Rigger (job)

A Rigger was originally a person who attended to the rigging of a sailing ship. The skills learnt aboard ship with ropes and booms found use ashore, one of the first being in the theatre, however these skills could be used anywhere that needed work with ropes and knots.

The original term has given rise to a number of different, seemingly unrelated jobs.

Theatre and entertainment

In the age of sail trading followed seasonal patterns with ships leaving port at set times of the year to make the most of winds, when not at sea sailors would seek employment ashore. One source of employment was in the theatre, the original canvas backdrops moved with ropes and pulleys, that would give rise to modern fly systems, being developed from techniques used for sails. This gave rise to the tradition in British theatres never to whistle on stage as the riggers would use the same whistled instructions used aboard ship, and any misplaced whistle could be taken as an instruction to the riggers.

The term rigger is stilled used for people backstage in Theatres, Concert, industrials, Conventions and Trade shows, and by extention to similar jobs such as those who are responsible for fastening chain motors (like CM Lodestar) by wire rope to the structural steel of a building.

With the birth of the film industry, just as stage actors adapted their techniques to the new medium so did those back stage. The complexity of the new environment giving rise to specialisations such as those in the film industry who rig scaffolding for film sets and camera rigs; also termed as a standby rigger if they are on site and 'on call' all of the time. Other riggers include the wire riggers who specialise in the "wire work" used to create the illusion of flying actors.

Lifting and hauling

Another of the areas in which sailors could use their rope skills was in lifting and hauling, in an era before mechanical haulage and cranes, ropes, pulleys and muscle power was all that was available to move anything. In time riggers and rigging became a trade in itself giving rise to the modern usage, with its original roots all but forgotten.

Rope work

Other than those working in entertainment and lifting the term rigger is used to describe a number of other activities, not directly related to sails and sailing but with the common denominator of rope and rope work such as

*Parachute rigger, someone working with aircraft and parachutes
*Bondage rigger, someone who ties up others primarily as an art form


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