Re-lighting St Andrew’s United Reformed Church.

A recent project we have been working alongside with Nigel Lewis to re-light St Andrew’s United Reformed Church. Thank you to Nigel for this fantastic write up! 

St Andrew’s United Reformed Church, often referred to as St Andrew’s Frognal, is perched on a hill on the junction of busy Finchley Road and Frognal Lane, Hampstead, London. It is placed so high that from the road it is easy to miss, but this is one of the highest churches in London and can be seen for miles around. Built in 1897 as a Presbyterian church, it was originally set with hanging chandeliers of candles, later gas, later still electric light. It boasts a stunning array of stained glass windows, a robust and deeply set architectural structure and a grand set of steps from the road.

I first knew the church due to the opera company that resides there, Brent Opera. I became resident lighting designer to Brent Opera about ten years ago, and twice a year I lit their productions. The spanner in my designs was always the house-lights, a series of five high bay discharge metal halide lamps, more akin to industrial installations. Not only did they require warm-up time and lack a hot restrike, but at 35mtrs high, required specialised access equipment and an operator to change a lamp. For over a year the church managed on just two working lamps due to the prohibitive cost of changing the lamps. When it came to an interval in a production it was necessary for the audience to wait for the discharge lamps to warm up before safely moving from their seats.

The steep outside steps were unlit and the ageing congregation found it difficult to see the steps in the winter months.

I was approached by the church committee to provide a proposal to carry out a complete re-light of the church. I am a theatre lighting designer, but had carried out a few architectural designs over the years, so I undertook a piece of research to find the best possible lighting solution for the church. The main brief from the church was ‘We need to be able to see’. My main concern was the high colour temperature of the metal halide lighting, and the lack of depth and character of the architectural features this caused. The one piece of research I didn’t need to worry about was the lighting manufacturer, I had used Collingwood products previously and knew this was lighting made to last, and that their expertise would provide me with the information I needed to put a proposal together.

My first proposal was presented to the church committee a year prior to installation, we gathered on a cold winter’s evening in the church and I presented my design, along with an idea of costings. After several months it became apparent that the Synod would need to be involved in these decisions because the church was subject to a grade II listing and we had to be very careful about how we applied new lighting to the fabric of the church, most importantly no cables should be on view.

collingwood-fl200-f-nw-ww-main

Collingwood FL200 LED Floodlight

A trial of the scheme was requested by the Synod architect, this involved purchasing two FL200 floods, attaching them to a fly lead and taking them up to 15ft above the pews to view the resulting light. But first I had to find a supplier, I looked at many companies but G&R Electrical/Direct Trade Supplies had very good reviews and this lead me to contacting them. The efficiency of the staff was exactly what I needed, quick replies to emails, friendly, knowledgeable and personable, I could work with this. The trial units arrived in 2 days and was ready to fix up for demonstration purposes.

I had chosen a warm colour temperature for the pews to bring out the natural wood and create a warm glow over the pews. The scheme worked and the architect liked the effect. Being a point-source, we decided to backlight the pews and tested this with a hymn book, there were no shadows and the light was a powerful source, even at 15ft from the floor. The beam angle allowed me to overlap the light to result in a smooth wash.

The scheme got the thumbs up and I arranged a meeting with my electrician, Chris Tomlins of Inglewood Power, we came up with a plan for the install and created a lighting plan. I really wanted the lighting to highlight the architecture of the church, create a welcoming warmth and concentrate the eyes of the congregation on the altar and pulpit areas. I achieved this by dividing the church in to 2 distinct areas, treating them much like a theatre space, the body and the altar. The body of the church is lit in a warm white at 3000K and the altar and pulpit using the same lanterns but at 4000K, this created a distinct difference between the 2 areas. The FL200 is so small and powerful that it was easy to hide them in the rafters, being a dimmable unit this allowed me to install a dimming system to make adjustments to the intensity.

