#SaveStageLighting to Save Europe's Theatres

#SaveStageLighting to Save Europe’s Theatres

Tungsten Light

by Jo Town, Chair of the Association of Lighting Designers (ALD). 

Date Published: 29 March 2018

There is currently an enormous threat being made to the way theatrical productions are presented.

The EU is proposing, in its Eco-design Working Plan 2016-2019, to change the rules that govern the light sources used in theatrical productions. In effect, they want to bring the vast majority of quality theatre lights - including specialist tungsten light bulbs (the familiar, natural, beautiful warm-feeling light sources that still form the major part of most theatre lighting rigs) and the specialist, high-quality LED lighting fixtures which have finally be- come available to theatres in the last few years - under the same rules that govern domes- tic and office and industrial lighting.

From September 2020 they propose to allow only light sources that meet a notional efficiency target, with no allowance made for the visual quality of those light sources, or how those light sources are actually used.

The impact on theatrical production across Europe would be immediate, and overwhelming.

Replacing existing lighting fixtures with new EU-approved sources would be incredibly ex- pensive as it would mean buying an entirely new rig of LED lighting units. It would be more costly still because it would likely involve replacing the building’s entire lighting infrastructure - dimmers, cabling, control consoles - as well. For larger venues, this would be both hard to budget for and difficult to implement within the next two years. For smaller venues, it would be ruinous. They would, quite literally, go dark.

More troubling still: there are very few theatrical-quality LED lighting fixtures that come close to matching the beauty, subtlety, richness and poetry of tungsten light sources. Many shows and theatres have started adopting these fixtures but none of these fixtures meet the proposed EU standards; they would no longer be available. The indication from the LED manufacturers is that no new fixtures of this type will be able to meet these new regulations even by 2020.

The only option available would be much poorer quality lighting fixtures, and as a result a considerable degradation in the quality of production lighting and therefore in the quality of productions.

This would mean that the entire repertoire of works that currently exists would need to be given the stage time to be completely re-designed. That includes West End Productions which would need to close in order for existing units to be de-rigged, new ones put in place and for the entire show to be re-lit.

Several studies in recent years have shown that stage lighting typically accounts for less than 5% of a theatre’s total energy consumption.

The money spent on an enforced replacement of existing theatre lighting systems with poorer quality equipment in an attempt to create a tiny reduction in energy use is money not being spent on reducing the other 95% of a theatre’s energy consumption, where much greater energy savings are possible.

It is also money not being spent on re-mounting existing productions, or creating new ones.

Theatrical performances rely on theatrical lighting; it is the glue that binds every aspect of a performance together. Theatre lighting relies on having the right tools available to create just the right effect at just the right moment.

The #SaveStageLighting Campaign aims to demonstrate to the EU Energy Directorate the widest possible cultural opposition to these proposals.

We are encouraging everyone to sign and share the petition here and to contact their MEPs.

It is absolutely essential that we are successful in our endeavour of securing an exemption for stage lighting from these proposals. 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.

For more information, you can email the campaign at savestagelighting@ald.org.uk

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