Campaign to keep traditional theatre lighting goes global

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More than 2,000 people from around the world, including the heads of lighting at prominent venues such as the National Theatre in London and New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, have joined a campaign aimed at protecting the traditional tungsten light bulb in stage productions.

As revealed by The Stage in April, the campaign is lobbying manufacturers to continue production of tungsten lamps, following concerns that legislation banning retailers from selling incandescent light bulbs for domestic purposes is resulting in fewer being made. Lighting designers have argued that the traditional bulbs are vital alongside other sources – such as LED lamps – to ensure lighting can be tailored to suit a production’s needs.

The campaign has attracted the support of hundreds of lighting designers globally, as well as theatre consultants, professional associations and lighting hire companies. In the UK, supporters include acclaimed lighting designer Paule Constable, as well as Matt Drury, head of lighting at the NT, and Jack Williams, head of lighting at the Royal Court in London. Meanwhile, international support has come from the Metropolitan Opera in New York and La Scala in Milan.

In addition, the campaign has been backed by Conservative MP Peter Luff, who met with campaigners in London to hear how European Union legislation banning the use of domestic tungsten lamps is impacting on theatres.

Michael Hulls, who is co-ordinating the campaign, said: “[Luff] was particularly interested to hear about how the legislation may spell disaster for many small amateur theatres and drama and operatic groups, community theatre venues and school theatres. These are precisely the kind of organisations and venues that can least afford to invest in alternative new equipment such as LED units, and therefore are in danger of being the first venues to go dark as the supply of tungsten lamps they rely on dries up.”

Luff told The Stage that “well-meaning rules to reduce the impact of man-made climate change must not be allowed to have a serious impact on professional and amateur theatre”.

“I’m sure some sensible exemptions from the relevant EU directives can be worked out that both protect the environment and enable audiences in village halls and West End theatres to enjoy well-lit productions. I’m certainly determined to do everything I can to make sure this is the case,” he said.

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