Raising the Bar: Anvil Arts Centre Invests in grandMA2 and Clay Paky


The Anvil Concert Hall in Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK is something of a regional gem. With performances that range from stand-up comics like Jack Dee, through to the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davies and Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells “For Two”, the in-house lighting system needs to be flexible to say the least. The venue has been designed to transform into various configurations: as an orchestral concert hall it has 1,400 seats and when it becomes a theatre with a proscenium arch, an open stage or a flat floor extended stage it can accommodate up to 1,150.

Ian Jones is head of technical services at Anvil Arts: “When we made the decision to purchase MA Lighting products, our primary aim was to raise the bar for our house production lighting and take the first steps toward future proofing for the next ten years. We wanted to provide technology that gave us maximum flexibility, value for money and enhances the experience of our visitors – quite a tall order with the diversity of our performance programme.”

Their first point of contact was Paul Roughton, business development manager at Stage Electrics. “Ian asked us to demonstrate MA Lighting options, as a dealer we were more than happy. Working together with Ambersphere Solutions who are the exclusive distributor for MA Lighting in the UK we were able to facilitate this. Matt Cowles, technical sales and Phil Norfolk, sales director were more than happy to loan Ian a grandMA2 ultra-light console to try out on a show in the venue.”


Matt Cowles explains the process, “Philip and I spent the day with them before the show, took them through the desk and set them up ready for the show. Their chief LX, Chris Poynter had used the desk before but for the rest of guys it was an important part of our support package. Anyone who buys a console from us is entitled to free training. Once the sale was completed through Stage Electrics, there was a two day comprehensive course on site training the guys on the console. We continue to offer free training after that initial session and they have since sent a couple of new employees to our London base for the same two day training course. One of the great features about the grandMA2 consoles is their flexibility – most of the console is completely customizable – not only useful for a venue that has such a range of performance styles but for each of the operators.”

Jones is in full agreement: “The Ambersphere training was excellent and tailored specifically to our needs. We have three lighting technicians who work in rotation. The desk provides the flexibility to build individual user profiles, allowing each tech to set and store their ideal system of working. This streamlines the programming and setup time so emphasis can be placed on creativity, boosting the profile of those on stage and the experience of the paying customer. The grandMA2 ultra-light has the same capabilities as the larger desks in the family, scaled down to provide best value for money so it was the perfect choice for us.”

Clay Paky illuminates the Anvil Arts Centre
Alongside the new console, The Anvil has also upgraded its lighting rig after comparing the Alpha Spot 300 HPEs and Alpha Spot 700 HPEs during that first trial session.  As Jones comments, “It made sense to ‘try before you buy’ comparing a number of options and make a decision tailored in detail to our venue requirements.  For the lights we wanted high performance at best value, along with reducing our carbon footprint and running costs. The HPE 300s gave us that happy marriage of value for money and features, such as CMY colour mixing, zoom and iris, allowing us to buy more units and therefore increase flexibility and creative options. In fact, from there we went on buy some A.leda Wash K10 units.  These allow us to wash the stage with punchy saturated colour and employ a catalogue of neat effects at the drop of a hat, in what we feel is a great combination with the HPE 300s. Add to this, the drop in running cost from 3 bars of overhead lights consisting of a par can rig of 16x 1KW lanterns per bar, replaced by 4 units running at approx 1.5KW per bar and I know we have realised all our objectives.”

Jones concludes, “Both energy and value wise it was a clear cut decision to purchase the grandMA2 ultra-light console and the Alpha Spot 300 HPEs along with A.leda Wash K10 units.  The whole package has allowed us to provide a more creative and flexible solution at a very realistic price.”

Ambersphere is the exclusive UK sales, service, support and training centre for MA Lighting, Clay Paky and Robert Juliat products.