The book exists because of (and treats as its central hub) Optikinetics
UK – Kevin Foakes’ Wheels of Light: Designs for British Light Shows 1970-1990, shines a powerful light on a remarkable period of entertainment history.
The book exists because of (and treats as its central hub) Optikinetics - the UK manufacturer formed by Neil Rice and Phil Brunker in 1970 and, under the ownership of Rob Stitcher, still going strong to this day. ‘Opti’ (as it has always been known) was not the first – or by any means the only – creator and purveyor of the projection effects which characterized the era. But they were a central player: they designed and built the famed Solar 250 projector, and they are one of the few companies influencing that powerfully creative time to have survived through to the present day.
The author’s research – triggered by a modern-day DJ’s encounter with a Solar 250 projector (yes, they still make them) and Luton-based Optikinetics – has resulted in the book’s publication.
Although it predominantly focuses on the artworks themselves, the book also provides a fascinating overview of those who drove this cultural phenomenon. Those early days of effects projection, from the early 1960s and through the 70s and 80s, have been a source of fascination and inspiration for light artists and lighting designers ever since. From strobing, monochrome op-art at the Fillmore, to The Pink Floyd bathed in swirling, coloured liquid projections at the UFO Club, they were innovations that have cast many long and wonderful shadows – through disco, Punk, rave and beyond.
It features light artists such as Mark Boyle and Joan Hills, who provided light shows for The Soft Machine and Jimi Hendrix; Mike Leonard and Peter Wynne Willson for The Pink Floyd; Colin Fulcher (a.k.a. Barney Bubbles’) who would later work as a graphic designer for Elvis Costello and Ian Dury; Jack Bracelin and his Five Acre Lights; and, Jonathan Smeeton (a.k.a. ‘Liquid Len’), lighting designer for Hawkwind.
We meet Krishna Lights, run by Jimmy Doody and Keith Canadine and based in London’s Goodge Street, and see their influence on Neil Rice, a young art student captivated by the opportunities unfolding around him. Rice recalls of Krishna Lights, “There I saw a liquid wheel for the first time, as well as the new Rank Aldis Tutor 2. This was about as revolutionary at the time as LED lighting is now.”
Wheels of Light (published by Four Corners Books) is part of the Four Corners Irregulars, a series of visual histories of modern British culture.

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