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GDS Waltzes into Sadler's Wells with Largest ArcSystem yet

GDS Waltzes into Sadler\'s Wells with Largest ArcSystem yet
GDS Waltzes into Sadler\'s Wells with Largest ArcSystem yet

UK – Sadler's Wells Theatre is synonymous with dance in the UK and its name is famous the world over. The present day Grade 2 Listed theatre is the sixth on the site at Rosebery Avenue, Clerkenwell in the London Borough of Islington and is part of a history that stretches back to 1683. The current incarnation opened in 1998, one of the first projects to receive funding from the National Lottery. Home to award-winning and ground-breaking productions, Sadler's Wells stages a richly diverse range of national and international collaborations. In 2013 Sadler's Wells embarked on a comprehensive upgrading of its infrastructure and technology, to improve both front of house and backstage environments in its 1568-seater main auditorium. Renowned theatre consultant Roger Spence was placed in charge of the project and engaged a team comprising designer Graham Large of Chapman BDSP, integrators Stage Electrics and award-winning lighting manufacturers GDS. Roger and Graham had collaborated on the 1998 rebuilding of Sadler's Wells some ten years earlier, so this was very much a case of placing new technology into trusted hands.

GDS was invited to supply a comprehensive, low-energy, LED house-lighting system to cater for virtually every functional and architectural demand. This was to include everything from panel lighting at the front of the circle, to row-end markers, emergency lighting, emergency exit signs, cleaners and house lights. In the initial stages of the project GDS worked closely with all parties on exhaustive preparatory work. This proved to absolutely key to the successful outcome. The all-encompassing nature of the brief combined with a narrow window of opportunity for the installers meant that assistance with layouts in every location was crucial. A theatre such as Sadler's Wells cannot afford the luxury of extended periods of closure and so there was a six-week window during which time all works had to be completed. The wider upgrading of the theatre meant that other contractors would be working on different projects at the same time, increasing the pressure to be as swift and efficient as possible.

GDS's ArcSystem was used throughout the project. To date, the largest and most sophisticated ArcSystem ever installed, it used virtually every type of fitting available from the ArcSystem Decor and Pro ranges, including MR16s as well as single- 2- and 4-cell fixtures. Integrators Stage Electrics worked in careful consultation with GDS at every stage to ensure that the project ran smoothly in exacting circumstances. Both wired and wireless fixtures were utilised and a number of products were customised to best suit the demands of the brief. A particular strength of GDS is the ability to modify existing items and create bespoke solutions. Examples at Sadler's Wells included custom 2W row-end markers, modifications to the circle-front panel lighting, as well as upgrading existing emergency exit signs by converting to 24V DC LEDs. It is worth recording that a total in excess of 570 fixtures were used throughout the project. The reaction of all stakeholders to the quality of the lighting achieved was hugely positive, to the extent that a number of fixtures included in the original system design were deemed unnecessary.

Christian Wallace, technical manager at Sadler's Wells gave his impressions of the project: "Once the decision had been made to upgrade the house lights at Sadler's Wells, we explored all the possibilities and following a meeting with GDS at PLASA back in 2011, settled on ArcSystem as the way forward. We were so impressed with the dimming capability and the colour temperatures that it was an easy call to make and one that has been very much vindicated by the finished project. Working closely with Graham Large, Roger and GDS, we evolved a system design that included pretty much every type of fixture available! During the project GDS developed a number of bespoke solutions – the panel lighting on the circle fronts, which prior to the refit had been a headache, was a particularly noteworthy example of their ingenuity. The end results, both functionally and aesthetically are superb and were achieved within the allocated time-frame to our great satisfaction."

Project director Roger Spence noted: "I have been very impressed with GDS, particularly with their imaginative and proactive approach to some of the more difficult challenges we have presented them with."

27th March 2015

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