The Royal Festival Hall - festooned with Martin equipment

June 20, 2000

The Royal Festival Hall, one of London´s premier live venues, plays host to a range of art events, from jazz, classical, rock, world and folk music to visual arts, literature and dance

There are a number of separate areas and auditoriums to the Festival Hall Complex each with it´s own distinctive lighting demands. The Festival Hall itself is a 3000 seater auditorium. "Because it is a Class 1 listed building we can´t leave any lights permanently installed. Having said that I have a back truss which is actually packed with Martin lights, I get away with it because I can normally fly them out and hide them behind the canopy." Over 65% of the productions at the Hall are contemporary music events which are far more demanding in terms of design & lighting, but as Nigel points out even the classical events are now asking for light displays. Today´s audiences want all their sense to be used. "Here we use the MAC´s to great effect. We use up to 50 MAC´s in this location at any one time and when all 50 are running it´s fantastic."

The Purcell Room is a 370 seater auditorium. The big problem that the Moving Head´s get over here is the fixed lighting rig. "None of the lighting moves so everything has to be focused on the ground. Put an intelligent head up and all of a sudden you are cutting your labor costs and your cutting the time it takes to focus a show, which for an operation such as we are, open 364 days a year, is an absolute imperative."

The Queen Elizabeth Hall is a 1000 seater auditorium, an area primarily used for many of the rock and roll or contemporary dance performances. The sheer variety of events however means a constantly changing lighting set-up is needed in all three auditoria. "One of the continual challenges is to find a technology and make the technology work with the art. A lot of people use technology for technology´s sake. We are trying to use it to complement the art form as opposed to competing with it." Jem products such as the Heavy Fogger, the Hazer and the Club Smoke are also used in the auditoria. "We use these to great effect because, as we all know with a Moving Head, once it´s moving smoke makes it looks a million times better."

The foyer of the Queen Elizabeth Hall & the Purcell Room is a space used for tea dances, performance, literature events, book signing and corporate events. "We had to turn this quite drab place into something much warmer and much more user friendly. And this is where we first came across the Moving Heads we started with the MAC 250´s and we have now progressed to the MAC 500 & 600´s and various other products." One of the great advantages of the Moving Heads in this foyer area is the ability to use interchangeable gobos. Using gobos allows the lighting crew to cover the area, its walls and floor, with the logos of event sponsors. "It´s a very inexpensive way of personalizing an area to a client and gets over heritage laws that prevent us from putting banners up or plastering the walls with clients names. We can only decorate them using light."

Speaking of the MAC range of Moving Heads Nigel has nothing but enthusiasm. "From our point of view it´s been one of the best investments that we´ve ever made. We took a massive leap with the 500´s and 600´s 3 years ago. We went from being a static rig to using moving lights and it was a massive change required by the crew. And it´s a change that we are still going through. A lot of our LD´s are frightened of moving lights because they haven´t had the opportunity to use them. But we are giving them the opportunity and we´re finding more and more people are using and falling in love with them."

"The Moving Head has made my life, and all my crew´s life, challenging and a lot more fun and as far as I´m concerned we chose the right product. We were left between Vari-Lite and Martin. The choice eventually fell to Martin for two main reasons one, we couldn´t own Vari-Lites and two, we felt the product that Martin was producing was going somewhere and we felt that Vari-Lite had got where they were going and they weren´t going to go any further."

They have also chosen Martin Exteriors to light the façade of the building which looks out dramatically over the River Thames.