Building on its long-term partnership with the National Theatre, Signify hosted LightFest – an afternoon of guest speakers, lighting insights and entertainment, at the National Theatre’s River Stage on 10 August.
This is the second year running that Signify has sponsored the NT’s River Stage Weekends programme, providing an extensive range and number of lighting fixtures from its Showline and Vari-Lite lines for the public stage on London’s South Bank. Lighting designer Huw Llewellyn has specified a busy rig that needs to provide lighting coverage, over a five-week period and in all weathers, for a diverse range of performance styles, from drag queens to theatre, and from DJs to contemporary dance.
To celebrate and highlight their role in this popular and dynamic performance area, Signify organised LightFest, inviting an audience of lighting professionals from the architectural, TV and theatre lighting worlds to an enlightening afternoon and evening of entertainment. Utilising The Deck, the NT’s rooftop function area, the company treated guests to four fascinating presentations from guest speakers, each of whom gave an insight into their career and their work, in varying lighting disciplines.
First at the lectern was Bernie Davis, whose knowledge of lighting special events for television broadcast is second to none. Bernie chose as his subject the lighting of the BBC Proms series of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, and how that has changed over many years. The talk gave an entertaining insight into how changing technology, and changing tastes, have influenced the lighting of this famed concert series.
Bernie was followed by lighting designer Mark Jonathan, who spoke in his inimitable and engaging way about his 50 years in lighting, from enthusiastic schoolboy to one of the most in-demand designers working in the fields of theatre, opera and ballet worldwide. The talk was supported by stunning imagery from some of Mark’s most accomplished lighting designs.
Next up was television lighting director Roger Williams, whose CV includes award-winning work on an extraordinary catalogue of the music and light entertainment television shows of the past 30 years, both in the UK and internationally. Aside from his work, Roger also discussed the changes in training and personnel management during his career, which he feels have had such a damaging effect on the quality of television lighting and programme-making in general.
The fourth and final speaker of the afternoon was Rowena Preiss, principal of architectural lighting design consultancy New Concept Lighting, who spoke about the many challenges of architectural lighting design, and how they differ from those of other lighting disciplines. Preiss’s engaging talk ended with a challenge to architects to avoid letting technology inform the solutions in lighting design, and to get back to letting inspiration be the impetus.
Following these four hugely enjoyable sessions, guests went down to the South Bank’s riverside level to the River Stage itself, where Huw Llewellyn talked them through his packed lighting rig and how well it was holding up under the intensive performance programme and the English weather! Guests then stayed around and enjoyed the evening’s entertainment on the stage, provided by the brilliant DJ Micky.