a hard time. What I came out of that experience with was how special a lot of people are. I started to look at ways to get involved in a worthwhile installation last year and came across Together For Cinema,” explains Wilson. “I wanted to give something back and I felt like I was in the position to do it.”
Founded by Ian Morrish (sales manager, Integrated Systems Europe), Together For Cinema works with the AV industry to deliver high quality cinema or media rooms to children’s respite homes around the country – The Woodlands project was the 21st install delivered to date.
“Luckily, this was a few weeks before the CEDIA Awards, so I was able to meet Ian there and it was there he first introduced the thought of installing a home cinema at ‘The Bluebells’ centre, and this naturally led onto getting involved with The Woodlands.”
With the previous Hampshire-based project, The Bluebells (over 7 years in the making), the charity created the UK's only purpose-built facility that offers respite holidays to very sick children, enabling families to spend time together in a relaxed environment. “Having worked with Jane Gates on The Bluebells, and having being swept along with her passion and enthusiasm it was an easy decision to offer our services again for The Woodlands,” adds Morrish.
The 19th century-built location of ‘The Woodlands,’ located in the small village of Crowthorne in Berkshire, UK, has been gradually transformed from its “crumbling” state over a year to meet the huge demand for charity’s outreach and specialist support – reaching 500 families from across the UK, with no government funding. And now, in addition to a high tech sensory room featuring interactive projection, children enjoy the magic of cinema thanks to the second successful collaboration between Wilson, managing director of KNEKTD, Bruno Carvalho of seasoned high-end building firm, LBC Contractors, and Jane Gates (mother to Sebastian, the inspiration at the heart of the charity). In total, a team of approximately 15 gave their time to program, fit and installer over a tight period of less than a week to deliver everything needed for the project.
The gift of cinema
Installation work began in July 2018 ahead of the opening date, after laying the groundwork for what and how AV would both bring joy to the seriously-ill children and families that use the facilities and also make the everyday work of volunteers easier. “With Shaun’s energy already displayed working on The Bluebells, the initial meeting was actually a measure, design and specify meeting to work out what we needed,” recalls Morrish. “Shaun already had LBC Contractors on board and I knew the industry would react quickly and positively.”
“Here it was a listed building so more challenging, but we were lucky enough to be inundated with offers from our supplier friends,” says Wilson. “It’s a 5.1 system powered by an Arcam receiver. We also used a Screen Innovations fixed screen and Monitor Audio speakers – who have been very generous to the Together For Cinema cause.”
Central to the room is the large Screen Innovations Zero Edge projection screen, one of the first deployments of its kind in the UK, accompanied by an Epson EH-TW6100 projector delivering Full HD performance. Audio handled by two 200 floorstanders, a C150 centre channel and two FX rear speakers, in addition to a CW10 subwoofer from Monitor Audio – with control via a Crestron 5-in touch screen. “A Crestron control system manages everything and the touch panel’s deployed in portrait so it’s an easy turn on/off. The beauty of the system is that I can do a handover to any of the staff and it’s very simple to control (i.e. turning on or off and choosing what to watch) – they don’t have to worry about anything that’s overly technical.” Lighting in the room is colourful and easily changed to suit different occasions via Philips Hue.
“We’ve been touched by the amount of people who have come forward to donate their time, products and expertise. This project really reminded me of what is important in life and when everyone pulls together for a good cause, amazing things really can be achieved,” says Wilson. “I’m so pleased we’ve been able to create a fun and interactive room for the children and their families at both The Bluebells and The Woodlands.”
Upstairs an Avocor F6510 65-in interactive touch display takes centre stage in dedicated boardroom where the charity’s staff can meet. Acting as a large PC, the display simplifies planning and sharing content during meetings (both in the room and with people further afield). “We do some commercial work but this is the first time we’ve used this, and it was ideal for the boardroom. It connects automatically to the rest of their network so they can present anything and edit things without even bringing a laptop – it’s just easy.”
“Overall, Jane gives us a blank canvas to work with, but obviously everything we did – from the technology to the joinery – hand to blend in with the ‘woodland’ theme she created,” says Wilson. With joinery and finishing touches handled by LBC Contractors, all products, carpentry, room design and associated services were also sourced, supplied and installed for free (typically totally around £25,000).
“It being a listed building actually gave us an opportunity to be a lot more organised in the time-frame. We’d come in and fit what we planned (as we had pre-wired everything), making sure it fit nicely with what LBC had done.”
Sebastian’s Action Trust’s Woodlands site officially opened on 9 August, 2018 with a screening of Peter Rabbit for several children and their families. The cinema is a particularly important addition to the centre given that many children can’t go inside cinemas because of the risk of infection. “One Mum told us that this was the first time her child had ever been to ‘the cinema’ and that they both had a great time,” says Morrish. “This cinema room is really going to make a difference to lives.”
“Working on projects like this is so refreshing,” says Wilson of KNEKTD. “For the first time ever, you don’t have to worry about money – there’s no money involved, you’re doing it for the greater good.” He adds: “Without putting any of my clients down, it’s a different kind of return.” And the partnership with Sebastian’s Action Trust looks set to continue; “I believe Jane’s twisted my arm again… I understand that this is a 5-phase redevelopment and we’re happy to be involved.”
“This story started with one little boy, my son, who told me before his last surgical procedure that there needs to be a facility like this that’s open all-year round and is new. He launched his campaign days after at 9 years old, but sadly died 12 days later,” states Jane Gates of Sebastian’s Action Trust.
“The Woodlands is no doubt a far cry from the installations KNEKTD complete on a daily basis but for us, and our beneficiaries, the industry’s contribution is literally life changing in that it gives families a chance to enjoy simple, everyday pastimes that we, who do not live with a life-limiting condition, often take for granted.”
Find more information on Sebastian’s Action Trust here:
Get involved with Together for Cinema and help it on its way to completing 25 cinema rooms by 2020:
Arcam AVR390 AV receiver
Avocor F6510 65-in interactive touch display (& soundbar, conference room)
Control4 Pakedge RK-1 router and SE-18 16-port unmanaged switch
Crestron MC3 3-series control system and TSW-560P touch screen
Epson EH-TW6100 projector
Future Automation projector mounts
Middle Atlantic SRSR Series rail system & accessories (via RGB Communications)
Monitor Audio CW10 subwoofer and 200 floorstanding, C150 centre & FX surround speakers
Philips Hue lighting system (via AWE Europe)
Screen Innovations Zero Edge Pro screen (via Invision UK)
(& additional kit donated by KNEKTD)