Grant Anderson discusses lighting this year’s Edinburgh International Festival

Lighting Designer Grant Anderson, 30, seen in Leith Theatre. © COPYRIGHT PHOTO BY MURDO MACLEOD

Taking place for three weeks in August in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) aims to offer a wide array of entertainment from the worlds of dance, opera, music and theatre. Lighting Designer Grant Anderson speaks to TPi about his work at the Leith Theatre for this year’s Edinburgh International Festival. From his deployment of the Martin Aura PXLs to working with Ezra Furman’s crew.

What were your main responsibilities were for this year’s year’s Edinburgh International Festival
I was employed as the Lighting Designer for the Edinburgh International Festival’s contemporary music programme in 2022 based at Leith Theatre. The goals were to return to Leith Theatre with an impressive house package to make the 20 odd nights all look bespoke production wise for the hugely diverse range of artists.

How did this year’s event compare to 2021’s rendition?
In 2021 where we were in a huge igloo structure for the programme of work due to COVID-19 restrictions and audience numbers were low due to social distancing. This year it very much felt like getting people back together in one room dancing under the lights to their favourite artists was the goal and we very much achieved this.

Could you outline what fixtures you chose and for what purpose this year?
The workhorse of the rig was the Martin Aura PXLs, having used a few in 2021 we upped the numbers and spread them across the rig, including ladders either side of the video wall. This meant the pixel effects felt hugely dynamic and engulfed the whole space. I also love the Martin VDO Atomic Dots and have gone on to spec them on a number other shows. Pairing them with the Aura’s gave me so many options from night to night for different set ups for them and uses depending the artist. Sometimes on microphone stands or sat on the floor as eye candy and others rigged in lines for full on strobe.

What were some of your main highlights from a design point of view from the festivals?
The Ezra Furman gig was excellent. When they arrived I’d approached the Tour Manager about going beyond the scope of their rider to light the set as a full show. Once convinced we set about making sure the entire set was programmed. It’s challenging when bands are bouncing into a venue for one night with no LD so it’s my role to try and engage them as much as possible to make their show look the best it possibly can. Some bands are not too interested but when you get a good Tour Manager who engages and you hit it off, the end product is so worth it. It’s also really important as an in-house LD to deal the artist’s wishes and work at having a diverse rig to give you multiple tools at your disposal to react quickly to any request.

Any final thoughts on this year’s event?
Hugely appreciate Martin’s support once again. Every night looked completely unique and the package really allowed me to respond creatively to very different briefs each day. The EIF is under new leadership next year with Nicola Benedetti as the new Festival Director so it will be exciting to see what direction she takes the festival in 2023.