Lights, camera, action: UK suppliers on the reopening
Do you remember at which point the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic first hit home? For some, it was when they suspended all flights to mainland China. Or when the UK government admitted that we faced a “substantial period of disruption… due to the outbreak.”
For others it was the realisation that, after the announcement on 9 March of a strict nationwide quarantine in Italy, lockdowns were coming to us all. For those whose livelihoods were invested in the music industry, watching all of this unfold prompted an increasing feeling of dread.
For Yvonne Donnelly Smith, music lighting sales director of PRG – a global company operating audio, camera, lighting, and various other production services – that latter date was particularly significant.
“I got my first email from Bryan Adams’ team saying: ‘All shows cancelled due to Corona,” she says. “That was quickly followed by The Script, who cancelled because someone in the touring party had caught Covid. Then the domino effect really started to kick in.”
As she tells it, every day two or three more tours would cancel as the reality of the situation began to outweigh optimism that the whole thing would blow over quickly. And then the summer festivals started to fall – “which everyone was holding out hope for,” she says.
“We’d just loaded the trucks to head to site the next day when everything was cancelled”
It was a similar story with John Henry’s, a multi-disciplinary company in the live sector offering audio, backline, and staging services, who had just sent out audio and backline equipment for multiple US country artists touring Europe and heading towards the C2C Festival at London’s O2 Arena.
“We’d just loaded the trucks to head to site the next day when everything was cancelled,” says Johnny Henry, company director. “We then had to negotiate the return of equipment from all around the country to get it back before we had to close the doors and send staff home. It was a devastating moment for everyone.”
Christie Lites, a global stage lighting vendor covering live music, theatre, TV, corporate, and special events, and employing over 400 employees around the world, were ramping up into what business development executive Jessica Allan describes as “a very, very busy year.” It all came to a sudden, complete halt.
“The realisation that pretty much everything was coming back in kit-wise – including shows that had been out for five years or more – and the logistics of what that involved was definitely one of the ‘Oh shit!’ moments,” she adds.
Everyone IQ spoke to for this feature talks of the initial shock and disbelief, and how thoughts turned extremely quickly from dealing with the mammoth task of returning equipment and personnel, to the question of “what happens now?”
“We all thought it was only a temporary blip, not an 18-month hiatus”
Bryan Grant of Britannia Row, a company that has been supplying audio systems and crews since 1975 and is now part of the Clair Global Group, was initially optimistic.
“The enormity of it didn’t really sink in for some time,” he explains. “We all thought it was only a temporary blip, not an 18-month hiatus.”
As such, hard work continued behind the scenes at all these companies, to ready themselves for whenever a re-opening – and large-scale music events – could once again take place.
Grant notes how crucial it was to keep key people in place and remain open for business, while Donnelly Smith says that “remaining flexible and resilient” kept PRG busy through the on-slaught.
John Adam’s famous old adage, that “Every problem is an opportunity in disguise,” was severely tested as companies struggled to make sense of what they were dealing with, and what the long-term future of touring and live might look like.
John Henry’s began working with an AV company, PIXL, to convert their studios into a live-streaming and broadcast hub
Tentative suggestions that late summer 2020 could see some events return, were nixed by the looming threat of the second wave, and with further lockdowns throughout winter and the early part of 2021 – not to mention the Delta variant – the prognosis looked gloomy.
Nevertheless, the pause became a chance to take stock, to develop their offerings, and branch out into new tech or events.
Britannia Row, through the Clair Global Group, developed the Virtual Live Audio system, a high-quality, low-latency streaming platform that allows presenters and performers in the broadcast and corporate sectors to interact in real-time with their audiences, while PRG was also helping clients move into streaming, setting up studios and live spaces, and tailoring solutions to help events transition into the digital space.
They opened a rehearsal space, too, The Bridge, which allows clients to prepare for shows safely and securely.
John Henry’s began working with an AV company, PIXL, to convert their studios into a live-streaming and broadcast hub, and were actually able to service a number of recorded events that saw over a thousand people back through their doors.
“We took the opportunity to re-evaluate internal processes with our team behind the scenes”
For Christie Lites, planning and research never stopped, but they also – like the others – took a brief step back.
