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Rob Halliday: EU lighting to-do is about much more than what goes on backstage

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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Yes, this is lighting and the EU again. Sorry. No, actually, not sorry. Because the more you dive into this, the more you discover it is about much more than turning lights on and off. It’s about small theatres having to close – the breeding ground for new theatrical talent, backstage and on stage, lost. It’s about the £1.2 billion this might cost UK theatre, if any lights that could meet the regulations were actually available to buy. It’s about the potential risk to the film business – £3 billion and countless jobs gone. It’s about people’s lives and livelihoods.

It’s alarming how few people, companies and organisations had noticed, and might still not have noticed, if it hadn’t been for three articles in The Stage and a lot of rabble-rousing by the Association of Lighting Designers. When all of this calms down, we need an industry-wide discussion about how we get a better ‘red alert’ system in place.

The good news: people are now noticing. In the last month, lighting designers Patrick Woodroffe, Paule Constable and Tim Routledge have seemingly become fixtures on BBC Radio 2 and Radio 4, with the story the second item on Radio 4’s 1pm news the day after the local elections. It has been all over the national and local press. It was the top story on the BBC News website at one point. #SaveStageLighting was projected on and inside theatres across Europe. The campaign has the support of a remarkable collection of theatre practitioners – check out the list on the ALD website. More importantly people who know nothing about lighting know about this. At the time of writing, 73,500 people have signed the online petition.

More importantly, the industry is noticing. Manufacturers, suppliers and trade organisations are speaking up. The top level of theatre producers and organisations in the UK sat together to come up with a response, supporting the ALD’s call to have the current exemption for stage lighting included in the new rules. The ALD met with the UK government’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the department that actually responds to Europe on these ecodesign matters. It was a good meeting (know others based elsewhere in Europe? It’s critical they send their feedback to the equivalent department in their country).

Perhaps most importantly, at about the time these words hit the news stands, a group of technical and producing organisations from across Europe will be sitting with the relevant EU committee – having been invited by them to come and talk. This is hopeful.

But that’s not the end. It’s just the start of the internal discussions, the cross-European feedback, the lobbying. The start of the politics. So please, don’t stop showing your support. The EU’s public consultation period has ended, but you can and should still contact your MPs and MEPs to make sure they are fully aware. For the sake of lighting, yes, but for the sake of so much more besides.

EU lighting proposals: Everything you need to know

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