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Stage Electrics applies its knowledge to the Library of Birmingham

Stage Electrics installs lighting and AV equipment at Library’s 300-seat Studio Theatre.

The breath-taking architecture and spectacular facilities of the new Library of Birmingham form a major part of Birmingham City Council’s ‘Big City Plan’ to regenerate the city centre and draw people to Birmingham from the wider world. Sited in Birmingham’s Centenary Square, the library has been designed as a major cultural destination and sets a new standard for libraries in the 21st century.

Described by Francine Houben of Mecanoo, its Belgian-based architects, as a ‘people’s palace’, the Library is joined to the existing Birmingham Repertory Theatre, with which it shares a common entrance and foyer, café and restaurant facilities and a new flexible 300-seat Studio Theatre. The Studio is a flexible venue which caters for a prolific and wide-ranging program of productions, events, functions, exhibitions and community activities. It is used by both organisations and significantly expands the range and quantity of work Birmingham Rep can produce and present.

Stage Electrics was appointed by Carillion Construction to work alongside theatre consultants Charcoalblue as the systems integrator for the Studio Theatre within the massive £188.8 million project, and was responsible for transforming the conceptual design agreed with the client into an efficient working solution. As part of the process, Stage Electrics installed and commissioned a full complement of communications, lighting, audio and video systems, taking into account the Studio’s multi-function role.

Within the Studio, the auditorium is served by a bank of retractable seating and a seating pit. The technical control room accommodating stage management and stage lighting and audiovisual operators is located behind the seating at mezzanine level.

A Slingco tension wire grid extends over the Studio, providing a safe access floor for stage lighting and scenery rigging, while stage lighting bars and audio equipment can be rigged in any position above the grid thanks to the distribution of customised facilities panels.

Sound and communications

Stage Electrics delivered the Studio’s full communications package which includes live and presentation audio, video distribution and relay, wired and wireless telex communications, as well as a GDS cue light system and stage management console. The Stage Electrics team, led by Chris Brant, was responsible for integrating these systems with the building-wide Bosch show relay and paging system provided by electrical contractor Emcor.

Stage Electrics also installed an FM-based assisted listening system and a comprehensive multi-zone, phased array loop system for the hard of hearing. The latter was customised to meet the challenges presented by the retractable seating and necessitated a high level of coordination with seating contractor Hussey to successfully achieve the optimal working levels.

All loose equipment for performance sound, including loudspeakers, processing and amplifiers and mixing solutions, portable effects, cabling and playback solutions, were supplied by Stage Electrics to a very high specification. The system was based around a Digico SD8 mixing desk with various rack options running through a Yamaha DSP processor and feeding Lab Gruppen amplification with an EM Acoustics loudspeaker system.


Charcoalblue has designed a flexible lighting scheme. A system of moveable, internally-wired ladder bars, manufactured by Stage Electrics, are attached to the vertical struts which support the tension wire grid and can be moved to any position required. Doughty Engineering provided Stage Electrics with a number of boom arms which can be inserted into Unistrut channels embedded in the Studio’s wooden walls to create further rigging points.

Charcoalblue chose an ETC solution as the best-suited and most robust system for the demanding, multi-purpose venue. A combination of ETC Source Four profiles and Selecon Rama Fresnels, plus an ETC Ion control console and all loose cabling were among the equipment provided by Stage Electrics. Four 96-way ETC Sensor dimmers give 360-ways of 2.5kW and 5kW dimmable and non-dimming circuits. These and a stage lighting equipment rack housing the work light control system are installed in the dimmer room located in the main plant room above the Studio. At the tension wire grid level, a second stage lighting equipment rack houses DMX and Ethernet distribution systems.


DMX and Ethernet distribution is based on a standard network of Swisson’s RDM-compatible DMX distribution, and a combination of ETC Net3 rack-mounted and portable nodes for Ethernet distribution. These allow the stage lighting system to control work lights and houselights as required.

House and working lights are controlled by an ETC Paradigm system with a combination of portable and fixed touchscreen and local control panels distributed throughout the Studio and ancillary areas.