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GDS kits out Liverpool Everyman

Andrew Brister 27 August 2014
GDS kits out Liverpool Everyman

ArcSystem, BluesSystem and SM Console the choices of RIBA award-winning Liverpool Everyman, as first GDS full-system theatre goes live.

It would be practically impossible to overstate the importance of the Everyman Theatre to the city of Liverpool. To list the names of those whose careers are synonymous with it would be to compile a who’s who of artistic giants, their ground-breaking work deeply embedded in the national psyche, their place at the top table of British cultural history assured.

In the early 1960s a group of artists, poets, writers and musicians who met at the then Hope Hall Cinema, decided that the building would make a good theatre and in 1964 the Everyman was born. Closed in 1975 for rebuilding, it reopened in 1977 and there followed 34 years that shaped the careers of Willy Russell, Alan Bleasdale, Julie Walters, Bernard Hill and Pete Postlethwaite to name just a handful.

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In 2011, the Everyman closed its doors again for a £28 million redevelopment, funded for the most part by Arts Council England and The European Development fund. Architect Haworth Tompkins was responsible for the design of the new Everyman. Shortly after its reopening this year, the project won a highly-prized RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) award for North-West Region

Building of the Year and was subsequently placed on a shortlist of six for the national award. By combining thermally massive construction with a series of natural ventilation and low energy systems, the building has achieved a BREEAM Excellent Rating (BREEAM being the world’s foremost environmental assessment method and rating system for buildings).

The 400-seater Everyman will act as a creative hub for the city. It boasts a dedicated youth and community space to house the theatre’s extensive and growing work with schools and community groups, as well as rehearsal space and production workshops. Housed in an award-winning, exciting, state-of-the-art building, the future of the Everyman looks well set to match its rich heritage.

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Central to the redevelopment of the theatre was the appointment of theatre consultant Charcoalblue whose reputation for innovation complemented the vision of the architect and the wishes of the Everyman’s own creative team. The low energy approach was key to the overall environmental picture, none more so than the provision for lighting and it was here that GDS entered the frame.

The brief demanded the most stringently efficient use of energy in what was to become a ‘densely inhabited urban building.’ House lights, emergency lights and BluesSystem back stage working lights were all to be supplied by GDS and when the Everyman team further specified the employment of a GDS SMConsole (Stage Manager’s Console) and CueLight System, the first GDS full system theatre was created.

GDS ArcSystem was used for the house lights and emergency lighting throughout. Wirelessly controlled using GDS’ ArcMesh protocol, these highly efficient LEDs are fully dimmable from 0-100%. Surface or recess mounted, single or multi-cellular and with optics offering a range of beam angles, they are convection cooled and run silently. In the Everyman Theatre more than 170 ArcSystem fixtures were installed. GDS BluesSystem was used in all working areas. This system is mounted directly onto electrical conduit and in excess of 100 Blue Beam and Blue Dome fixtures were put in place.

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The GDS SM console can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the stage manager in a given environment. In the case of the Everyman Theatre, a change of plan meant that the original specifications for the console were re-thought but the bespoke nature of the product meant that the necessary changes could be made during its production to ensure it still offered an optimum facility.

“When the initial house lighting scheme for the new Everyman was designed, we had resigned ourselves to using tungsten fittings but as the Everyman theatre is naturally ventilated and designed to achieve ‘BREEAM Excellent’, we were keen to explore a suitable LED alternative,” said Ian Stickland of Charcoal Blue Theatre Consultants. “With the development of the ArcSystem we were able to offer the client a low energy system that met their exacting standards for flexibility, dimming and colour temperature.  We arranged for GDS to demonstrate the installation at Bristol Old Vic to the architect and artistic director. They were suitably convinced and so the entire house and work lighting scheme was changed for the Arc fittings,” he said.

“The key to the success of the Everyman auditorium is its ability to maintain the familiar warmth and charm of the old theatre in a sustainable, flexible way and the use of the GDS ArcSystem is an important factor in achieving this,” said Stickland.

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Kay Haynes, head of lighting at the Everyman, added:  “The new Everyman has sustainability at its heart so it was important to find a lighting solution that could deliver that, whilst not compromising on the quality, and GDS more than fulfilled those requirements. The lighting is very efficient and reliable and the colour temperature for LEDs is great. We have also found the BluesSystem to be excellent and it rarely needs to run at ‘full’ because of the brightness it delivers.

“The system gives us superb flexibility – it is adaptable for the full range of stage configurations that the new auditorium can accommodate and has great wireless control. There is the capacity to access the whole GDS system from a laptop. I can be at any position in the auditorium and set minimum and maximum levels and can flash certain channels to identify where they are and if they are working. All the house-lights and blues circuits can be controlled by the lighting console for use during shows, which allowed us to create a Mexican wave effect during the celebratory opening production,” said Haynes.

Photos: Philip Vile

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