London’s iconic Southbank Centre has stood proudly on the south bank of the river Thames for nearly 70 years. A celebration of progress and modernity, Europe’s largest arts venue was built in 1951 for the Festival of Britain and, under normal circumstances, stages over 2000 performances of music, dance and literature a year, and more than 2000 free events.
Like all arts venues, the Southbank Centre is not immune to the economic and cultural upheaval caused by COVID-19 but, prior to lockdown, the Southbank Centre had, over the past two years, made a long-term commitment to LED performance lighting, with complete moving head installations in the fixed rigs of three of its performance spaces: the 2700-seat Royal Festival Hall, 916-seat Queen Elizabeth Hall and the 295-seat Pur-cell Room.
As part of this drive towards LED, the team at the Southbank Centre invested in Ayrton Ghibli and Diablo profile fixtures, supplied to the Southbank Centre by White Light, which bring a new uniformity and quality to its moving head inventory.
“We made an initial purchase of 16 Ghibli profiles 6 for the Royal Festival Hall and 10 for the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the beginning of 2018 when the Southbank Centre reopened after its major two-year refurbishment,” says Roger Hennigan, Technical Manager of the Southbank Centre.
“We were so happy with them that we invested in an additional 10 Ghibli at the end of 2019 for the Royal Festival Hall. All of our moving lights are now LED as a result.
“We chose Ghibli after a shootout between 3 or 4 major manufacturers to find a new workhorse LED unit that would replace our 12-year old tungsten and discharge moving heads.
We thought we’d already decided on an alternative product, but when we saw Ghibli we were so impressed we changed our minds. Ghibli’s brightness, number of features, quietness and price were outstanding!
“Our programme at the Southbank Centre is incredibly varied and demanding: we run many contemporary gigs each week as well as regular annual events like the Jazz Festival and Meltdown Festival when the fixtures are heavily used every day for ten days at a time. Ghibli’s range of features give us the flexibility we need and are unique in offering a second gobo wheel which gives us so much more variety of breakups and patterns – ideal for our rock and roll, fast-turnaround shows.
Senior technician, Cressy Klaces, agrees with Hennigan: “The Ghiblis are easy to use, have good colours and great colour mixing, and the dimmer curve is just brilliant. They are extremely diverse tools you can do so many interesting things with them in a way that was not possible with the other contenders in the shootout.
The shutters are superb there are very few times when I can’t position them precisely where I want and the rotating gobos interact amazingly with the animation wheel. The animation wheel brings great subtlety and adds texture and depth I’ve been able to create beautiful water effects with them with an almost imperceptible, slightly shifting ripple that works beautifully on the dark floor of the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
“The Ghiblis are ideal for us as they can go from a rock concert to a kid’s concert to a dance show to theatre with ease. They have a very good quality of light and a zoom which covers all our needs. It’s a good concert light that can also do theatre, and I really love them. I’d be very happy if someone gave me a load of those to tour with because I’d have all the tools in one package.”
In addition to the Ghibli investment, 6 Ayrton Diablo were purchased for Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room. “Diablo is like a smaller version of the Ghibli with all the features,” says Klaces.
“Other than the lack of the second gobo wheel, they are just as versatile as Ghibli, and so bright we are considering moving them to the Queen Elizabeth Hall. It is such a compact unit, it is perfect for any studio like the Purcell Room – they are so strong a fixture they could handle either space easily.”
“I’ve been utterly and thoroughly impressed with the reliability of the new Ayrton lights,” concludes Hennigan. Like many venues, the Southbank Centre is currently closed but continues to prepare for a future with the latest, most versatile equipment, and plans to reopen in the Spring of 2021.
Ayrton Ghibli is a 23,000 lumen, 600W LED profile with a beam range of 7°-56°. The first Ayrton spot luminaire with a 100% framing system, Ghibli is packed full of features for unlimited creative possibilities without any compromise on quality or output.
Ayrton Diablo is a 19,000 lumen, 300W little brother to Ghibli. With a 7°-53° beam range and a full set of features, it can almost rival its bigger sibling toe to toe!
For more information on Ayrton Ghibli and Diablo, and its full range of LED lighting fix-tures, visit the Ayrton website