Brighton Pier's Colorful Last Days


Brighton Pier, the English resort landmark, recently met a spectacular end when it collapsed as a result of neglect and bad weather (Plans to renovate it have presumably been scrapped). However, last fall, the structure had one last colorful moment of glory, thanks to the company DPL Production Lighting, which designed and installed an exterior lighting scheme to publicize the Brighton Comedy Festival. (DPL was contracted by Laser Grafix; the latter company worked for a conceptual design team from Amber Media.) As sponsored by Paramount Comedy Channel, the pier's elegantly rotting structure was washed in colored light each night, from 6-12pm, for two weeks.

The West Pier in Brighton originally opened in 1866 and reached the height of its popularity in the 1920s. It was closed in 1975; since then, it gradually fell apart, falling into the English Channel, and being abused by wind, water, and bird excrement.

Darren Parker of DPL worked closely with structural engineer John Orrel, who advised the West Pier Trust on the state of the structure. Because of its precarious nature and landmark status, lighting units could only be rigged in certain specific places. In addition, the floors beneath the units were strengthened with spreader boards.

Parker chose 16 Studio Due CityColor units for the project. Four were placed around the perimeter of the pier's ballroom (the first building), with four more inside the ballroom shell, pointing outwards. Another four units were placed at the front of the building, with others on the side of the structure and on the new metal walkway running between the shore and the Pavilion. Five Studio Due Spaceflower outdoor multiray effects units were placed on sections of walkway between the two pier buildings, and between the shore and the ballroom, sending moving beams shooting into the night sky. The pier's underbelly was lit with 16 metal-halide units.

DPL custom-built several IP44 DMX switching racks to enable the switching of large inductive loads. Because it was not practical to run signal cables to the pier, an Art-Net radio DMX system from Artistic Licence did the job, with the transmitter placed by the Jands Hog lighting desk located in the ticket booth on the esplanade.

The 24-hour installation started at 5am and was timed to coincide with the Channel's tides. Five DPL crew members were involved. The exterior gear was lifted into position by a cherry picker with a reach of 37m (122'); the unit was also designed to operate in up to 2.5m (8.3') of water. The resulting effect was both spooky and a tribute to Brighton's grand past as an entertainment center.