Highlights from our Sustainable Build Open Day with Diagon

"We encourage clients to think long term, investing in high quality fabrication that lasts and considering onward use or material choices that are easier to circulate at the outset."

A big thank you to isla member Diagon for opening their doors and hosting the Sustainable Build Production Open Day for the isla community. The Open Day, led by Managing Director Tom Sabin, was a unique opportunity for isla members to delve into the world of sustainable scenic construction, offering valuable insights, tips, and a peek behind the scenes of Diagon’s workshop and operations.

This day is part of our continued commitment to supporting the isla community in fostering a greater understanding of their value chain and vice versa. Previous open days have been held at the likes of MacroArt, you can read more here.

What did we get up to?

Attendees had the privilege of exploring a wide array of Diagon’s past projects and material examples. What made this experience truly enlightening was the dual focus on the use of traditional and innovative materials (from traditional materials like Plywood and Medium Density Fibreboard to innovative materials like Green Cast Acrylic and Smile Plastics), and how these can sit side by side during the production process.

Diagon’s Managing Director Tom Sabin and Founder and Director Liam Ownsworth engaged attendees in insightful discussions about the qualities and sustainability credentials of these materials, shedding light on the importance of making informed material choices in scenic construction and designing for longevity.

One of the highlights of the day was an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of Diagon’s bustling workshop. Attendees had the opportunity to witness the inner workings of the company, gaining firsthand knowledge of how sustainable practices are implemented in different departments, including carpentry, engineering, and paint.

Diagon’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond the production process. What makes their 40,000 sq ft purpose-built workshop so unique, is the solar panel installation on their roof, providing them with 43,500 kWh of renewable energy per year (which represents around 30% of their total power needs).

As the day drew to a close, Diagon took the stage to offer attendees invaluable advice on how to craft a sustainable supplier brief. A well-structured and informative brief can make all the difference in ensuring that your sustainability goals and KPIs are front and centre. We focused on 4 Ws and what those would look like. Points to consider included:


  • Understanding the end client and what they stand for
  • What is important to the end client in terms of sustainability? 
  • Understanding other key stakeholders + audience


  • KPIs
  • Wider scope / aims of project or campaign (including what data we aim to capture (e.g. use of TRACE) and the lifespan and potential reuse of materials
  • Risks: safety / timeline / commercial


  • Indoor / Outdoor
  • UK / Europe / Further afield
  • Consider fabrication suitability for multiple venues


  • Dates for install / live / derig
  • Communicate understanding of your processes and schedule, helping to manage client expectations

What else did we learn?

Key takeaways and insights…

1. Consider the waste hierarchy: Minimise material wastage in the build process and explore opportunities for reuse. At the end of a project, consider repurposing items for new projects or donating them to local businesses, for example, performing arts colleges. Look for opportunities to repurpose before recycling. At isla we love pointing our members in the direction of Event Cycle.

2. Design for longevity: Take the time to reflect on the lifetime of a set. Encourage the creation of durable projects that can be reused multiple times rather than one-off builds.

We minimise waste by designing for long term or re-use, careful design sign-off processes and efficient workshop methods such as nesting for CNC routing to get the most out of sheet material. We encourage clients to think long term, investing in high quality fabrication that lasts and considering onward use or material choices that are easier to circulate at the outset.

Our robust supply chain includes timber sourcing over and above Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards, ensuring responsible management of key raw material production.

Tom Sabin, Managing Director, Diagon

3. Allow time to consider options and be flexible: Don’t rush the decision-making process. Take the time to research and explore sustainable alternatives thoroughly. 

Our retail pop up in Selfridges for Pangaia had a thorough materials and finishes sampling phase to review performance and aesthetics. The client’s sustainable focus drove choices including recycled and recyclable acrylic, low VOC paints and designing all elements for future use.

Tom Sabin, Managing Director, Diagon

4. Identify key aims: Focus on specific sustainability goals, as it’s challenging to be perfect on every front. Prioritise what matters most to your project.

5. Consider sustainability from the outset and engage your suppliers early: Don’t let sustainability be a last-minute addition. Start conversations with your suppliers from the beginning of the project as it will help you maintain a strong focus on sustainability goals throughout the lifecycle of an event. 

If you are an isla member and would like to host, or suggest ideas, for our next open day, please email members@weareisla.co.uk.

We will next be bringing the isla community together at the Member Forum, taking place at Event Sustainability Live on November 15th. Register here to secure your place (open to isla members only).

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