Lighting Designer and Technician at Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society and Edinburgh Art Festival
I’m a professional lighting designer and technician, I’ve worked for the Festival Fringe and the Art Festival for many years, supplying technical support and lighting for exhibitions, music events and theatre shows.
I work out what equipment to use, and what the overall lighting picture will look like in a show, or with exhibitions, how the artwork will be presented to the audience using the lights.
With exhibition work I also have to measure how much light the artwork is being exposed to, because some things can be damaged by too much light, so we have to keep them in low light conditions.
What do you enjoy most about working for the festivals?
I really enjoy the sense of excitement that comes to the city during the festivals. The feeling of lots of wondrous things happening all around us, that buzz you get in the air.
I also really enjoy problem solving within my job and festival work throws a lot of those my way! We build entire venues from scratch, and we have to make that happen with limited time and a lot of creative thinking. I enjoy that too. All manner of things have cropped up over the years, which we’ve had to deal with.
What is your favourite festival memory?
There’s been so many wonderful moments that have blurred together over the years, it was a puzzle in itself to try and separate them from each other. What stands out is winning a Fringe First award with the Grassmarket Project Theatre Company, and then again with David Benson, back in the 90s. And lighting Monster Chetwynd’s performance piece (The King Must Die) at the old Royal High School in 2015 as part of the Art Festival. That was a really interesting project, a lot of challenges to bring lights in and set it up from scratch – it was quite a striking thing by the time we finished.
What makes you proud to be a Festival City citizen?
I started work for the festivals about twenty-five years ago, in one capacity or another, starting off as a technician then working as a lighting designer.
I’m proud that the city has become such a world-famous centre for arts and culture. People come here from all over the world, and they talk about Edinburgh in other parts of the world when you say you’re from here.
It makes the damage done by this pandemic all the more painful. So much of the technical support for the festivals is supplied by self-employed people, whose government support runs out in August. For a lot of technicians their whole working year is skewed towards the summer. If that’s taken away, which it has been, then they could end up in real financial trouble. There’s going to be a big hole in people’s cultural lives, but there’ll also be a big hole in technicians’ pockets. The last few years it feels like more and more people have been forced into becoming freelancers rather than employees, in some aspects of work that’s fine, for instance I work for multiple different arts organisations, but others have to freelance again and again for the same company, and they should really be employees and given the support that comes with that status. It would be great to see freelancers get more rights as employees in the future.