dbn Lights The Weekending at the Whitworth Art Gallery

Manchester based lighting design and rental specialists dbn provided lighting for the spectacular Weekending at the Whitworth Art Gallery event, an extraordinary weekend of free art, music and performance in Whitworth Park and Gallery, Manchester, which welcomed all in the community to celebrate the last days of the ‘old’ Whitworth Art Gallery, before the building closed for a historic £18 million refurbishment.

dbn has worked on several projects at the Whitworth over a number of years, providing technical consultation and design services, ingenuity and equipment!

dbn Project Manager Nick Todd oversaw the Weekending event, for which several elements were lit, including the impressive front façade of the Whitworth Art Gallery itself.

Overall lighting schemes encompassed a world music stage, trees and art installations, with the visual high-point being Saturday night’s lighting and fireworks spectacular on and around the building, which wowed and amazed thousands of onlookers!

Says Todd, “We really enjoy working on events at the Whitworth – they are engaging, challenging and different - and always put our skills to the test. We like that!

“It was fantastic to be involved in the Weekending event which brought so much to the local community. We have an intimate knowledge of the buildings architecture from previous projects and feel very connected to it. We were very proud to be a part of such a special event in the Gallery’s history.”

Friday night’s performance schedule was headlined by Acid Brass who played their trademark mash of traditional brass band music laced with acid house on the steps and the roof of the Gallery.

Saturday’s fireworks and lightshow was again set against the dramatic backdrop of the Edwardian building.

Two Tigers Fireworks sent Todd a simulation of their pyro display to the specially compiled soundtrack in advance of the show, so he was able to plan and pre-programme the lightshow using dbn’s WYSIWYG facilities. This also enabled them to produce detailed 3D visuals to show the client how the building would look when illuminated.

He decided to light the building in energy saving LED fixtures and highlight its intricate and cool architectural features - which include the columns, turrets and towers and distinctive roof line – with moving lights.

A variety of fixtures were utilised, including Clay Paky’s new GlowUp wireless battery LED uplighters which were perfect for the more inaccessible areas of the building, and Sharpy Washes which easily picked out the furthest tower tops in deep saturated colour – even full UV.

The dark red brick construction was not ideal for coloured lighting effects but the overall colour depth across the full spectrum was impressive.

As well as the LED units around the building, two mini-beam truss ‘goal-posts’ were erected approximately 35 metres left and right of the Gallery, hidden by the entrance signage. These were rigged with Clay Paky Sharpy Washes, Alpha Beam 700s and Alpha spot 1200 HPEs.

Programming time was always going to be tight, so Todd built a detailed 3D model of the gallery and used WYSIWYG and Jands Vista V2 software to map the fixtures and pre-programme the show. It was then played back on the night from one of dbn’s Vista T2 consoles.

The lightshow included eye-catching colour sweeps and dissolves across the entire building fascia, jaunty gobo projections and funky chases synched to the music picking out the architecture and eclectic shapes, all running in perfect harmony with the fabulous pyro show which kept the crowds enrapt for 10 minutes.

On Sunday night, for the final installation of the weekend entitled ‘Six White Horses’,  dbn lit the 120m diameter space with subtly placed fixtures hidden in the surrounding trees.

The Weekending at the Whitworth Art Gallery event was a huge success and brought the end of this era in the Gallery’s history to a striking close.

It is scheduled to re-open in Summer 2014 complete with a new extension providing more space for displaying its 55,000 item collections and linking the building to Whitworth Park. 

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