“We took the opportunity to re-evaluate internal processes with our team behind the scenes, making improvements in preparation for the return,” says Allan.
These ranged from technology tweaks through to broadening and building on sustainability programmes, as well as a number of ‘Crew Prep’ events to help crew and clients prepare for getting back to work.
With Britain having lifted restrictions on 19 July this year, many other countries following suit, and the continuing rise in the number of people double vaccinated, something approaching normality has begun to return.
Music’s live and touring sector has been scrabbling to respond, but with lead times normally measured in months, and many still wary of attending packed, sweaty arena shows and festivals, it’s been a stuttering reopening.
“Ramping up from essentially a standing start, combined with the uncertainty, was always going to be a challenge”
PRG just serviced Creamfields – as did Christie Lites – alongside Rewind, Wireless, and Isle of Wight, but really all eyes are on 2022, and a full-blown return.
“We’re optimistic,” says Britannia Row’s Bryan Grant. “We think there’s going to be huge demand,” adds PRG’s Yvonne Donnelly Smith.
Others are even more confident: 2022 is shaping up to be a “very mad year” says Christie Lites’ Allan, with two years’ worth of events squeezed into one system. But that pressure is already being keenly felt, and having some worrying knock-on effects.
“Ramping up from essentially a standing start, combined with the uncertainty still floating around, was always going to be a challenge,” says Allan.
“There is fear from vendors and freelancers that limits will be pushed both of budgets, timescale, and of people to meet demand. The other big issue is the lack of crew, as so many have had to get work elsewhere or have decided not to come back.”
“There is fear from vendors and freelancers that limits will be pushed both of budgets, timescale, and people to meet demand”
That’s a problem noted by Britannia Row director Bryan Grant as well; “that’s why we’ve kept up with our training programmes and have kept as many of our people employed as we possibly can,” he says.
Demand outstripping supply has had other consequences too. “Material shortages are already affecting manufacturers, so spares and some of the vital things that you need for touring and shows are in short supply already,” notes Johnny Henry. “There is no sign of that improving yet.”
There is also the issue of Covid bubbles being broken, and isolated infections bringing whole operations to yet another temporary halt.
“We’ve already recently seen shows and tours being pulled at the last minute because of positive Covid cases,” continues Henry.
“Everyone involved in productions is doing their best to avoid these situations, but it’s clearly very difficult no matter what precautions are being taken. I expect this to continue into 2022.”
“The fact that we can duplicate both equipment and people in many territories means less freight and air travel”
And that concern has led to yet another issue, particularly with regard to larger tours. “We’re starting to see some now pushed back into 2023 as artist management look at scheduling, and also the fact that so many artists and bands are potentially competing for venues and punters in 2022,” says Allan.
Making sure long-awaited live performances are delivered in the best possible way to fans is a key component for festival chiefs and touring acts when deciding on their 2022 and beyond plans. Innovation has seemingly blossomed during lockdown; so too gains in efficiency.
“We are constantly upgrading our systems to provide more efficient packages in terms of weight, size, and coverage,” says Grant. “For touring acts, the fact that we can duplicate both equipment and people in many territories means less freight and air travel, which saves money and the environment.”
That last part – sustainability – is becoming an ever more vital component of companies’ offerings, and something the music industry is keen to embrace. All of the companies IQ spoke to had placed it at the top of their agenda.
“There’s a high demand for LED products to take the lead on jobs, and PRG were doing this well before the pandemic,” says Donnelly Smith.
“Our warehouses use rainwater harvesting and solar panels where possible”
“Joining and working with TPG has been extremely influential for us in continuing this journey towards sustainability in our events – we’re taking an inside-out approach to solidify this culture change, offering sustainable kit to our customers and also making changes in-house, like switching energy suppliers and using sustainable materials.”
“We are constantly trying to learn about where we can improve on sustainability – it is something we are passionate about,” says Allan.
“We have a living sustainability programme, so our warehouses use rainwater harvesting and solar panels where possible, and we’re excited to be opening our most eco-friendly building to date in Nashville in September, which is built using a revolutionary decarbonised method of construction.
