E/T/C London Illuminates Burns in Glasgow

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Glasgow City Chambers became a giant 75 metre wide by 25 metre high projection surface for “Burns Illuminated”, a show specially created to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotland's most famous poet.

E/T/C London supplied projection equipment and expertise for the event, which was staged by Glasgow City Council. The artwork was produced by Ross Ashton, whose work was already known to the Council.

Burns Illuminated's project manager, John Toffolo, commissioned Ashton to create a projection show for the George Square site telling the story and massive cultural legacy of Burns' short life.

This consisted of hundreds of images, a combination of those sourced from the Mitchell Library in Glasgow (home to one of the largest collections of Burns material) and bespoke PIGI artwork created for the show by Ashton. The script was developed by researcher Ralph Richard McLean, and the extensive picture research required was undertaken by David Freckleton of Culture & Sport Glasgow.

The 15 minute looped show was accompanied by a soundscape compiled by Karen Monid, with whom Ashton worked closely. This featured a narration by Hannah Donaldson, a host of environmental sound effects and carefully selected music, all associated with Burns and his work.

It's the first time that the City Chambers has been projected onto on such a large scale. This produced some interesting technical challenges, including a war memorial sitting directly in front of it at very close proximity, along with various other statues and street furniture.

Four PIGI 6kW projectors with double rotating scrollers were chosen to optimise the projection, with two positioned close to the building at ground level and two further back and higher up. The projectors were all housed in custom constructed and fully weatherised hides. This layout enabled the central section of the building – obscured by the war memorial – to be illuminated by crossing over the beams of the closer projectors.

The PIGIs were loaded with approximately 20 metres of images which were all keystone corrected. E/T/C's powerful OnlyCue control system was operated by Karen Monid to program and run the show.

Ashton comments, “This was another amazing project to work on, and it produced some great teamwork by all involved from the conception to the physical delivery. The building features lots of fine structural details which had to be considered when producing the artwork and visualising how it would appear. We also wanted to ensure that Burns was appropriately represented, with exactly the right mix of historical information and contemporary presentation.”

Deputy Lord Provost Allan Stewart, leader of the city's lighting strategy, said: “It was very important that Glasgow recognised the 250th anniversary of one of Scotland's greatest sons. Two of Glasgow's greatest assets - the friendliness of its people and an international outlook - were characteristics shared by Burns and famously expressed in the words of A Man's A Man For A' That. Bearing this in mind, it was appropriate that Glasgow hosted this unique event.”

Ashton and Monid were joined on site by projection technician Michael Barry. City Building fabricated the projector hides and supplied the generated power, and the audio system was supplied by Sound Acoustics.

The show was a massive success. Word soon spread about the projections and up to 10,000 people packed into George Square on Sunday for the special Burns Illuminated event, which included additional entertainment and fireworks.

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