You may have seen #SaveStageLighting popping up on social media over the weekend and wondered what the big deal was, well, hopefully without getting too technical here goes...

The ability to paint a stage with lighting is an art form and it is at risk of being changed forever for the worst.

The EU has an objective to reduce energy consumption across the continent by forcing manufacturers to comply with certain regulations; this is the reason we now have energy ratings on fridges and energy saving light bulbs in your house. Up until now the entertainment industry has had an exemption from these regulations and this has enabled us to continue to light shows artistically while gradually upgrading our equipment to more energy efficient units.

The new proposals about to be discussed propose ending this exemption for all but the highest output units (flood lights at stadiums) and will force theatre lighting to comply with the same regulations as offices and industrial units, even the least technically minded can appreciate that lighting a stage is very different to lighting a warehouse.

Where we appreciate an ambition to increase energy efficiency is laudable and something we should all be striving towards there are a few issues we face as an industry...

  1. There are currently no stage lighting fixtures available that comply with the new regulations and manufacturers have reported that they will be unable to develop suitable units before the new regulations come into effect.
  2. It would be extremely costly for the majority of theatres to replace all of their equipment by 2020. To replace all the lights in the Octagon is would cost over £1/4 million. This could close theatres, drastically reduce the quality of productions and impact on audience experience. Large scale and long running productions would have to close in order to facilitate an upgrade and this would be financially devastating to many West End theatres closing them permanently or increasing ticket prices for patrons.

  3. Current research demonstrates that the lighting rig accounts for only 5% of a theatres energy consumption. Low energy lighting has will be installed in all non-theatre spaces our new Octagon building and this will have a bigger impact on our energy usage than we could ever achieve with upgrades to the theatre lighting.

  4. Energy consumption is only one strand of being environmentally responsible. All of the new units being developed will use LED technology which is massively resource intensive to manufacture and not at all environmentally friendly. The energy consumption of these units over their life cycle is also poor, with a complex manufacturing process, short life span and poor ability to recycle at end of life, they will only be expected to last 10 years before becoming landfill. In contrast to this we are currently using 50 year old lanterns in the rig for The Big Corner at the moment which our technicians are able to repair easily. These existing units (and the rest of our main house lighting rig of 164 lanterns) will soon become scrap due to the light bulbs being outlawed.

  5. This will still affect us even though we are leaving the EU with the government’s plan to introduce the ‘repeal bill’ effectively passing all EU laws into UK law when we leave. Also, the UK theatre industry exists as part of a European industry, we are too small to be sustainable on our own and theatre specific manufacturers will not find it sustainable to produce lightbulbs or equipment for the UK market alone.

Here's what you can do to help:

  1. Sign and share the petition from the Association of Lighting Designers

  2. Share the #SaveStageLighting message on social media: this will impact on audiences, actors, dancers, musicians, schools, touring theatre, AND amateur theatre! Share with your friends and family who support theatre, there’s a Save Stage Lighting Facebook page whose posts you can share and @the_ALD and @SaveLighting on twitter have a really strong message you can help to spread

  3. Write to our MEPs – they work for us, let them know what you want them to fight for, I have attached a draft letter with details of the regulations, however you are encouraged to alter this letter not use it verbatim as it can have a negative impact on the campaign if many identical letters are received – details of the North West’s 8 MEPs are here - http://www.europarl.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/en/your-meps/uk_meps/noth_west_region.html

  4. Take part in the public consultation before it closes this weekend