My Light Shines On in Edinburgh with Robe
Friday, 21 August 2020
robe-my-light-shines-on-edinburgh-calton-hill-lig072221230The signature sites included Calton Hill
UK - My Light Shines On was a large-scale light art installation designed by Kate Bonney and Simon Hayes from Lightworks, commissioned by the Edinburgh International Festival, to mark what would have been the opening weekend of Edinburgh’s 2020 Festival Season.
Celebrating the spirit, energy, vibe and imagination of the Festival - with a multi-disciplinary programme and was cancelled for the first time in seven decades due to the coronavirus pandemic - 14 separate lighting installations around the city highlighted some of the most famous venues of Edinburgh’s festivals in August.
Two hundred and seventeen Robe iPointes were selected by the artists as core components to My Light Shines On.
Four signature sites - Edinburgh Castle, Calton Hill, Bristo Square and Charlotte Square - all featured identical circular iPointe installations, with 36 fixtures arranged on decking in two concentric rings, 12 units on the inner ring and 24 on the outer.
Lighting designers Kate Bonney and Simon Hayes were inspired by the tradition of ghost lights, a single light that is always left illuminated in theatres. It is a symbol that, though the stage is empty for now, the building will be filled with laughter, tears and applause once again.
These four, plus three other beacons - on the top of the Festival Theatre (35 x iPointes arranged in two rows), nine iPointes on the Queen’s Hall and another collection of moving lights on the Usher Hall - were the seven largest and most visible elements of My Light Shines On.
The full work also included lighting of stage doors with festoons and collections of ‘ghost lights’ running in theatre foyers with around 284 LED fixtures deployed.
Fourteen sites that normally would be buzzing with activity and creativity were celebrated in this uplifting visual masterpiece.
Coordinating amassing and displaying all the lighting equipment was Edinburgh International Festival’s head of lighting Dan Quayle, working closely with Calder Sibbald and James Gow of Edinburgh-based rental company Black Light, while John Robb, the International Festival’s head of technical oversaw the whole operation including planning, logistics and crew, ensuring that everything was delivered to the full COVID-19 compliance requirements.
Edinburgh International Festival approached Edinburgh-based Simon and Kate - who have worked together as Lightworks since 2013 - with a list of sites that they wanted to include in the design.
“Their basic brief was that the design had to have impact and also represent each of the city’s different August festivals in addition to being an exciting city-wide spectacle of light,” explained Kate.
“Capturing the mood of the moment was a delicate and demanding task. It was essentially a celebration, but at a very sensitive time … and a time when live entertainment is one of the sectors that is completely halted by the pandemic.”
“Plotting the lighting choreography for the beacons was also a challenge,” elucidated Simon. “[We are] looking forward to a time when live performances and the Festival will return to engage, entertain end enthral audiences.”
In addition to Edinburgh Castle’s 36 x beacon iPointes, another 17 fixtures were ensconced on the castle battlements, run via a wireless DMX connection sent to a receiver at the base stage below on the Esplanade. The WIFI at Calton Hill was also provided from the Castle’s wired internet connection as there was a direct line-of-sight between the city’s two high points.
The beacon lights were programmed and run on grandMA consoles - with nine dotted around the sites, all independently running to the same timecoded showfile. All the sites had internet access and were networked, so any updates from ‘base’ control at the Castle could be sent to all control consoles simultaneously, which was very time efficient and enabled updates to be sent to all sites from anywhere via Neil's laptop or phone.
In addition to the 265 moving lights used for the My Light Shines On beacons, another 480 generic and LED luminaires were used across all the sites to highlight some related monuments and structures and environmental detail like the trees in Charlotte Square. Additional architectural lighting was provided for the National Monument of Scotland on Calton Hill and the Castle had its standard permanent installation enhanced along with that of the other venues.
Several local companies worked on the project including Black Light and Direct Control who dealt with all the power and distro. Black Light also collaborated with Hawthorn, one of the main Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe suppliers.
(Jim Evans)

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