Bristol-based Utopium Lighting has designed, specified, supplied and installed the complete lighting system in two rooms at the new 1200 capacity Carling Academy Liverpool. This is the latest multi-purpose venue opened by the ever-active McKenzie Group (MKG).

Lighting is designed by Utopium’s Angus Chinn, who again called up his wealth of experience spanning many genres of lighting – from rock ‘n’ roll to corporate event shows – to produce the magic lumens for this, his third project with MKG.


Utopium’s Angus Chinn (L) with the McKenzie Group Project Manager Archie McIntosh

Like the Bristol and Glasgow Academy venues before it, Liverpool is another totally unique venue, and Chinn has come up with another completely different design. The issues for lighting were adaptability. The design and equipment needed to suit a wide variety of events, and also preserve the all important sight lines and fit unobtrusively within the low ceiling height. A further challenge was the lack of weight loading in the roof, so everything had be ground supported.

Chinn had a solid 8ft by 12 ft ground support system custom built by Tomcat (overseen by Dan Holme), to suspend three mother trusses running laterally above the roof rafters over the stage in the main room. Attached to these are the main house lighting instruments.

For visiting productions to add in their specials quickly and painlessly - three lighting bars are suspended below the cross-stage trusses, raised and lowered on three Pilewind winches, supplied by locally-based lifting specialists PCM. Two of the Pilewinds are 250 Kgs and the third is half a tonne.

The fact that the get-in is on the 3rd floor further heightened the requirement to make it easy for touring shows to physically bring in kit, rig it and patch in without any hassles. They also wanted to ensure that power and data cables run to all areas of the room, so 16 Socapex multicore cables go out to all points from the Pilewind bars, and three Socapexes and data cables go to each Pilewind bar. Down the side of the main auditorium are more power and data cabling. Five lines of data plus power runs from dimmers to FOH.

Another bar is available for rigging lights and projection equipment on the front of the balcony. This is also the only point to neatly rig lighting for the dancefloor, as putting lights anywhere else in the auditorium would spoil the sightlines.

Another major issue for Chinn and his team including rigger James Mallardette, and Utopium generally was achieving the diversity of lighting needed to fulfil the client’s brief and to fit the expedient budget.

Fixtures in the main room are six Martin MAC 600s, eight Clay Paky Golden Scan HPEs, six bars for PAR 64s, three Martin Atomic Strobes, four 4-cell blinders, four Source Four Juniors, four Martin Destroyer effects and a ZR33 smoke machine. All this is controlled via an Avolites Pearl 2004 lighting console. Dimming is ANYtronics, and there’s also an Andolite patch bay and two Avolites DMX buffer boxes. They are using PowerLock power distribution, the same as is used on touring systems.

Both lighting systems are RCD protected. Upstairs there’s a keyable system that can be disengaged for show-time, and engaged for rig, de-rig and focus states. Downstairs is an adjustable system due to the likelihood of untested ‘bedroom’ equipment being used. Also, most fixtures in the room 2 system are generic, so power loss can be instantly restored. With a larger concentration of moving lights and discharge lamps in the main room, nuisance trips could mean large gaps in the lightshow!

The Carling Academy II Liverpool, the 500 capacity second Room will be showcasing up-and-coming bands and act as a secondary area for club nights. The lighting rig in there continues the same principles of flexibility. Fixtures include two Robe 150 washes, two Robe 160 Spots, two bars of 6 PARS, a Martin Atomic strobe, two Martin Destroyers and a 24-way LSC Minim lighting desk. Dimmers are wall mounted LightProcessor Paradim installation models. The moving lights are controlled via a Robe 192 controller. “All chosen for practicality and features to budget” explains Chinn.

The Second Room also has low headroom, so they built a scaffolding system in the ceiling for the lights. The stage needs to also be utilised as part of the dancefloor in the event of a club night, or for a DJ support party to the main event, so Chinn ensured there’s plenty of power and data cabling everywhere, and that the lighting control positions can be moved around the room to suit the event.

“We offer practical, no-nonsense lighting and visual solutions for live venues” states Chinn, “Having all worked at the sharp end, Utopium can deliver exactly what both operators and visiting shows need and want in a cost-effective package”.

The Carling Academy Liverpool opened to a sold out gig by Shack, supported by The Bandits. Utopium has also designed and installed the lighting rig for the second room in the new Carling Academy Islington which opened in the same week as the Liverpool venue.