“On tour, our standardisation of flight cases helps reduce the truck pack and the fact that you can pull and drop a European leg from the UK and pick up again in North America without the need to fly or ship kit is a key reason why sustainability-conscious clients use us.”
Undoubtedly, the last 18 months have been a seismic shock, and recovery will depend on the ticket-buying public – as Grant notes, “Covid isn’t going away, so we are just going to have to adapt to the circumstances that confront us.”
“This past year has shown what we can achieve if we pull together”
But live events have proved resilient before, and are doing so again. The future will just be a little different.
“This past year has shown what we can achieve if we pull together,” says Allan. “Yes, a very difficult road lies ahead, but we have confidence that collectively the industry will find a way through and come out the other side.”
“I think what we’ve learnt over the last 18 months is that you can’t stand still,” adds Johnny Henry. “You have to use any spare time to continue to refine your trade, improve where you can, be more efficient, and get more out of your resources than you think possible. Your staff are your greatest asset, and while you’ve got to put faith in the future, don’t forget the past.”
Ultimately, the message is one of collaboration, and working together for greater success – and the greater good. “It’s an opportunity for all of us in the touring community, from artists, agents, promoters, and managers, to supply companies and all of those who work within these organisations to realise that we’re all on the same side,” says Grant.
“We all need to earn a living, and all need to respect what we all contribute to making this wonderful, mad machine work; let’s keep going.”
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China conflict hits Indian production cos
Indian event businesses under pressure to boycott China are facing increased production costs for non-Chinese-made equipment.
Organisers of entertainment, corporate and other live events currently have a choice between buying event kit (sound, lighting, stages, trussing, etc.) at a higher cost from the US or Europe or continuing to purchase from a country widely regarded as public enemy no 1.
A third option – manufacturing these products in India – would require government support for the industry in the form of subsidies, says Modern Stage Service’s Pratik Wadhwa.
An influential, celebrity backed social-media campaign, launched in May, urges Indians to boycott Chinese products and companies in response to the ongoing military stand-off at parts of the India–China border.
The most vicious fighting, in mid-June, saw an estimated 20 Indian and 43 Chinese soldiers lose their lives in melee combat in disputed areas of Kashmir; both sides, meanwhile, accuse each other of firing shots in a skirmish at the line of actual control (LAC) between the Indian territory of Ladakh and Chinese-occupied Tibet yesterday (7 September).
“Matching price with China will be difficult at present … but it is achievable in the long run”
India blames China for the incursions, and has even gone so far as to ban Chinese-owned mobile apps including TikTok and WeChat and Tencent-published Fortnite rival PUBG. The Chinese state-run Global Times accuses a nationalistic Indian media of inflaming tensions, warning that the press “must be reined in” if India wishes to avoid further conflict with Beijing.
Speaking to EventFAQs, Wadhwa, CEO of the New Delhi-based pro-AV distributor, explains: “95% of lighting and trussing, and all LED walls and LED TVs, are imported from China, [as is] cheaper audio equipment.
“The alternative to this is that either India needs to manufacture equipment or international companies have to start assembly lines in India. The Indian government will have to support this industry by giving subsidies.”
Santana Davis, the managing director of Bangalore’s J Davis Prosound & Lighting, adds: “My assumption is that a certain level of impact will surely be there on import of this equipment or materials from China if the current scenario between India and China doesn’t improve.
Davis notes that equipment imported from Western countries is “top-class”, but compared to a quality Chinese brand is “at least two or three times higher” in price.
Indians are urged to boycott Chinese products and companies in response to the ongoing military stand-off at parts of the border
Both Wadhwa and Shivam Singh of pro-AV company Shivam Videos say they plan to start manufacturing audiovisual equipment domestically.
“We have got back into manufacturing lights in India,” explains Wadhwa. “Matching price with China will be difficult at present, because they produce for the world, but it is achievable in the long run.”
“We have already planned […] to import parts from Taiwan, Japan or Korea and assemble them in India,” adds Singh. “Later, we are also planning to start manufacturing in India.
“We want to support our nation and be self-sufficient. We are ready to support ‘Make in India’. But for that we would need the government’s support as well, as setting up a manufacturing unit is not easy.”
