Since 1964, The Wayside Chapel in King’s Cross has been providing ‘practical love’, acceptance and support to all members of its community, especially those doing it rough. With comprehensive programmes covering physical and mental health, indigenous issues and youth at risk, the Chapel lives by its motto “Love over Hate”. The Reverend Graham Long, Pastor and CEO of Wayside, was nominated in the Australian of the Year Awards, as National Finalist – Australia’s Local Hero 2014.

In the past year alone, Wayside has provided, amongst other services, 8,089 community meals, 7,572 changes of clothing, 8,475 one-on-one support sessions, 2,453 referrals to services and agencies and 653 activities for young people and visitors with long term mental health issues.

Come one, come all

Wayside’s Community Hall is a multifunction space that was created two years ago after a much needed rebuild. The Hall is used for everything from theatre productions and classical music recitals to lectures and playgroups, all part of the Chapel’s extensive outreach programmes.

Reverend Graham is passionate about the use of arts to create connection and belonging. Theatre techniques and workshops form a central part of the Chapel’s activities, so having a fully functioning space is important. To help fulfil this mission, The P.A. People was recently engaged to provide state-of-the art lighting, sound and projection technology to the Hall, enhancing its utility to the community.

Making the fourth wall

Brett Steele, Manager – Installed Systems at The P.A. People, was tasked with providing a technical solution to Wayside that enabled multiple uses of the space by everyone from volunteers to skilled technicians. A solution was created in which lighting, sound and video equipment was installed – that could service both front and side areas – and all of this made controllable by either the press of a screen or by theatre technicians from fully-featured consoles.

“We designed the system to have a ‘Simple’ and ‘Presentation’ mode” explained Brett. “In Simple Mode, a volunteer can press a button on a touch screen, the system turns on, and they can use a radio microphone or play a DVD. Presentation Mode puts the system into a professional state controlled from the lighting and audio desks”.

Light over Dark

Pastor Graham is buoyed by the transformation of the space. “When we rebuilt, the best we could do for a theatre space was a box” he explained. “We’ve now transformed that box into a place in which you can really do theatre.” The flexibility designed into the system also makes it easy for the Chapel to switch instantly from Theatre mode to accommodate any of the other activities the Hall needs to cater for.

“We also do Movie Nights every week” Graham continued. “People who sleep rough come in for food and movies. It’s an extremely attractive way of engaging with people. We also do a playgroup for about 100 people, mostly well-heeled, but we mix that with homeless people who have children. Audio has transformed that space. You can put on The Wiggles now, and 50 three year olds just respond. It’s unmistakable.”

Technology aiding simplicity

The sound, lighting and video system that The P.A. People designed for Wayside is an elegant example of how to use complex technology to make the user experience as easy as possible. Two Sony VPL-FH36 projectors focus to two screens, connected through a Kramer VP731 vision switcher, from a variety of inputs including a DVD player. JBL CBT70 column speakers powered by Crown XLS amps provide audio, run from either a Yamaha IMX644 matrix mixer or a Soundcraft Expression1 digital mixing desk connected to a Soundcraft MSB stagebox. A simple but effective LED lighting rig can be run from a Jands Stage CL Lighting console or the touch-screen.

The core of the user interface is an AMX NI700 integrated controller. This enables control of all the elements of the system from a simple 4” touchscreen. When backed by some clever programming, the AMX controller and touch screen can turn on lights to set state, activate and mix microphones, put the Hall into “Movie Mode”, or any other state that Wayside might need regularly. Anyone can operate the system from the screen, which is completely intuitive.

A sympathetic ear

Wayside prides itself on extending its helping hand with an open mind and no judgement. Honest communication and that practical, demonstrated love is at the heart of everything it does. That’s why communicating effectively, through whatever means is effective, is so important. The P.A. People ‘design and build philosophy’ aligns with Wayside’s approach in that they seek to provide the best solution, tailored to the client, by truly understanding their goals.

“The P.A. People really understood what we required, designed it and put it in place efficiently” said Reverend Graham. “We couldn’t be much happier.”