Built for the Festival of Britain in 1951 and located on the south bank of London’s River Thames, Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre. It comprises the Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery and has recently seen the installation of 2 MDG ATMe haze generators in its larger venues, the 2700-seat Royal Festival Hall and the 916-seat Queen Elizabeth Hall.
“For some time we’d been looking to replace our aging haze machines which were noisy, rather temperamental, and notoriously bad at leaving an oil residue on surfaces,” says Roger Hennigan, Southbank Centre’s technical manager. “We’d looked at several alternatives in the past but none were able to better the old models – until MDG’s ATMe came along.
“ATMe has a much finer particulate so they leave no residue or slippery oil deposits, which is especially important when hosting bands and singers and the many dance productions we have here. ATMe produces a fine haze in rapid and substantial quantity, so one generator is enough to fill the Royal Festival Hall or the Queen Elizabeth Hall, each of which previously required two of our old units.”
Senior technician, Cressy Klaces, agrees and is especially impressed with the aesthetic of the MDG haze: “ATMe gives a beautiful quality of haze, much nicer than before. It is so light in the air that it is barely perceptible until you shine a light through it. It feels like it has been created to enhance the light and atmosphere rather than be overtly noticeable to people. It is perfect for lighting and so subtle.
“The major advantage, however, is ATMe is totally controllable, which is great. It produces anything from light to heavy haze, precisely as and when you want it. I love the fact I can point it at the back wall behind a curtain and it just permeates through to the stage so beautifully and evenly. The generators are also extremely quiet so we can site them on stage in the RFH or QEH and noise is not a problem. This was just not possible with our old units.”
The ATMe generators are housed in two customised rolling flight cases that also incorporate a DMX fan which aids haze distribution throughout the venue, a large CO2 bottle, and power and DMX connections. “This means the whole arrangement is a portable plug-and-play unit that is ready to roll at a moment’s notice,” says Hennigan.
“This is invaluable because we run a ‘clear stage’ between concerts so there is no space to site them permanently, and with such a varied and ever-changing programme of contemporary music, dance, theatre, concerts and rock & roll that we have at Southbank Centre, we can simply roll them to wherever they are needed.”
The decision to use larger CO2 bottles was taken to keep the system as simple as possible across the large team of technicians: “We buy in larger pre-filled canisters of CO2 and keep three on site for each generator, and have instituted an efficient plan to ensure stocks of CO2 are maintained,” says Hennigan. “Our electrics team has put measures in place to monitor the CO2 levels and the bottles are refilled with a weekly delivery from a local gas supplier whom we share with the National Theatre next door, which has also invested in ATMe. This has given rise to a very useful reciprocal arrangement with the NT should there ever be an unexpected demand for either of us!”
The MDG ATMe haze generators were supplied to Southbank Centre by White Light whose Anthony Vine was the main point of contact and support.
“We are very happy with the new ATMe generators,” concludes Hennigan. “I know that MDG produces great machines because I used to service them 20 years ago! Now we can see that quality in operation every day. Whichever position they are in, they give us exactly what we need – great haze that looks good and is controllable directly from the desk.”
All photos © Shirley Jordorson, Courtesy of Southbank Centre.