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EU lighting rule ‘will cost UK theatres £1bn’

War Horse at the New London Theatre. Photo: Brinkhoff Mogenburg War Horse – one of the many high-profile shows that would not have existed if the EU's proposed lighting regulations were enforced, according to the production's lighting designer Paule Constable. Photo: Brinkhoff Mogenburg
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Theatres around the UK face a total bill of £1 billion – more than five times the cost initially feared – if new European Union regulations come into effect.

This is the warning from the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre and is much higher than the amount initially estimated from figures provided by the Association of Lighting Designers, which was put at £180 million.

The theatre membership bodies issued a joint statement warning of the devastating impact that proposed restrictions on lighting would have on the industry to their members, which include all West End Theatres and regional theatres around the UK.

Due to concerns over energy efficiency, the EU is considering banning the sale of most lighting fixtures that are currently in use in theatres from 2020.

EU lighting proposals: Everything you need to know

UK Theatre and SOLT, along with industry leaders including West End theatre owner Nica Burns, are campaigning for an exemption for theatre lighting to be included in the new regulations.

The statement from UK Theatre and SOLT said: “The proposed new EU Ecodesign regulations, expected to come into force from September 1, 2020, will severely affect the equipment available for stage lighting.

“In doing so, the changes will dramatically affect the way lighting for performances is created, and will impact heavily on performing arts organisations and other venues, from major commercial West End theatre to venues throughout the UK, to school and village halls, some of which may be forced to close.”

Manufacturers have told UK Theatre and SOLT that there are currently no specialist lighting fixtures suitable for production lighting that will meet the new lighting standard and be available by 2020.

That would leave productions and venues in the “untenable position” of being unable to replace equipment with more efficient fixtures, because no suitable replacements will be available.

However, UK Theatre and SOLT have calculated the estimated, hypothetical cost of replacing lighting fixtures in theatres around the country, if new technology were developed, to be £1 billion.

This figure uses Theatres Trust data of 1,300 UK theatres, estimating it would cost large organisations £8 million, mid-scale organisations £1.5 million, and small organisations £250,000.

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