Using lighting to create enchanting event in the off-season.
Recent years have seen significant growth in outdoor lighting and sound events. These temporary installations are often found at stately homes, botanical gardens, forests and woodlands. Generally, these Son et lumière (sound and light) events run from the Autumn and into Christmas. The shorter days obviously being better suited to this kind of outdoor event, and an ideal way to help a venue increase visitor numbers outside of the peak trading period of the summer.
Technology within the lighting, audio and video industry is constantly evolving, and is something we’re always keeping a close eye on. LED lighting is very much commonplace these days. The main benefits include reduced power consumption, lower heat output and minimised light pollution, as light output from LEDs is directional. These characteristics all help play an important part when designing a lighting plot for an outdoor event. We still use incandescent lights and discharge lamps as I truly believe that these can provide an effect unachievable with LED. There is a place side by side for both styles of lighting.
Bluetooth and wireless technology provides us with ways to create interactive installations within an outdoor environment. This coupled with LED and video technology means we are looking forward to trying some new concepts in the coming year.
Less is more
Sometimes less is more. If you’re working on a tight budget it’s possible to create a magical and enchanting atmosphere with just a few high-powered coloured lights on some large specimen trees or impressive buildings. The moment moving lights are added into the design the cost does start to increase, and financially it takes it up another level. At one event we found a very cost-effective lighting solution was to install a pea light canopy suspended from the trees, just above peoples’ heads which then fell to the ground either side of a woodland path, effectively creating a tunnel of lights. The children loved it, and it turned out to be one of the most popular photo opportunities during the entire event.
I strongly believe in holding something back each year. Don’t illuminate every building, monument, sculpture or your entire wood/forest. Keep some area unused for another year. Likewise, don’t use every tool in your toolbox. You want to keep visitors returning year after year to see something new.
Whenever we undertake an outdoor lighting project that runs over a couple of weeks or more we need to ensure that any kit we set up must deal with the good old British weather, not to mention thousands of people walking past and the occasional uninvited curiosity of the local wildlife. The use of inflatable domes helps protect our stock of moving heads. The lighting choices need to be both reliable as well as producing a spectacular show. Over the years we’ve learnt to be reactive to the ever-changing outdoor environment.
As a company we’re looking forward to 2019. No doubt, just like any year it will have its challenges. With a wide selection of lighting and power jobs to complete including music concerts, food festivals and illuminated woodlands etc. we are well placed to deliver our clients’ visions with our team of experts in power distribution, lighting design and audio.
Case Study 1 – Magical Woodland, Cheshire Falconry
Magical Woodland is a new event we’ve been involved with this year held in central Cheshire over a two-week period covering the autumn half term. We collaborated with the land owner to make ‘the woods come alive’. The wood is predominantly made up of deciduous species of tree, which are relatively young.- mainly birch with a few good sized oak trees scattered around. There could be no better time of year than the Autumn half term to illuminate this wood. The autumn colours were fantastic and were enhanced by our choice of coloured lights.
We created depth by positioning moving and colour changing lights deep into the wood, away from the marked paths. This not only created interest but prevented black spots within the wood. We didn’t want people to feel frightened by being in what would normally be a very dark place at night. Therefore, we made sure the route was illuminated so that they never actually saw the unused, unlit parts of the wood. A well illuminated food court was in the centre of the wood, and from here you could branch out to the various zones.
The Rainforest ‘zone’ was the main moving light and sound show this year. The topography of the wood really worked to our advantage as the Rainforest was set in the bottom of the largest natural ‘bowl’. The bowl will be used again next year and we’ve got some fantastic ideas for that area.
The laser show was popular over the lake, but again next year we’ve got plans to move things up a notch and run with something a little different, perhaps involving projection mapping. The lasers will stay in the show, but with 15 acres of wood to play with we’ve got plenty of other places for them to be positioned.
On average people were staying in the woodland for about an hour. We did allow people to go around more than once if they wanted, and some people were in the wood for three hours. Ticket prices for an event like this are £17-£20 for an adult, and a child (3-15 years) £7-£10, with under 3s free.
Case Study 2 – Santa Safari, Hawkstone Park
Some woodlands and parks lend themselves more to winter lighting than others. An annual lighting job we undertake is the illumination of an historic ‘woodland fantasy’ with cliffs, crags, caves, deep woods and a series of extraordinary monuments built over 200 years ago.
We start on site in early November when we install a temporary power network within the cave system. This allows the team at the park to start the build process of turning the caves into Santa’s Grotto. We then arrive back on site in late November to install the lighting. It’s a truly awesome venue, and very difficult to light within budget. Everywhere you turn there are huge specimen trees to illuminate and exposed rock faces.
This event has always been about visiting Santa in his grotto, but the lighting side was added in about nine years ago. Back then visitors had to walk from the car park to the visitor’s centre before taking a Land Rover through the gravel tracks of the estate to the grotto. Originally the lighting was installed to be functional but decorative. Feedback was so positive regarding the lighting that it was decided to do more for the next few years. Five years ago, the route changed and there was no need to illuminate the woods so people could see to walk. Instead we were lighting areas of the park and woodland that would be seen from the window of a Land Rover about 200–300m away.
I’m pleased to say we are now back on the original route once again and visitors get the chance to walk alongside the illuminated trees and rock faces. The area outside the caves is also illuminated, and we know it’s well received by the amount of people taking photos. It’s important to create these areas so social media photo opportunities are abundant to extend your marketing reach for free, i.e. get the public to do it for you!
The event is now not just about going to see Santa in his grotto. It’s a whole magical experience of enchantment – with coloured lights, off road driving, an illuminated wishing bridge, illuminated umbrellas suspended in the air, real reindeer, and Santa tucked away deep in his grotto. There’s nothing else quite like it out there. For a family of four prices vary between £69 and £80. The cheaper price is based on a trip during daylight hours. The more expensive cost is for twilight/dark when the lighting can be seen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Richard Warriner is a director of Event Equipment Ltd. Established in 1997, this Cheshire based family business supplies lighting and power distribution as well as staging, bars, dance floors, heaters and furniture to events of all types and sizes.
Priding itself on keeping atop of new trends it also loves the classic and traditional. Event Equipment is excited when a client has new ideas but is also able to provide guidance on what might be needed, drawing on over 20 years’ experience working with some of the country’s most beautiful and forward thinking venues. www.eventequipmentltd.co.uk