Saturday 15th August 2020 marked 75 years since the official end of the Second World War, following the victory of Japan. To commemorate this anniversary and remember those who served in the Far East, the BBC commissioned a series of programmes, one of which was VJ Day 75: The Nation’s Tribute which was broadcast on BBC One. Following its previous work on the BBC’s coverage of the VE Day celebrations, ELP, a trading division of White Light, was called upon to provide the lighting and power distribution for the programme.
VJ Day 75: The Nation’s Tribute took place at Horse Guards Parade in London. Narrated by Joanna Lumley, whose father was an officer with the 6th Gurkha Rifles, the evening charted the crucial campaign that led to the end of the Second World War. Key moments were reflected through readings and musical performances by Sheridan Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Paterson Joseph and Martin Shaw. ELP’s Managing Director Darren Fletcher comments: “The BBC wanted this to be an ambitious, unforgettable evening so it was huge privilege to play a part in that. Hosting the event at the Horse Guards Parade was also a unique experience as, due to the usual timetable of parades and public viewing, this normally would not be possible. However, with the social distancing now in place, these have had to be put on hold hence it was available for this event”.
Darren and the team were contacted by the show’s lighting designer Nigel Catmur, who they have worked with on many occasions. Darren explains: “There was so much happening across the evening, whether it was the marching band, the orchestra or the readings. Nigel had to have a lighting set-up which not only provided a specific background for all these but could physically fill such a grand space”.
As such, ELP supplied a range of ROBE BMFL Blades which were used for the majority of the key lighting. SGM P5s were the main LED wash lights whilst the Chauvet Q40s provided a specific aesthetic that Nigel required. They also supplied SGM G Spots along with LED Festoons, which were positioned on the ground to light the space between the orchestra. Darren explains: “This was a great design by Nigel as it managed to capture the scale of the event while at the same time remembering this was a commemoration and meeting the mood of the occasion”.
The event was pre-recorded in the week prior to its broadcast as opposed to being shown live, largely due to the restrictions and guidelines in place following the Covid-19 outbreak. It was these same guidelines that Darrren and his team had to abide by when setting up the lighting, hence planning was crucial. He comments: “In these current times, you have to ensure you allow for the additional time it will take with all of the regulations in place. This was a particularly large rig too so we had to take that into consideration. As such, we were actually on site for a whole two weeks, which include the initial rigging, the rehearsals, the recording and then the actual de-rig. Thankfully, we have supplied several shows post lockdown and so are aware of what needs to be in place to work on a production like this”.
The team also supplied the power distribution to the entire site, from the lighting equipment, to the audio, to the projection all the way through to the hospitality tents. Darren comments: “It was a very memorable project and we had to work alongside all of the other partners involved to help fulfil the brief we were all given. Thankfully, we believe all of our efforts were shown in the actual broadcast and that it was a fitting tribute to a very important occasion”.
Alongside supplying the lighting for VJ Day 75, the team have been busy recently working on the S4C Show Nowson Lawen in Wales, as well as supplying the lighting and grip equipment for a BBC Breakfast interview with the Duchess of Cambridge. Darren concludes: “It’s fair to say that we are still living in very uncertain times, where filming and production can be a challenge. That said, it’s fantastic to be able to continue working with clients across the UK, both old and new, and ensuring that we are able to help deliver their broadcasts to the highest standards possible”.