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Strand Lighting
From TABS, Feb 1985
with additions from later issues & brochures.
Please note: This history is from publicity material and may not be 100% accurate.

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  • Strand Electric begins as an office with workshop in Garrick Yard, St Martins Lane in the heart of London's theatreland.
  • The theatre electricians Arthur Earnshaw (Duke of York's) and Phillip Sheridan (Strand Theatre) who founded the firm are joined by Moss Mansell, a manufacturer of arc resistances and dimmers in Cecil Court.
  • Round in Fifty at the London Hippodrome marks the first use of the Sunray compartment batten. It becomes the backbone of any Strand installation. The use of these with filters instead of colour-dipped lamps was essential to Adrian Samoiloff's scenic tricks using complementary colours.
  • The Theatre Lighting department is started by LG Applebee, later to become Strand's first well known lecturer writer. He ran it until retiring in 1957.
  • The Old Vic of Lilian Baylis: Strand's first "dead front" switchboard was installed (still using DC electricity). Until then, contacts and busbars had been mounted on the front of polished slate panels.
  • The Shepherd's Bush Pavilion (which later became the Gaumont then the Odeon), the first of the great 3000 seat Super Cinemas was provided with full stage lighting and concealed colour-change lighting around the auditorium.Sybil Thorndike in St Joan, 1924 - Lighting by Strand Electric (advert - from Lights! Vol3.1, Feb 1992)
  • Wembley Empire Exhibition: complete installation with cyclorama for Oliver Bernard's Battle of Zeebrugge in the Admiralty Theatre. Except that its stage was a water tank, this single tier, steeply-stepped house anticipated by 35 years a form to become popular in the 1960's.
  • Special lighting effects were also created in the new stadium for productions of Fire of London and London Defended. Special effects in other exhibition pavilions, especially the optical projection of the British Guiana waterfall.
  • Royal College of Music, Parry Opera Theatre: Strand's first (and last for 30 years!) patch panel.
  • C.B.Cochran's Revues at the London Pavilion, which included One Darn Thing After Another and Coward's This Year of Grace.
    A famous and long-standing Picadilly Circus landmark produced by Strand was the illuminated facade of the London Pavilion proclaiming "The Centre of the World!"
    Incidentally, the sign was never paid for as Strand Company forgot to invoice it.
  • The first tennis superstar, Suzanne Lenglen, appears in a C.B.Cochran revue, lit by Strand Lighting, at Holland Park Skating Rink, London.
  • Stelmar ellipsoidal spot patent applied for; Strand now set to make the first 1kW and 500W ellipsoidal profile spots for the stage in the world.
  • Moss Mansell patents his Magnetic Clutch and makes possible Strand's unique contributions to compact remote control of lighting.
  • Century Lighting opened in New York by Edward F. Kook and his partners, Joseph Saul and Irving Levy, to serve Broadway.
  • 3 June 1929: Work begins at the Savoy Theatre to install a new electrical and lighting system by Strand, following a production of Journey's End.
    21 October 1929: The Savoy Theatre re-opens with a production of The Gondoliers. Strand's Arthur Earnshaw worked with designer Ionides to use concealed auditorium lighting to achieve 'glowing sunshine' (from Savoy Theatre history, 1992)
  • The new Adelphi opens with Ever Green and a new installation by Strand. Lighting of this cyclorama show is from floods and spots instead of the then staple, Sunray compartment battens.
  • Locarno Ballroom Streatham, a new dance hall wired and equipped with architectural colour lighting by Strand.
  • Waltzes from Vienna - Strand's massed spots on the circle front and on stage as used by Hassard Short are a first at the Alhambra.
  • Strand ventures into public building floodlighting. Nelson on his column in London's Trafalgar Square is lit by two Stelmars. Strand also lights the National Gallery and St. Martin-in-the-Fields church.
  • The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon - the only "modern" theatre built in Britain between the Wars with the facilities FOH and backstage we have come to expect today. Stage lighting included Stelmars out front, cyclorama colour-mixing and a 56-way Grand Master board (Strand's second, the first was in Halifax in 1931).
  • June - The twenty year old Fred Bentham joins Strand Electric in Covent Garden.
  • Strand move the Works from Floral Street Covent Garden to a new factory in Gunnersbury.
  • In the USA, Century Lighting develops the Leko ellipsoidal principle for Stanley Kingsley's "Dead End" on Broadway, but it was to be several years before it found its way into the catalogue.
