Tim Routledge Remembers: Jonathan Rouse

Jonathan Rouse (1980 - 2020)

“Hang on, do you think we should have put sunscreen on” said Jon – four hours into a long drive through the Nevada, Las Vegas, desert in a convertible. We both looked at each other realising we were already toast. But this isn’t the heat I’m referring to… 

Jon’s company was called ‘Light Without Heat’ – a nod to his skill of remaining calm, collected and good humoured through all situations. Every single post I have seen on social media about Jon since his passing has nailed what he was like. A precise and talented professional but one who was always a pleasure to have around. 

Jon started in theatre and brought high theatrical standards and ideas with him to his work in rock ’n’ roll and large events. 

I’ve been lucky enough to have so many adventures with Jon for over 10 years. We met as MA programmers and I soon was employing Jon, using him as a programmer and lighting director on a number of projects over the past decade. 

Jon’s first big concert with me was at Twickenham Stadium, London, lighting A Concert for Heroes – a huge live show on BBC1 with headline act, Robbie Williams. Four years later, he began working for Robbie under Mark Cunniffe and travelled the world as his touring Lighting Director on The Heavy Entertainment Show – a tour he loved and was very proud of.

I’ve sat in FOH towers, control rooms and pop-up tents overnight all over the world with Jon for many years. He had a knack of lightening the mood with a killer comment that would make an entire team belly laugh and remind us why we do this job. 

Long stints on the Beyoncé Formation World Tour and the Commonwealth Games 2014 really cemented our friendship and saw us take care of each other and others within a team when the sh*t hit the fan. Jon has counselled me over chicken wings and beer in dive bars and in the ebb and flow of big production processes we always equally reciprocated and supported each other. We’d talk about our kids and how hard this industry was on having a family and we’d sit and work it all out. Sitting in catering at 3am and realising the only thing to eat all night will be the box of 5,000 fortune cookies which we gave a good shot at, or the trip to a late-night Tesco in Glasgow with Tom Young to buy soft furnishings and candles to zsush the terrible digs we had been given – we always laughed.

Jon’s battle with illness was long but he dealt with it like everything else – calm, measured and with good grace. We last worked together in October 2019 at Wembley Arena on his return to work. I can remember nothing but joy at being able to hang out with my mate outside of a hospital or his home, properly again, doing what we both love. He was still a coffee snob and turned his nose down at standard catering coffee or a Costa, but his humour hadn’t wavered and his attention to detail remained unfaltering.

His work took him all over the world, from a Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in China to the MTV EMAs, which he did regularly, and came back to work for last year in Seville, Spain. We’ve popped to Paraguay together for a recce, lit up Horseguards Parade with Muse and done jazz hands on a Ball & Boe TV special and, at every turn, it’s been an honour to have him there as a darn amazing programmer and a great mate. 

Jon’s reputation meant he worked repeatedly with many well-known LDs, as a right-hand man to Al Gurdon, Mark Cunniffe, Woodroffe Bassett, Pete Barnes and Tom Kenny to name but a few. All of them, without exception, are going to miss the reason why they booked Jon – Light Without Heat.

Miss you mate, sleep well.

Words: Lighting Designer, Tim Routledge

Photo: Philip Norfolk