Since 1951, London's Royal Festival Hall (RFH) has attracted one of the most diverse audiences of any UK venue. For over 50 years it has hosted a wide-ranging program of classical and world music, rock, pop, jazz, and dance. Designed and built in just three years following World War II, the Royal Festival Hall is part of the South Bank Centre, not far from the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

The RFH closed for a $220 million refurbishment two years ago and finally reopened in June of this year. An essential element of this transformation has been the total overhaul of the Royal Festival Hall's lighting system. With specifications from theatre consultants Carr and Angier to increase flexibility and efficiency while maintaining low ambient noise, specialist installation contractor Northern Light has installed the latest ETC dimming, networking, and lighting control systems.

For production lighting, Northern Light installed a total of over 400 channels of ETC Sensor® dimming plus 70 channels of ETC Matrix™ non-dims. For the platform lighting there are 20 channels of ETC SineWave dimming, specified because of its silent operation and ability to accept almost any load. Auditorium house lighting is powered by ETC SineWave Matrix Mk II, again because of its silent operation. Worklight dimming comprises ETC Matrix units, while control for houselights, workers, and back-up states is provided by an ETC Unison® system.

Colin Cuthbert, managing director of Northern Light, says: "ETC dimmers and control were selected for the Royal Festival Hall refurb for a variety of reasons. The Queen Elizabeth Hall, one of the South Bank Centre's other venues, has ETC Sensor installed, so the customer was familiar with the technology. In addition, it was felt that ETC's Unison control integrated best with the grandMA lighting desk. Finally, the acoustic properties of ETC's SineWave dimmers were specifically requested by the consultants."

The hall was designed to eliminate outside noise, including that from nearby Tube and train lines that run both beside and directly underneath. Sine wave dimming further eliminates noise from tungsten filaments allowing silent operation of lighting. In terms of the remaining circuits, the Hall chose ETC Sensor dimming because it is cost effective, yet still promises to deliver maximum reliability with a minimum failure rate.

More than 250,000 people turned out for the Festival Hall’s reopening “The Overture,” a 48-hour marathon of free music, dance, spoken word, film, and visual arts presented by 18,000 performers including four orchestras, 27 gamelan ensembles, 3,000 dancers, 12,000 singers, and 2,500 schoolchildren. The Festival Hall’s season will embrace everything from the Ballet Boyz to Motorhead.