  • Strand's first demonstration theatre (in Floral Street) is opened by C.B. Cochran and used by Fred Bentham for Colour Music recitals and as a Research and Development laboratory.
  • The new permanent installation for Sir Thomas Beecham at the Royal Opera House was Strand's first job on a "Continental" scale. The stage lighting load was 700kW AC and 150kW DC controlled by Mansell clutch-driven dimmers from a unique 120-way remote control panel located on the perch.
  • Hassard Short's Stop Press, a revue whose lighting effects heralded a "new era" although it was the last to have to depend on the "old" range of traditional Strand focus lamps for those effects.
  • The Strand Light Console is inaugurated with a recital of Colour Music in the Floral Street theatre and has national press coverage. It was the first lighting control in the world to use not merely a moveable console but the organ principle of 'Select & Play'; the common basis for today's memory control systems.
  • Century's latest catalogue announces "New Type Incandescent Lekolites - A new application of an old light principle", to replace "standard arc-carbon-fed lamps". This advanced spotlight used an ellipsoidal reflector, base-up 1000-1500W lamp, and listed at $155.
  • Strand becomes a public company as Strand Electric Holdings Limited.
  • The BBC Alexandra Palace television studios open with a Strand Grand Master dimmer board in each.
1937 First issue of "Tabs" magazine published.
  • The Kaleidakon, Earls Court
    The Kaleidakon: 70 feet, 230kW tower in the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition, Earl's Court with a 72-way Light Console and Compton Organ for Colour Music (photo above). Strand's new King Street "temple" to the same art opened that February (photo below).King Street "Temple"
  • Teatro S'Carlos Lisbon: Strand's first Export of a complete Continental opera house stage lighting installation. Control by Light Console in orchestra pit.

    Cinema-organ style lighting control console, San Carlos, Lisbon, 1940
  • Gangway: Robert Nisbett's revue for George Black at the London Palladium. The lighting represented the peak application of Strand's 1936 equipment to spectacle. The Light Console (from the blitzed King Street) was out-front at the end of the Grand Circle in the open.
1947 Working with George Izenour, Strand creates the two-tube Thyratron dimmer, creating the first electronic dimmers.
  • Reykjavik Iceland: Strand's first Electronic Preset (120-way Thyratron - pictured right) with complete installation for the new National Theatre.
  • Ankara Turkey: new National Opera House installation with Light Console. Strand's Export Drive begins at last.
  • Festival of Britain: South Bank and Battersea Pleasure Gardens, Strand Lighting and controls a-plenty and not just in London, of course.
  • Royal Festival Hall (the only permanent building to remain after the Festival of Britain) was equipped by Strand with a Light Console, and a complete lighting installation including long-range colour change spots. This led to the request for a 'duplicate' installation in Venezuela - at the Aula Magna in Caracas.
  • Strand's first branch office opens in Australia. (481 Malvern Road, South Yarra was the address, and Alec Brown, ex chief of the London Coliseum was the boss, with a small group of the crew from an Australian tour of 'Oklahoma!' which he had master-minded prior to the Strand opportunity.)
  • Pattern 23: first mass-produced theatre spotlight in the World. First die-cast construction stage luminaire. Die-cast by the 5000 for a market in which a gross (144) was thought to be an outsize batch, it was destined to run for thirty years. After the Lekolite, the 23 was the company's most popular luminaire. Over 500,000 units were sold before 1983.
  • Canada office opened by Strand Electric
  • The first remote controlled lighting system is installed in studio 8H at NBC in the USA. Strand created its first automated luminaires with motorized pan and tilt for this project.
  • Strand's King Street Demonstration Theatre re-opened, where it became the Mecca for stage lighting demonstrations and lectures until 1977.
  • Strand's German branch opens in Hessenbruch.
  • The last Light Console was manufactured - for Theatre Polski in Warsaw.
  • Start of Commercial Television in the UK and of the BBC RIverside pilot studios for the White City TV Centre project. Strand controls, the majority of which are variants on the CD principle, are supplied to TV Studios for the next decade. Strand have to make patch panels!
    Photo on the right shows Studio 3 Riverside Studioes, 1956
1958 The C Core dimmer system is installed at Yale University. The C Core is the first SCR dimmer.
  • Strand launch the Hook Clamp and free British theatre from the tyranny of the traditional 2-bolt, 2 nut L Clamp.
  • Strand Electric's office in Toronto, Canada opens.
  • The Century Izenour 10 Scene preset is introduced.