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Lighting companies illuminate the sky for key workers
A number of lighting rental companies in the Benelux countries of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg illuminated the sky over the weekend in support of key workers on the frontline of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
The #LightTheSky concept was thought up by a Dutch rental company, later taken up by numerous entertainment supply companies, venues, broadcasters and others across the Benelux region and further afield in the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao, Serbia and Italy.
Shapes including hearts were projected into the sky using products by Czech lighting manufacturer Robe, among others.
“It’s heart-warming to see the entertainment technology community energised and engaging in actions like this”
The initiative aimed to show solidarity and gratitude towards essential workers in the health service, transportation, law enforcement, supermarkets, education and many other sectors that are keeping countries going during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s heart-warming to see the entertainment technology community energised and engaging in actions like this and showing its support for everyone,” says Robe CEO Josef Valchar.
“We’re all affected, and by standing strong together we can help each other survive and deal with the huge challenges our incredible industry faces in the immediate and longer-term future.”
“It was madness”: New book profiles production pioneers
Veteran tour manager Richard Ames, who has worked with the likes of Fleetwood Mac, the Who, Kate Bush, Wings, XTC, Duran Duran and Mike Oldfield over five decades in the business, has released Live Music Production, the first book covering the early years of the production sector in the UK.
“I hope that this book as a piece of social history will inform, entertain and delight those who were either there, or on the periphery of, or are of an age when rock music was on its meteoric rise,” explains Ames, who initially worked as a PM from 1972 to 1986, when the business was in its infancy.
“Just as equally, I hope that this will become supplementary reading for tomorrow’s students, so they can see how the foundations of this remarkable industry were forged with the 24/7 strength and spirit of these pioneers.”
Alongside the book, published last September by Routledge, Ames also documents his stories from live on the road at his Road Stories website.
“I hope this book become supplementary reading for tomorrow’s students”
Live Music Production is divided into nine chapters – covering lighting, sound, stage design, full production services, rigging, trucking/outdoor staging, bussing/catering and travel agencies – featuring interviews with industry trailblazers such as Bryan Grant (Britannia Row), Del Roll (Edwin Shirley Trucking), Jon Cadbury (PRG), tour/production manager Roger Searle and late stage designer Ian Knight, as well as a foreword by promoter Harvey Goldsmith.
Ames began writing the book 11 years ago (“I’ve always wanted to tell the story of how this extraordinary industry that I have spent 40 years of my own professional life in came about”), and says he hopes Live Music Production will open the door for other similar ‘social histories’ of the live music business.
“I don’t believe that social history in my industry has really taken off yet,” he continues. “The benefits of knowledge of the past, in so many different spheres, can’t surely be disputed – but as for now, I hope to see more and more factual history research published for future generations to appreciate. [So the book is] pioneering, I hope.”
See below for selected (and frequently hilarious) extracts from the book, or buy your copy from Routledge. IQ readers can benefit from 20% off by entering the discount code HUM19 at checkout.
In 1970, Jon Cadbury carries Pink Floyd’s gear to the Netherlands for a festival – with no paperwork…
“Jeff [Torrens, friend and Roundhouse colleague] and I were going to go off and tour Europe with our truck, and Ian [Knight] said, ‘Well, why don’t you just come and take the lights to this festival for us, and then go off on your travels?’
“I hadn’t actually worked out that if you take the lights out there then you are probably going to have bring them back again. Of course, we didn’t think about things like carnets, so we got on the ferry at Harwich got off at the Hook of Holland and customs impounded everything!
“The guys who became Mojo Concerts, Berry Visser and Léon Ramakers, eventually sorted it out; they were the people who promoted that festival [Holland Pop Festival 1970]. They paid some sort of bond that got the lights in and got them out again. I actually took the truck to Schiphol airport to collect the Floyd’s equipment when it came in, and had the band’s entire equipment in this seven-and-a-half-ton truck…
“There was no carnet, so I had to do a deal with the customs agent at Schiphol – which was basically, ‘I have got to get this to the site: they’re the headline act on this bill!’ My deal with this customs officer, who was a young guy who was into music, luckily for me, was that he would release the equipment and he would come to the site with me as long as he could collect a bond.
