Behind the Live Scene

There are a lot of things to consider when creating fighting robots; how it will drive, what weapon it will have, or what armour to use. How to power it, what radio equipment is best, or what safety precautions to take are just some of the many things roboteers will be thinking about when designing and building their fighting machines.

But what about the events that provide roboteers with a place to play with their favourite creations?

After all, you can’t just take Aftershock out in the garden for a friendly spar with Concussion…

At least, not unless your garden is big enough to contain an FRA approved arena!

From health and safety precautions to tournament management, and from finding venues to building arenas, the event organisers have a lot of work to do behind the scenes to bring us the spark-filled shows we love.

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One of the staples of the UK heavyweight live scene has been Robots Live, which is owned by Alan Young. Alan has been involved with the sport for many years – Robot Wars fans will recognise him from his most recent appearance on series 10 with the series 8-winning Apollo team – and has been running Robots Live since 2007. He agreed to talk to the Robot Report to give us a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes of the UK live scene!

Alan Young (Right) with brother Dave Young and Apollo at Robot Wars Series 10

As well as running events, you have competed recently on Robot Wars and at Insomnia Gaming festival; do you prefer competing or running events? And Why?

“I still love competing, although I’m not a competitive person and don’t ever go into a competition with the expectation of winning. It’s still a great buzz going into a fight, whether it be a small demonstration fight for a few hundred people or a TV competition that’s going to be seen by millions. I don’t get chance to compete at my own events as I’m too busy, so I have to go elsewhere to compete.”

What are the best and worst parts of running events?

“They are a lot of hard work, both physically and mentally. It’s non-stop from the moment you walk in the door of the venue to when you finally get home. But it’s not just the days of the event; a lot of work goes into preparation of the event from months (sometimes years) before, making sure everything has been planned and booked, upgrades/repairs to the arenas, etc. But once you see it all come together it really gives you a sense of achievement and satisfaction.”

What is the most important part of running an event to you?

“Making sure everybody enjoys themselves, as that’s why we are there, whether it be the audience who have paid to come along, the teams that have took time and money to compete, and even the crew!”

Do you have a favourite event?

“Of Robots Live, it’s probably our Burgess Hill event, even though it’s the furthest away for us. This year will be the 13th year and yet ticket sales seem to be still on the up! It was the first event we did away from home and we weren’t sure how it would go, but we sold out all 3 shows and since then haven’t looked back!

Other than ours, I love the buzz of the TV competitions. Whether it be here, USA or China, they are always great fun (even if it does involve a lot of waiting!) And it’s always exciting to see what new machines and teams will appear. Plus you get to hang out with your mates for a week or so!”

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Robots Live at The Triangle Leisure Centre in Burgess Hill

Have there ever been any robots which made you wonder why you accepted them? If so, why?

“Not really no, the only machines we would normally turn away is on safety grounds. It’s great to see what people have built, it doesn’t matter if they are not competitive; as long as the team have fun or learn something from it.”

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Robot Wars series 8 winner Apollo (left) at Robots Live at Comic Con

Could you give us a rough idea of how much it costs to run one of your events?

“It’s hard to say as it varies so much from each venue/event, for one of our big shows your looking anything from £12k-£20k. That’s just for the event itself, not including any of the normal costs of running the business, maintenance on the arena and not including any of the equipment costs, which over the years adds up! We have always been in a position where everything is done in house; from building the arena, to supplying the sound/lighting, power distribution, even down to the table cloths for the events. If you were to outsource these, you could easily double that figure.”

Despite the workload that comes with running events, do you still enjoy it?

“I still enjoy the events, you have to enjoy what you do in order to be able to do this for a living. I’ve always said to myself, the day I don’t enjoy it, I would give up. But I think that should apply to anybody doing any job, you need to get a certain amount of enjoyment from it.”

Robots Live host shows in Burgess Hill, Grantham, and Stevenage.
You can check out their Facebook page for events here:


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