In Memoriam: Alistair Grant (1963 - 2019)
Monday, 25 November 2019
ali-grantAlistair Grant © Paul Tucker/Charcoalblue
UK - It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Alistair Grant, the much-loved UK lighting designer and production electrician, who died peacefully at home on 4 November 2019 after a battle with motor neurone disease.
Born in Dublin and raised in Belfast, Alistair came to London to join the National Youth Theatre, then trained at LAMDA and took his first professional role with Theatre Projects. This marked the start of a remarkable career which involved him in over 200 UK and international productions.
Known to all as Ali Barrel, his inate skill and professionalism was matched by his warmth and generosity. Don Holder remembers him as “a great and immensely loyal friend, a brilliant colleague and sensitive collaborator,” and Jeanne Koenig as “an inspired person, an inspiring person, an artist, a person of brilliance, a humourist, a kind and good man.”
His long-term colleague, Andrew Bridge, describes him as “a colleague who was calm, dedicated, knowledgeable, optimistic and persistent, who had a talent for getting the best out of designers and crews.” Meanwhile, Ken Posner remembers him “as one of the most caring, generous, and thoughtful human beings and theatre professionals I have ever known.”
As production electrician, Alistair Grant was at the heart of many iconic musical productions and tours of the ‘80s, ‘90s and naughties, including Time, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and Miss Saigon, Sunset Boulevard and the 1999 debut of Mamma Mia!. He then transferred his considerable skills to lighting design, creating the lighting for West End productions of Jailhouse Rock and Romance, Romance while also filling the role of lighting consultant to theatres ranging from the Gieldgud to Chickenshed.
In later years he was associate LD for many Broadway transfers to the West End, working with lighting designers Ken Posner, Natasha Katz, Don Holder and Howell Binkley amongst others, on shows that included Sister Act, Wicked, Jersey Boys and the London production of The Lion King - for which he joined the 20th anniversary celebrations only weeks before he passed away. He was also an associate consultant for Charcoalblue.
Alistair Grant’s love for the industry was eclipsed only by that for his family of whom he was immensely proud: his wife Katrina, whom he met while ‘doing Time’, and his two sons, Barnaby and Harvey.

Tributes to Alistair Grant

“I first met Alistair in 1988 when he had just left Theatre Projects - Rental Division to pursue a freelance career. With his cheeky smile, dry wit and easy going attitude, and also both of us coming from Northern Ireland, we hit it off straight away and became friends for life. Looking across the living room now, there is a great shot of him and Katrina at a group photo taken at our wedding in 1997.
“As his career progressed to become one of the West End’s top Production Electricians, I worked with him on some of the most iconic productions - Sunset Boulevard, Mamma Mia! and Five Guys Named Moe to name a few. He then took a conscious decision to move from production electrician to lighting designer and also became an associate LD for some of Andrew Bridge’s designs and many Broadway transfers, working with designers like Don Holder, (Lion King) Natasha Katz (Motown), Ken Posner (Kinky Boots), Howell Binkley (Jersey Boys) to name just a few. He also worked on many Raymond Gubbay operas at the Royal Albert Hall for lighting designer Andy Bridge over a period that spanned almost twenty years. During this time he designed for shows in his own right - Jailhouse Rock at the Piccadilly comes to mind amongst others - along with many plays he lit throughout the UK, including venues like Derby Playhouse.
“Ali, as you look down on us from above, I will always remember the many social scrapes and bumps we managed to come through together with a laugh and a smile. Thanks for the many memories. I will never forget you, rest in peace me old mucker!” Peter Marshall, PRG

“Alistair Grant (Ali Barrel) was a hidden spark in the world of lighting design. A colleague who was calm, dedicated, knowledgeable, optimistic and persistent, who had a talent for getting the best out of designers and crews.
“We worked together on many shows in the 80’s including the infamous Time where he spent much time ‘perfecting the followspots’ (i.e. meeting Katrina). He collaborated for 15 years with operas at the Royal Albert Hall, cheerfully getting wet in the Madam Butterfly flooded arena and not so cheerful getting very wet in the rain at the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games.
“We survived together on many challenging productions, Saturday Night Fever, Oliver, Sunset Boulevard, Moby Dick, Phantom, Five Guys and even Cliff Richard's Heathcliff, to name a few.
“He was always cheerful with such a professional calming influence in all things lighting. Theatre lighting has lost a very bright light in Ali, but his after glow will last a long time. Farewell friend.” Andrew Bridge, lighting designer

“I’ve been fortunate to have known and worked with Alistair for almost 20 years. Most of this has been on productions of The Lion King in the UK and beyond, but there have been other opportunities as well, quite recently Oslo at the National Theatre and in the West End. He was a great and immensely loyal friend, a brilliant colleague and sensitive collaborator. The quality of his work and his knowledge about the art and craft of lighting design was incomparable. Ali left us way too soon, with a huge void in our hearts. I’ll always remember his impish smile, keen intellect, compassion and grace. He was a calming influence and voice of reason even in the most difficult situations, a great storyteller, articulate speaker, and just plain fun to be with in any setting. Words can’t describe the profound love and respect held for Alistair in what was a vast community of industry colleagues and friends. The sense of loss for all of us is profound, but I know the memory of this extraordinary man will live on with the people he loved, nurtured, and worked with. We will miss him very, very much.” Don Holder, lighting designer

“It was my great fortune to know and work with Alastair. Ali and I met nearly 20 years ago on Hairspray. His kindness, great talent, and infectious sense of humour are some of the traits that he brought to the productions we worked on together. I think of Ali often and will always remember him as one of the most caring, generous, and thoughtful human beings and theatre professionals I have ever known. Ali was light.” Ken Posner, lighting designer

“Alistair Grant joined the Lion King Worldwide creative team in 1999 as the UK associate. His role went beyond lighting paperwork and implementation he also was our diplomat. With characteristic calm, charm, professionalism and a humorous twinkle in his eye he would explain that England and America are two countries separated by a common tongue. He would then orchestrate healthy relations between the American creative team and our British counterparts. With care, curiosity and passion for lighting he would make us see the very best in one another and that we were all working toward the same goal. One of many ways I will continue to celebrate Ali’s impact on the West End and on my heart is in recognising twenty years, and counting, of curtain calls at the Lyceum Theatre, standing ovations night after night. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to celebrate that achievement with Alistair and Katrina Grant and all the incredible lighting UK talent on 20 October 2019. Thank you, Alistair, for a job well done. We are blessed to have known an inspired person, an inspiring person, an artist, a person of brilliance, a humourist, a kind and good man. I hold your love and memory in my heart.” Jeanne Koenig, lighting designer

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