“So I went to the site and told the organisers and [Floyd manager] Steve O’Rourke that we couldn’t actually unload the truck. I said I wouldn’t let it out of my truck until the customs officer had got his bond – which was probably exceeding my brief somewhat – but we got there. Everyone was passing the buck to someone else to pay the bond and I said, ‘Well, I’ll have to take it back to the airport, then. That was the deal I made with this guy, so if you don’t sort it out…’
“So they did pay the bond and it did happen,the Floyd made an album with all of their equipment lined up in a great photo on an aerodrome [the back sleeve of Ummagumma]. That was that equipment and those were the roadies who were dealing with it. It’s extraordinary.”
“Of course, we didn’t think about things like carnets…”
It’s 1973, and then-junior lighting crew member Brian Croft is on a Lockheed L-749 Constellation from Hawaii to Australia on a Rolling Stones tour…
“It was unbelievable – it was cold, there was no heating, no soundproofing, you couldn’t speak to anybody, couldn’t read really or anything – but it became a big thing and we had a tongue painted on it when we were in Sydney, and then we flew all round Australia. Of course, the band, [including] Keith [Richards, along with] Bobby Keys and Jim [Price] the trumpet player, all came on the plane, and then we are halfway across from Perth back to Sydney and Keith says he has had enough.
“‘I’ve had fun, drunk all the beer’, and all that, but you look down and there is nothing but desert. ‘Well, you can’t stop here, Keith – it’s a long way, it’s like 12 hours!’ So that was a bit of a nightmare. Up until now I’d been doing a lot of straight theatre, and it was almost like an out-of-body experience seeing these mad frontiersmen and hippies, and I’m part of it and risking my life for the glory of the Rolling Stones.
“It’s like madness when you think about it now, but we had some great fun. The important thing about that tour was when the entourage – the whole group: crew, band, roadies, tour manager, probably 22 people – would all go and have dinner together. That was what was nice about it: you would all sit down and have dinner together because it wasn’t an unmanageable number, whereas it’s hundreds now in the touring party.”
“it was almost like an out-of-body experience seeing these mad frontiersmen and hippies”
In 1976, travel agent Mike Hawksworth goes into his office, shared with the Who’s manager, Bill Curbishley…
“At about nine o’clock the phone started ringing. [Curbishley’s] receptionist wasn’t in, so I went to pick up the phone, and it was one of those old phones […] where you have to take the receiver off to dial a number. I’ve gone to pick up the phone receiver and the whole unit comes up – the receiver hasn’t come off; the whole unit has lifted off the desk.
“I said, ‘What the hell?’, but it kept ringing and ringing, so I went over to the next one and try to pick up the receiver, and the whole unit comes up again.
“There are six phones in the office [glued together] like this, out of seven phones: [The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon] had left one unstuck.
“I answered it and Keith said, ‘It took you long enough to answer the bloody phone, didn’t it? If this is the service I’m going to get, then I’m going elsewhere!’ and he put the phone down.”
“We ended up with a gladiatorial match between a forklift truck and an old car”
Led Zeppelin rigger Jon Bray recalls crew days off Knebworth in 1979…
“We had a long gap between the first and second show. The site was sort of empty, apart from a handful of us living there with our caravan. We had some very interesting times there.
“One night, things got rather out of hand and we ended up with a gladiatorial match between a forklift truck and an old car. Somebody tried to do donuts with the car on stage. I don’t know how nobody got killed, actually – we must have been fairly out of it. The car ended up being absolutely destroyed…”
Further EU exemptions spell bright future for stage lighting
A vote by EU member states on the forthcoming Ecodesign regulations has resulted in further exemptions for live performance lighting, guaranteeing that the vast majority of stage and studio lighting can remain in use.
The new revisions exempt network-controlled entertainment lighting fixtures from standby power requirements and extend the exemption for colour-tunable light sources to green. The additions also exempt a number of specialist live entertainment lights from regulations, and allow the use of some white light sources.
The European Entertainment Ecodesign Coalition – a Europe-wide group of associations working in the entertainment and live performance sector – has welcomed the revision, stating that all “remaining concerns regarding stage and studio lighting were addressed by the expert group.”
The European Union proposed its new Ecodesign directive in May 2018. Under the plans, stage lighting fell privy to the same environmental rules that govern lights sold for domestic and office use.
