Robe UK

has installed a large Robe Show Lighting moving light rig at The Willows Variety Club in Salford, UK – including the first Robe Spot 1200s to be installed in the UK. This makes The Willows one of the best-equipped social clubs in the country

The 700-capacity Willows has enjoyed a long and successful history at the forefront of the country’s social club scene. The venue is owned by John Wilkinson OBE, Chairman of Salford Rugby League Club, and although sited adjacently, the two are run as completely different enterprises.The Willows intends to remain at the top, and recently invested substantially in the latest production technology.


The Willows Variety Club with its new Robe rig

As the name implies, ‘variety’ was the operative word when it came to looking for new lighting. They needed a rig that could deal with every type of performance, from comedians, magicians and single performers to duos, dance troupes and large live bands of all genres – and that could also double as a disco/dancefloor system.

The venue’s general manager Dave Bell and lighting technician/operator Mark Bell originally approached Robe UK with a view to enhancing their existing large PAR can rig with some moving light elements. After several demos and trials, both at Robe UK and on site, they were so impressed with the various fixtures available that they radically altered their plans, opting to replace most of the old rig with moving lights.

The new lighting scheme was designed and programmed by Robe UK’s Nathan Wan, and supplied and installed by Pat Wheelan of LS Direct.

Four Robe 1200 Spots are positioned each side of stage on two FOH bars, angled at 45 degrees. The zoom feature makes them ideal for gobo washes across the back wall, general stage work or for crowd skimming.

Over-stage are 8 MS Zoom 250s and 12 ColorMix 250s, used – depending on the act – for general rear lighting and beam and colour effects. Six 575 Washes are rigged on the front-of-stage bar for front lighting, and the picture is completed by six floor mounting 575 Spots.The installation had to be extremely neat and tidy as the club’s low ceiling height means the lights are highly visible.

Nathan Wan specified an Avolites Azure Shadow for control. This integrates all the new moving lights with the remaining PARs. The Willows technical team – including sound operator Peter Fogg who occasionally also turns his hand to lights - attended training sessions at Robe UK and Avolites before taking delivery of the new system.

Mark Bell comments, “The Robes introduce so many new dimensions and layers to the lighting. The fixtures are brilliant for creating excitement and audience interaction – everyone is having a lot more fun and enjoyment with the lighting now as opposed to it just illuminating the stage.” He finds the speed of the fixtures particularly good for the more pop-ish acts on the bill.

His favorite current effects from the 1200s are gobo looks and patterns. He likes intermixing and juxtaposing movement and colours on the 250 down-lighters and creating columns and pillars of light with the 575s on the floor. “The dynamics and the creative possibilities are endless” he adds.

The lighting has dramatically transformed the club for the performers who benefit from having their shows fabulously visually sexed up with all the new technology. The lights are also proving a massive hit with audiences, who regularly comment on the spectacle – which is over and above what you’d expect in this type of venue. Dave Bell is delighted with the investment, “The lights are brilliant, and an important element of The Willows’ continued success ”