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“Catastrophic” EU plans would mean lights out for venues

New rules on stage lighting mooted by the EU would cause "thousands of venues, theatres and music festivals to go dark" after 2020, industry groups have warned

By Jon Chapple on 01 May 2018

The National Theatre has lent its backing to the #SaveStageLighting campaign

The National Theatre has lent its backing to the #SaveStageLighting campaign


image © Jason Addison

Venues and industry associations across Europe have warned some of the continent’s best-loved music venues and theatres face a black-out post-2020, under plans to regulate stage lighting under the same environmental rules that govern those sold for domestic and office use.

The European Union (EU)’s proposed Ecodesign Working Plan 2016–2019 would require all new stage lighting – from traditional tungsten bulbs to the latest LED fixtures – to meet new efficiency targets, from which they are currently exempt. According to the UK’s Association of Lighting Designers (ALD), the new regulations, which are due to kick in on 1 September 2020, would “dramatically impact all areas of entertainment lighting and all who work in this field”, with the impact on live shows “immediate and overwhelming”.

The ALD, along with the Production Services Association (PSA), entertainment technology body Plasa and other industry groups, are calling for everyone who works in live entertainment to respond to the EU consultation on the new directive (scroll down to the section on lamps), which runs until next Monday (7 May).

The fight against the proposed regulations has also been taken up by venues across the continent, with the National Theatre in London, Cánovas Theatre in Malaga, Lliure Theatre in Barcelona, Civic Theatre in Dublin and Circo Price Theatre in Madrid all beaming the campaign’s official hashtag – #SaveStageLighting – on the exteriors of their buildings over the past few days.

“Professional stage lighting has always been exempt from the labelling regime, [but] that’s about to change,” explains PSA general manager Andy Lenthall. “Tungsten, halogen and other sources don’t get close” to the minimum ‘G’ rating which would be required for sale in Europe after 2020, he adds, while “sealed unit LEDs, in the main, fall foul”.

Lenthall tells IQ smaller venues would be disproportionately affected by the plans, with a phasing out of old-fashioned bulbs also forcing the complete – and costly – replacement of all components associated with older lighting systems.

“Have a think about smaller venues, theatres, schools, halls, community groups,” he continues. “If they have a perfectly serviceable load of par cans [parabolic aluminised reflector lights] with old-fashioned bulbs, they could probably get 30 years out of them by just changing bulbs. If those bulbs are not available, they’ll be forced to switch.

“The consequences of failure would be catastrophic to the entertainment industry”

“For you and me at home, that’s just a different type of bulb in the same fixture. In a venue, that’s a new type of fixture, new dimmers and new controllers – the whole shooting match in one hit.”

In addition to the cost aspect of replacing lighting rigs – which initial projections put at £1.25 billion – the National Theatre says the proposed regulations, which require a minimum efficiency of 85 lumens per watt and a maximum standby power of 0.5W, “may mean that we can’t light our shows anymore”.

“While we are fully committed to improving sustainability in our industry, imposing these blunt measures on stage lighting will have a catastrophic artistic and financial effect on theatres all over the UK and throughout the EU,” reads a statement from the theatre.

“Productions like War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Follies and Angels in America could not be lit under these regulations.

“There is no existing equipment that could create any of the images you are familiar with from these productions that would be allowed under EU legislation.”

Pending any unexpected (and unrealistic) advances in lighting technology by 2020, the effect of the Working Plan, if implemented in its current form, would be to cause “thousands of venues, theatres and music festivals across the continent [to go] dark”, says the Save Stage Lighting Campaign.

While smaller venues would take a larger financial hit, Beyoncé lighting designer Tim Routledge points out that all venues, large and small, would be affected by the new rules, which are set to hit “every music venue, arena, music festival and touring concert production across Europe”.

“As a very well established lighting designer designing tours for acts such as Beyoncé, Sam Smith, Take That, ELO and many more, the news of this regulation is terrifying,” he writes in a letter to the Guardian. “Pretty much every single tool that we use as lighting designers will be rendered obsolete by these rules – incredible, as over the recent past as an industry we have adopted the latest in energy-saving LED technology and a lot of tours are totally LED.”

In addition to making an official objection, the ALD encourages everyone opposed to the plans to write to their local members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and sign the official petition, which currently has 36,957 of 50,000 signatures.

“It is absolutely essential that we are successful in our endeavour of securing an exemption for stage lighting from these proposals,” says the association, which recently published a primer to the 2020 regulations. “This has the potential to harm everyone from technicians, actors and designers to agents, critics and audience members.

“The consequences of failure would be catastrophic to the entertainment industry and European culture.”

 


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