“Remaining concerns regarding stage and studio lighting have now been addressed”
Venues and industry associations across Europe warned that some of the continent’s best-loved music venues and theatres would face a blackout post implementation of the directive in 2020.
Responding to critics, the European Commission first revised the proposal in July 2018, exempting around 80% of specific lamp types used in the live performance and film sector from Ecodesign requirements.
Following the latest revision on 17 December, the vast majority of light sources needed on stage, in specialised lighting design, and in film studios can continue to be used.
The European Commission will publish a consolidated version of the text at the end of January.
Karni & Saul create “magic” live visuals for Katie Melua tour
Bafta-nominated animators Karni and Saul have been enlisted to provide dynamic visuals and lighting for Katie Melua’s 2017–18 winter tour, whose UK leg kicked off at the 1,458-capacity Bournemouth Pavilion last night.
For the tour – which began at Stockholm’s Cirkus (1,650-cap.) on 24 October and closes at the Assembly Rooms (788-cap.) in Edinburgh on 13 December – Melua is joined by the Gori Women’s Choir, with whom she collaborated on the silver-selling 2016 album In Winter.
Melua previously worked with Karni and Saul on the video for the In Winter single ‘Perfect World’, which won the best animation awards at the UKMVAs and Berlin Music Video Awards. It is the director duo’s first time producing concert visuals.
“I’m always trying to strive for a more enriching, visually enticing, immersive live experience for the audience”
“Adding visuals to live concerts is a fine art, so creating the right types of film content to accompany the music requires very special sensibility and level of care,” comments Melua. “This is what I have been craving for years now, as I’m always trying to strive for a more enriching, visually enticing, immersive live experience for the audience.
“I could think of no better creative designers than the award-winning Karni and Saul to bring the wintery sounds of Gori Women’s Choir together with our world-class rhythm section, weaving everything together with a sense of marvel and wonderment…
“I first worked with Karni and Saul a few years ago, when we were creating the music video to ‘Perfect World’. That video won numerous awards around the world, with its unique animation and storytelling. I cannot wait for Karni and Saul to bring this same level of magic with me to the stage.”
Stage lighting: “Strong indications” of no European ban
Sources close to the European Commission (EC) have indicated #SaveStageLighting campaigners will be successful in their goal of securing an exemption for stage lighting from new environmental regulations.
Venues and industry associations in May warned that some of the continent’s best-loved music venues and theatres face a blackout post-2020, under European Union plans to regulate stage lighting under the same environmental rules that govern those sold for domestic and office use.
Members of the European Parliament voted 330–246 earlier this month in favour of an amendment, introduced by British MEP Ashley Fox, that would maintain the current exemption for the entertainment sector in the new ‘Ecodesign’ directive. Fox said keeping the exemption is “vital for small theatres across Europe”.
Now, according to Pearle* (Performing Arts Employers Associations League Europe), industry stakeholders in negotiations with the EC have given the European live entertainment body “strong indications that the main arguments of the case have been accepted”, paving the way for a continued exemption for stage, studio, film and live events applications.
“The situation now is far more positive than many had feared”
“There will be a list of exempted lamp base types that will include many of the specialised tungsten and discharge lamps that are used in the sector,” reads a Pearle* statement. While the organisation expects the list of exempted lamps to be “comprehensive”, it cautions it will not include lighting also in use for other, non-entertainment purposes.
There will also be an exemption for colour-tunable light sources, although details have not yet been disclosed.
“Although much still remains to be known, the situation now is far more positive than many had feared and greatly improved since a meeting between representatives of the live performance sector and the [European] Commission took place earlier this year,” says a Pearle* spokesperson.
The full text of the final regulations will be published this November, and is expected to be written into law in September 2020.
Pearle* represents more than 7,000 live music and performing arts organisations across Europe.
“Catastrophic” EU plans would mean lights out for venues
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.
A trivial issue? Well, not really. Without lights there is no way that we can present shows the way that we currently do. If this legislation were to pass it could ultimately lead to thousands of venues, theatres and music festivals across the continent going dark.
— Save Stage Lighting (@SaveLighting) April 28, 2018
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.”