Five years of diverse design: Mandylights’ Tom Edwards

From Samarkand to the River Thames, Tom Edwards reflects on the growth of Mandylights, highlights some landmark projects in bizarre locations, and shares what the future holds for the flourishing design agency.

Mandylights' Richard Neville, Tom Edwards and Steve Bewley.

When did you first join Mandylights? 

“I joined Mandylights in 2017 after doing a project with them in Australia which involved working on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a Chinese New Year activation. We installed lighting on the bridge to pixel map the whole structure which took a couple of weeks to complete. It was the first time I’d stepped foot in Australia, and it was the first time I got to grips with the scale of the company. Richard Neville and I had been talking for a few years about doing a project together and this came along at the right time. After working in the office and alongside the Sydney team, it became apparent the size of the company and their portfolio. This acknowledgement kick started conversations about starting a UK side of the business which we registered in 2017.”

How has your role evolved in recent years? 

“Although my background is predominantly in lighting design for concert touring, I have evolved into the light artwork side of things as the company started growing in this area across the UK and Europe. Currently my position sits as a Director and Designer. I’m heavily involved with the design process and direction of the company along with Richard Neville and Steve Bewley. It’s grown a lot over the past five years – we have more staff, a bigger premises, and more plates to spin within the business. However, this is made much easier with the team we’ve built.”

What are some landmark projects that spring to mind during your time with the company and what makes them so special? 

“The opening ceremony for the Silk Road Tourism Centre in Samarkand, Uzbekistan was a spectacular show that represented a declaration of love for historical traditions, culture, and the modern aspirations of the country. We handled the lighting design, programming, and operation of the project. It’s amazing to see where this industry can take you. Uzbekistan was certainly one of the places I never thought I would end up doing a show in, but it was great to work alongside a crew of over 100 people to pull this show off in such a short lead time. Another project that stands out was EE’s 5G launch with Stormzy on the River Thames. The show was on a barge in front of London’s Tower Bridge. We ended up programming the show at the end of London City Airports Runway. It makes me laugh sometimes when you look back at some of the things, we end up doing and the bizarre locations we end up doing them. Nothing surprises me anymore.”

What do the next few months have in store?

“The next few months the team are busy preparing the Christmas light trails at Center Parcs and a handful of tours that we have going out from September onwards. We are already working on Vivid Sydney and Dark Spectrum, which is a partnership between Sony Music, Mandylights and Culture Creative. This had its debut at Vivid Sydney this year and we are in the stages of planning the next one, which is exciting! In the meantime, we will be finishing off the summer touring shows, and the warehouse teams will be loading shipping containers for the respective artworks to head off to their installation sites for October. This year, we have over sixty artworks across the US, Europe, China and Australia this Christmas.”

Where do you see the brand in the future? 

“I’d really like to see us starting a US office soon. The company’s growth over the past few years has been huge as we remain very diversified in the types of projects we deliver. Our team is currently made up of 40 people across the UK and Australia who deal with everything from light art, lighting cities to lighting concerts. We’re always researching internally and testing new equipment/lighting to help keep us up to date and to come up with new ideas to implement to our projects. It’s an important process that happens behind the scenes.”

How can people get in-touch with you and the team? 

“Socials are probably the best both personally and for the business. Or if anyone is in the area in Newcastle and wants to come to the office; the door is always open, and the bar is always stocked!”