Hemp Flying

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Hemp Flying

Without question this type of flying is the most simple to understand, normally 3 ropes are threaded through pulleys high overhead in the grid and then tied to a length of aluminium scaffolding bar. You hang the required scenery or lighting equipment on the bar then physically lift the weight by pulling down on the other end of the rope from the bar. Once the bar is lifted into position the rope ends are tied off to a cleat or pin rail.

There are three separate ropes used in a New Athenaeum a “hemp set”. The SHORT (nearest the flyfloor), MID (center stage) and LONG (furthest from the flyfloor). The ropes should always run through the header block in the same order from upstage to downstage to help the flyman to distinguish which rope is which and to maintain uniformity.


The ends of the hemp set rope are attached directly to the aluminium bar by a clove hitch and finished with a half hitch. Often the tail is either taped back up the line for neatness or tucked back throughthe strands of the rope.

If only a single line is used rather than a full hemp “set” it is referred to as a “spot line” and is normally used when flying items such as chandeliers and other single point pick up flying pieces. The rope is still cleated off on the flyrail as normal but will only be a single rope rather than a group of three.

Cleating Off

The diagram below shows the preferred method of tying off a line to a cleat. As with many practices in the theatre there are several different ways of doing the same thing and you may be told different rules in different theatres, no one is right or wrong as long as safety is paramount. In the interests of uniformity I would like the hemp lines to be tied off as in the diagram. The ropes should be wound round the cleat in a figure of eight at least twice and a half hitch put on the top horn to lock off the cleat. The line begins its first turn at the bottom of the right side of the cleat, as in the diagram. Unfortunately for left handers this is slightly awkward but I’m afraid you’ll just have to get used to it since we need to keep things uniform on the flyfloor.


Safe Working Load

Safe Working Load

As per the Lifting Oerations and Lifting Equiment Regulations 1998, all lifting equipment must have a clearly marked Safe Working Load (SWL).

The safe working load (SWL) of the Hemp Sets at RSAMD has been set at 50kg evenly distributed. This is the approximate weight of a 4m black border and is a fairly chunky 2 man lift. Any more than this and the capability of the aluminium bar starts to come into question. It is often wrongly assumed that the ropes are the weakest part of a Hemp System but since each 14mm Manilla Rope is capable of holding over 100kg itself, the aluminium bar is by far the weakest link in the system. Since flying is manual labour, Manual Handling Regulations also come into force which again keep the SWL to a sensible level.

That’s about all there is to know about hemp systems. To rig and operate hemp sets safely and smoothly is different matter altogether and will only come from experience and practice. Unfortunately a certain degree of upper body strength is also required to handle the sets properly.

--Stephen Macluskie 08:26, 24 September 2010 (UTC)