Derelict Brighton West Pier Transformed by Light
Event in a Nutshell
Always ready to take on a challenge DPL Production Lighting was part of a team of event professionals who, in 2002, provided a temporary architectural / building lighting design system for Brighton’s derelict West Pier to showcase the Brighton Comedy Festival. A derelict, flimsy structure, no way of running any signal cables and compulsory wearing of life jackets saw a real challenge become a complete success.
Before the Crowds Arrived – Building Lighting Design
The pier had been closed since 1975 so DPL, in conjunction, with Laser Grafix, worked closely with a structural engineer from the West Pier Trust who was able to advice on the state of the structure. Equipment could only be rigged in very specific places, and the floor beneath the luminaires at all these points had to first be strengthened with spreader boards.
DPL Production Lighting decided to use 16 Studio Due City Colors due to their power and weather-resistance;
- X 4 placed around the perimeter of the Ballroom
- X 4 placed inside the Ballroom shell, pointing outwards
- X 4 placed at the front of the building, some at the side of the structure and some on the new metal walkway running between the shore and the Pavilion
- X 4 placed on the last inches of the Ballroom section decking, beaming back towards the Pavilion end building, which appears ghostlike against the background
- X 5 Space Flowers were positioned on sections of walkway between the two pier buildings, and between the shore and the Ballroom to twist, twirl and shoot beams into the night sky
- X 16 metal halide fixtures illuminated the pier’s grimy, corroded underbelly
- DPL Production Lighting custom-built several IP44-rated DMX switching racks to enable the switching of large inductive loads.
As running signal cables to the pier was completely impractical, DPL used an Art-Net radio system was to broadcast DMX to the various lighting points used, with the transmitter sitting by the Jands Hog lighting desk sited in the ticket booth, on the esplanade. For power, they tailed in to the Pier’s own 100 amp three-phase, which they had upgraded from 63 amps for the project.
Access was a serious challenge as the 24-hour build up started at 5 a.m. and was timed to coincide with the tides. The lighting equipment on the exterior of the ballroom and the walkways had to be lifted into position by a 37-meter reach Unimob vehicle – a cherry picker capable of operating in up to 2.5 metres of water.
Health & safety
The project was also galvanizing in terms of health and safety. With several tonnes of equipment being installed on the flimsy structure, the DPL Production Lighting crew had to be aware of safety implications at all times, and the company had to double it’s public liability insurance. When working on the pier, the DPL crew had to wear lifejackets, high visibility clothing, hard hats and harnesses when maintaining any of the lights on the outer reaches.
Pigeon excrement meant gloves had to be worn at all times during load in, and the lighting equipment did not escape the relentless onslaught either, needing a jet wash and disinfecting after the de-rig.
Every day for two weeks between 6-12pm the pier’s elegant but rotting architecture came to life in electric blue. DPL were contracted by Laser Grafix, in turn working for a conceptual design team from Amber Media. All involved in the project, including the sponsor Paramount Comedy Channel were delighted with the impact of the lighting scheme, as were local residents.
Darren Parker, Managing Director: “This was a real test of both our logistical and technical abilities. We knew our skills and equipment were up to the challenge and it was good working alongside other professional contractors. This building lighting design was a success and since the pier has now been demolished it was a real once in a lifetime experience.”
Richard Hawkins, Laser Grafix: “DPL have been absolutely brilliant. Their attention to detail and lateral thinking is excellent, and it’s been a pleasure to work with Darren and the team.”