The side aisles had been lit with a mixture of 1000w floods and sodium floods, these were replaced with Collingwood LEDLINE wash-light bars at 3000K, a 45 degree unit that allowed me to focus the light exactly where I wanted it. I was surprised at how small these units are, I’m not sure I had carried out enough research of this unit and was a bit nervous when I saw them. But once installed, the light quality was just what was needed, bright enough for the cover but so slim and small that they hid away nicely.

Collingwood LED Line

Collingwood LED Line

Then I applied a theatre trick, I lit the organ pipes, either side of the altar using a Collingwood UL030 High Output Universal Unit with a blue LED source, this was located about 12 ft away from the pipes, the effect brought in the sides of the church and drew the eyes away from the deep transept. The eyes are drawn towards the centre of the altar and the space becomes more personal and intimate, a difficult task for such a large space.

Collingwood UK030 Blue

Collingwood UL030 Blue

The side walls of the naïve have embedded pillars on them, these were lit with by placing a small LED spot at 4000k with a beam angle of 9 degree. This helped to bring down the ceiling height by creating a canopy effect above the pews. This worked particularly well and helped to highlight the architecture.

The work took around 5 weeks, I was particularly insistent that no cables showed in the public area and Chris did an amazing job, having to use a special drill bit to get through the deep walls, some of which were filled with a hard engineering brick.

The result of the attention to detail, diligence and professionalism of the electrical contractor made my work as designer so much easier as he was able to make decisions in my absence with an excellent understanding of what I had in my vision. There is something to be said for working with the same electrician for more than 10 years!

Chris installed 2 dimmer units set up as master and slave, this is controlled by a touch button pre-set system that allows me to control the intensities in different areas and to create an auditorium house lights system for the operatic performances.

The outside steps were lit by embedding Collingwood WL341 Asymmetric Step Light, this kept the light on the steps and not in the faces of the folk using them. Chris connected them to an LDR sensor and time switch arrangement so they automatically switch on at dusk but don’t run all night

The congregation’s reaction to the finished work was a mixture of delight and not-so-sure about the blue on the organ pipes. We have gone from bright, cold, industrial light with no empathy for the architecture to a warm glow with control over the beam, texture and intensity. That will take a bit of time to get used to.

The entire project has been a huge success in my eyes, but only due to the flexibility, adaptability and professional of the entire team from the manufacturer and supplier to the electrician and his team of riggers. Thank you to them all.

img_20161018_125212 img_20161018_125408 Church Lighting

Nigel Lewis

Lighting Designer

LX Designs Limited

E: Nigel@lxdl.co.uk

Interview With Tommy Walsh: The Celebrity Builder.

tommy walsh 1It’s our pleasure to invite one of the most famous builders in Britain – Tommy Walsh, to partake in a Direct Trade Supplies interview. Tommy grew up in the London Borough of Hackney and learnt the hard graft from an early age. He accompanied his father to work, who owned a breeze-block production plant and it was here where he first picked up the shovel.

Construction and building was in the family’s DNA, so it was no real surprise that he entered the trade industry as a self-effacing builder, but oh how times changed. A mixture of good, honest hard work, having great character and being in the right place at the right time catapulted Tommy from a humble Hackney builder to a celebrity face that everyone wanted a piece of. 

His most memorable and perhaps biggest claim to fame was the role he played in the ‘Ground Force’ trio. Ground Force was a television programme that saw ordinary members of the public nominated for a surprise garden re-design. The show was headed by main presenter Alan Titchmarsh (Gardener) who was teamed with Tommy (Builder) and Charlie Dimmock (Gardener) to help complete the projects. The programme pulled in millions of viewers and was one of the very first to spearhead the boom in aspirational ‘make-over’ shows.

Ground Force ran for eight years and became a flagship show for the BBC – but that wasn’t the end for Tommy. Since Ground Force he’s gone on to be involved in around 1000 TV programmes from Challenge Tommy Walsh, Our House, Tommy Walsh’s Eco House, Trading Places, Tommy’s DIY Survival and many, many more.

