Last month marked the 41st year of the annual Plasa trade show. The Professional Lighting and Sound Association Show has long been recognised as one of the industries ‘go to’ annual conferences when it comes to the advancement of stage technology.
Seen as a good opportunity to catch up with old colleagues and meet suppliers, it was a good place see the latest developments in areas such as rigging, staging, projection and smoke. It was not just about lights and speakers. But it began to lose its lustre.
The show was first launched in 1977 at the Bloomsbury Crest, London when it was called Discotek 77 before being rebranded in 1982 as the Badem Light and Sound Show. But from 1984 the event became known as the Plasa Light and Sound Show, which it has remained ever since.
In the early 1990s, when Plasa was at Earls Court Two, I stopped attending this annual event, as it was beginning to lose its appeal. The talk was all about “intelligent lighting” with the “waggly mirror” and LEDs were not even thought of. As for the rest, there didn’t seem to be any real progression at the time.
After decades away, I returned this month to see what had changed. Set over two floors at London’s Olympia, there was hardly a square inch of space that wasn’t in use by exhibitors and attendees alike – it seems to be thriving. Lawrence Dyer from Doughty Engineering, with whom I caught up at the show, said it was the best one for a long time.
With the products on display this year, the technology had obviously advanced, but beyond waterproof speakers there was little in the way of mind-blowing kit. The biggest change was that many more products were made by companies from the Far East. Most were lighting manufacturers, but one stand had a device that produced a shower of sparks up to five metres high – without the need for pyrotechnics.
What drew much attention was the innovation area. The show has long handed out innovation awards, and this year there were eight. The gold award went to German lighting company Astera for its LED Titan Tube. This was certainly an impressive unit with its bright interchanging colour output, wireless operation and 10-hour battery life. It shows that innovation is happening, and that kit is becoming cheaper and more advanced all the time.
A trade show doesn’t just mean talk about the quality of emitted light, some really show what they’re all about. The showstopper this year was lighting manufacturer Robe, which brought a bit of razzle dazzle to proceedings.
It showed off its tech with a Lost World-style Amazon jungle theme, complete with regular performances throughout the day. Conceptual designers Nathan Wan and Andrew Webb spent eight months creating the display using nearly 200 lighting fixtures, sound, exploding fire-sticks and rainwater.
It was an impressive way to demonstrate that its kit can provide shows at home or on tour. And in a case of art imitating life, the stand is set to go on a tour itself, wowing trade show visitors in Europe and the US. It looks as though Plasa has upped its game in the past few decades.