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Islington Town Hall gets 80th birthday makeover

Council’s Assembly Rooms get major refurbishment that opens up the building as a venue for stage shows and concerts as well as council meetings

Islington Town Hall is a famous icon of local government in this affluent part of north London. To celebrate its 80th anniversary, Islington Council has transformed its disused Assembly Room with a top-to-toe refurbishment, including the installation of an all-singing, all-dancing audiovisual system.

The hall’s largest function room has languished as a furniture store since the 1980s. Some forward thinking at the Council, matched with the building’s impending 80th anniversary, led to an extensive restoration programme and the creation of a new community resource.

The 400-capacity, theatre-style assembly hall has a proscenium arch stage and a capacious balcony, lending the venue to any number of different uses, from council meetings and dinner dances to stage shows and concerts. Indeed, part of the fiscal logic for the refurbishment was that large council meetings would no longer have to hire external facilities.

Integrator Tyco has designed and installed an all-encompassing audio and video system, including a wireless Bosch conferencing system, integrated and controlled by a single Crestron TPSI controller, a Cat5e network and induction loop, and a full Electro-Voice XLE line-array PA system with NetMax processing and CPS Series amplifiers.

Amazingly, this installation has no audio mixing desks as such, and not a single experienced audio technician. “It’s the largest AV set-up in the Town Hall, but it’s also the easiest,” explains Islington Council’s facilities manager Gareth Jenkins. “The presets on the Crestron unit have allowed the system to be simplified. You literally press a button for ‘wedding’ or ‘conference’, and the lights and audio come on at pre-set levels. Should we need it, we can plug a mixing console into the stagebox in the hall. ”

The line array system has to cope with two challenges. Firstly that, with its sprung ballroom dancefloor, the Assembly Hall has a highly reverberant acoustic. Secondly, the historic building is listed and its interior décor cannot be altered. Cleverly, the Tyco engineers have hidden stageboxes and cables behind real and fake wood panelling. “We didn’t want clients bringing in their own PA set-ups,” says Jenkins, “so we had to choose a system that would meet everybody’s requirements now and in the foreseeable future.”

Using Bosch’s LAPS software, av distributor Shuttlesound’s installation consultant John Ellis calculated the number and placement of loudspeaker modules, selecting left and right arrays of six XLE181 cabinets either side of the stage. “This enabled the sound to reach all the way to the back of the balcony as well as under the balcony, so there was no need for infills or delays. The result is great clarity even at really low volumes, and now the hall is suitable to be rented out for band and orchestra concerts.”

Gareth Jenkins reports very positive feedback from Islington’s councillors, who feel this is money well spent, and that plans are already underway to hire the hall out commercially, which will produce an attractive return on the borough’s investment.