Despite being a familiar face Tommy has stuck to his roots and continues to involve himself in the very same trade that once helped to kick start his career. We all know him as the big cheeky chappy builder but there’s a lot more to Tommy than meets the eye. So how about we crack on and discover more about the celebrity builder.

Q&A With: Tommy Walsh, The Celebrity Builder.

You must be the only builder, apart from Bob, who has found fame through a job in the trade industry. Was becoming an iconic builder always the intention or did this occur naturally? (more…)

Interview With Kelly Vincent: The Female Electrician.

kelly paper featureIn an industry saturated by males we thought we’d invite electrician Kelly Vincent, owner and employee of Kelly Electrics, to give her own insight into the world of a sparky. 30 or 40 years ago the proposition of a female electrician would have been laughed at but a lot has changed since then, and for the better. Kelly is part of a small contingent of female tradeswomen looking to provide an equally as good service as their male counterparts; whilst changing old fashioned attitudes as they do it. 

Not only did Kelly enter a male dominant industry but she also gave up her job to pursue her career change. The apparent lack of women in the trade industry as well as a list of great testimonials from her early clients saw Kelly attract admirers from afar. Some of those that wanted to know more included national press with her story being discussed in The Times newspaper (pictured) and home improvement magazine Homebuilding & Renovating.

Being a female electrician isn’t her only asset, you have to be good at what you do, and Kelly is. Since launching Kelly Electrics in 2013 she’s earned herself real recognition, so much so that in 2014 she was nominated as a finalist in both the ‘Britain’s Top Tradesman’ and ‘Women In Construction’ awards. Kelly Electrics has also seen a new addition to the team with another female electrician Sarah Watsham joining ranks. Sarah is a specialist in solving electrical problems and a stickler for perfection.

Seeing as Kelly challenges the status-quo of a male leading industry and poses inspirational values for like-minded women to follow, we thought it was only right to invite her to take part in an interview. Providing a quality service is her primary aim but there’s more to this story than your average electrician firm. So let’s see if she can change the perception of stout traditionalists that believe tradework is a men only job!
Q&A With: Kelly Vincent, The Female Electrician.

I read that you were once an administrator for the NHS but you decided to change your career path – what influenced your decision and was this brave step difficult to execute? (more…)

20 Iconic & Unusual Building Designs In The UK

building block image


Architectural Building Designs 1)

Name: Container City II

Location: East London

Construction Date: 2002

Designer: Eric Reynolds

Usage: Residential Community/Accommodation

container city Building Designs
(more…)

8 Tips On How To Spot Dodgy Tradesmen.

dodgy tradesmenThere is quite a lot of trust involved in allowing someone that you (usually) don’t know into your home to carry out work – this why we’ve come up with eight tips on how to spot dodgy tradesmen. 

The stereotypical traits of 10 teas a day with copious amounts of sugar is a common cliché, so is tradesmen turning up late or blasting out their paint splattered radio across the neighbourhood… but in the grand scheme of things these are minor woes and we can all sympathise with most of them.

Considering their busy schedules, the need for caffeine to pull them through the day and how music can take a little bit of flack off the work in hand; we can let off dusty boots marching through the home if the end result satisfies.

Yet we all know by now that sometimes life doesn’t go to plan and things can go pear shaped. Whether it’s to do with bodged jobs, unaware extra payments, damn right laziness, criminal behaviour or unfinished work – there’s a few pointers to consider to help avoid these issues and ultimately allow you to spot a dodgy tradesman.

The majority of the time tradesmen are qualified, polite and get the job done, however just like any profession you’ll get pre-madonnas, cowboys and people looking to pull a fast one. Below contains eight tips on how to spot a dodgy tradesmen. Hopefully it’ll help at least one poor soul who might be about to make a decision they’ll later regret.

1) How To Spot Dodgy Tradesmen – Association / Certification (more…)

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