An internationally-renowned community and cultural arts company has recruited two new show-stoppers in the shape of a pair of Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans.
South London-based Emergency Exit Arts (EEA) creates unforgettable events and participatory experiences using visual performance, processions, puppetry, music and pyrotechnics.
Now that’s something you don’t see every day: Emergency Exit Arts’ new Sprinters regularly tow props on trailers, including a 12ft, metal elephant!
Founded in 1980, the company operates from Rothbury Hall, on the Greenwich Peninsula, and has presented its site-specific and touring work at community and cultural celebrations throughout the UK and Europe.
EEA made a beeline for Mercedes-Benz Dealer Sparshatts of Kent after receiving a grant from Arts Council England, to be spent on capital equipment. Its new vans are both 3.5-tonne Sprinter 313 CDIs – one is an Extra-long model, the other a Long-bodied crew van with second row of seats.
Power comes from advanced, 129 hp Euro 6 engines which combine low emissions with 35.8 mpg economy (combined cycle). Their reassuring safety armoury, meanwhile, includes the Adaptive ESP anti-skid program which takes account of the vehicle’s load status when intervening to maintain stability, and Crosswind Assist, which helps the driver to retain control when hit by a sideways gust.
Both vehicles are used to transport equipment and props throughout the UK and often onto the Continent. They regularly tow trailers which carry all manner of cargoes, including a 12 ft tall metal elephant on wheels and a 16ft robot made from bins, which has to be dismantled for transportation. The Adaptive ESP system incorporates a Trailer Stability Assist function – this counteracts the swaying phenomenon known as ‘fishtailing’, which can occur when towing.
EEA’s decision to invest its windfall on the two new vans owed much to its experience with two previous Mercedes-Benz Sprinters, a chassis cab with Luton body and a Traveliner minibus, both of which had been on the road since 1998.
Production Manager Ben Raine explained: “They’d suffered plenty of bumps and scrapes along the way but those vehicles lasted brilliantly; in fact, we know the people to whom we sold them and they’re still going well today, despite being nearly 20 years old.
“We’re a non-profit making, charitable organisation so it’s not often that we’re able to make a major outlay like this,” he observed. “It was crucial, therefore, that we invested the money wisely, because these vehicles are going to have to last.
“Our previous experience confirmed that the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter’s reputation for reliability and durability is well founded. The carrying capacity suits us well, while its stability and maximum 7.0-tonne gross train weight mean it’s ideally suited to towing.”
Mr Raine continued: “Given that we’re based in London and publicly funded, it was also important to demonstrate that we were buying environmentally friendly vans which meet the latest emissions standards.
“A professional image is important too, not least because we do a lot of firework shows. We’d stopped taking our previous vehicles to events because they looked so ‘battle-scarred’, and were using rented vans instead. Our new Sprinters, by contrast, look great in our livery and are helping us to create exactly the right impression.”
The order for the two vans was the first won by Sparshatts of Kent van sales executive John Kirrage, following his return to the dealership with which he previously spent six years before leaving in 2003.
“John was great,” added Ben Raine. “He was not at all pushy but spelled out all of the options and met our tight deadline, which mean we were able to take delivery of the vehicles in time to use them for a series of events.”
The Sprinters will be maintained under Service Plans at Sparshatts of Kent’s Dartford workshop. Like all Mercedes-Benz vans, they are backed by three-year, unlimited mileage warranties and MobiloVan cover, which includes free roadside assistance for up to 30 years, provided they continue to be serviced with the manufacturer’s official Dealer Network.
Emergency Exit Arts seeks to “support, devise and produce transformative programmes of creative activity and outdoor events that develop the imagination, confidence and skills of participants and artists in order to delight and surprise audiences.”
Positive impression: Ben Raine says its new Sprinters are helping Emergency Exit Arts to convey a professional image.