Planned EU legislation for lighting efficiency could be ‘catastrophic’ for culture

June 2018

Live events sector


Venues and theatres have warned that new EU legislation will see their ‘lights going out’ after new legislation is introduced which will not provide any exemption for stage lighting and will make specialist lighting subject to the same environmental rules that govern lighting sold domestic and office use. The Artistic Director of the National Theatre, Rufus Norris, has estimated the restrictions on traditional and LED light bulbs due to be enforced by the 1st September 2020 could cost British Theatres £1.25 billion, with a disproportionate burden falling on smaller venues.

The European Union (EU)’s proposed Ecodesign Working Plan 2016–2019 will require all new stage lighting, from traditional tungsten bulbs to the latest LED fixtures, to meet new efficiency targets, from which they are currently exempt. According to the UK’s Association of Lighting Designers (ALD), the new regulations will “dramatically impact all areas of entertainment lighting and all who work in this field”, with the impact on live shows “immediate and overwhelming”.

The PSA has joined the fight and General Manager Andy Lenthall told IQ magazine  “Professional stage lighting has always been exempt from the labelling regime, [but] that’s about to change” adding “Tungsten, halogen and other sources don’t get close” to the minimum ‘G’ rating which would be required for sale in Europe after 2020 and that “sealed unit LEDs, in the main, fall foul”.

The fight against the proposed regulations has also been taken up by venues across the continent, with the National Theatre in London, Cánovas Theatre in Malaga, Lliure Theatre in Barcelona, Civic Theatre in Dublin and Circo Price Theatre in Madrid all beaming the campaign’s official hashtag – #SaveStageLighting – on the exteriors of their buildings over the past few days.

In addition to the cost aspect of replacing lighting rigs, proposed regulations, which require a minimum efficiency of 85 lumens per watt and a maximum standby power of 0.5W may mean that venues “can’t light … shows anymore”. The UK’s National Theatre said “While we are fully committed to improving sustainability in our industry, imposing these blunt measures on stage lighting will have a catastrophic artistic and financial effect on theatres all over the UK and throughout the EU,” reads a statement from the theatre.Productions like War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Follies and Angels in America could not be lit under these regulations” and  “There is no existing equipment that could create any of the images you are familiar with from these productions that would be allowed under EU legislation.”

Pending any unexpected (and unrealistic) advances in lighting technology by 2020, the effect of the Working Plan, if implemented in its current form, would be to cause “thousands of venues, theatres and music festivals across the continent [to go] dark”, says the Save Stage Lighting Campaign.

Paule Constable, the five time Olivier Award winning lighting designer pointed out to The Stage that major shows such as the Lion King and The Phantom of the Opera would “either have to close or be presented in a hugely compromised manner”.


Beyoncé lighting designer Tim Routledge pointed out that all venues, large and small, would be affected by the new rules, which are set to hit “every music venue, arena, music festival and touring concert production across Europe”. In a letter to the Guardian he says  “As a very well established lighting designer designing tours for acts such as Beyoncé, Sam Smith, Take That, ELO and many more, the news of this regulation is terrifying” adding “Pretty much every single tool that we use as lighting designers will be rendered obsolete by these rules – incredible, as over the recent past as an industry we have adopted the latest in energy-saving LED technology and a lot of tours are totally LED.”

Whilst most commentators agree with the need to reduce energy use and promote energy efficiency, but point out that the effects on live shows will be devastating and are asking regulators to rectify the ‘oversight’.


At the time of writing the European Parliament had accepted new amendment to extend the exemption for stage lighting going forwards

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