  • Oliver! at the New (now the Albery) Theatre exposes all Strand lanterns over the stage - an absence of masking taken for granted nowadays.
  • Television Centre, White City: first BBC Studios open with Strand pole-operated Pattern 243 pressed-steel 2kW Fresnel spots, System C controls and patching systems with "Jills" instead of Jacks.
  • Strand introduces the first moulded pin connector.
  • Chichester Festival Theatre: Britain's first new theatre in thrust stage format and first LC control (72-way transistor/choke preset).
  • Blitz! at the Adelphi: first proscenium arch of spots. A case of ancient and modern, for there was a massed use of Strand's traditional optical flame effects but the spots were the first cap-up ellipsoidals to be made over here.
  • Junior 8: the new version of the existing Junior Switchboard is an 8-way 4-slider portable for amateurs and others on a budget, is introduced at £45 list (and many are still in use 20 years later).
  • Strand celebrates its Golden Jubilee.
  • The C Card plug-in preset controller system is introduced.
  • The Edkotron dimmer system becomes the first modular, portable electronic dimming system; Strand's Thyristor dimming systems installed at the Royal Opera House in London and at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera House.
  • Strands first instant dimmer memory control (IDM/R) is demonstrated in March and two large installations are ordered for Ottawa.

    The first instant dimmer control, 1966
  • Strand Electric is purchased by the Rank Organisation to become Rank Strand Electric.
  • The Memo Q console is developed with George Van Buren as the first computerised memory system.
  • In the USA, Rank takes over Century Lighting which becomes Strand Century. National Arts Centre Ottawa opens with 5 Strand patch-panels and two IDM/Rs.
  • The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon: the new 240-way DDM computer system is used for the season of the Roman plays.
  • The launch of the World's first Modular Memory System (M.M.S.) using the now famous - and widely copied - control wheel.
  • Tungsten Halogen lamp revolution arrives, around which Strand launch their 700 series lanterns.
  • The 100th issue of TABS (Strand magazine).
  • La Scala, Milan: DDM 320 channel Memory Lighting Control. First Strand system in a major Italian Opera House.
    The largest MMS ever made, 480 channels, is installed in the Congress-Hall complex in Pyongyang, Korea. See Photos from Bob Hartley showing the installation.
  • Lightboard: second generation computer controlled memory system engineered specially for the National Theatre, from a concept by Richard Pilbrow. The massively popular Galaxy desk is a direct descendant.
  • Compact: the first truly transportable memory system is accepted by the BBC for Outside Broadcast and is installed in the Duke of York's Theatre, London and Alcala Palace, Madrid.
  • Multi Q becomes the first commercial memory system on Broadway when used by Tharon Musser on A Chorus Line.
    Correction: The Electronics Diversified LS-8 in 1975 was the first commercial memory system used by Tharon Musser on A Chorus Line. The Multi-Q was used on the first A Chorus Line TOUR in 1976 to avoid the Skirpan patent lawsuit against EDI for alleged infringement of the AutoCue patent (thanks to Steve Terry for this correction).
  • Lightboard for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
  • AMC - Advanced Manual Control - introducing true dipless crossfades to manual systems, takes over from Threeset.
  • The Micro Q memory plus Manual console is introduced.
  • Strand Modular Memory System and STM dimmers installed at Glyndebourne.
  • T/84 Variable Beam Profile Spot, the ultimate development of the T-Spot, makes its first appearance and sells over 600 units in its first week on offer.
  • The Lightpalette lighting console is introduced and the Tracking style of memory control with multi-part fades is created.
  • Tempus takes over from Mini-2. Over 300 sold in 5 years.
  • Galaxy launched and chosen for the BBC Television Centre and The Barbican - London-based home of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
  • CD80 dimmer introduced and becomes the first and arguably the most successful high density dimmer system. Dimmer-per-circuit operation becomes commercially viable for the first time.
  • Prelude, Harmony and Minim, Strand's new series of Profile, Prism Convex and Fresnel spots shown for the first time at ABTT Trade Show.
  • Strand enter the commerical Dimming market and launches the Environ range.
  • The Barbican Centre, pride and joy of the City of London opens its doors for the public. A shop window for the Strand Group, suppliers of production lighting and control systems, sound and communication installations and controls, auditorium seating, stage engineering and electrical contracting.
  • Mantrix manual control console introduced with multiplex control wiring and electronic patch.
  • Environ 2, the first micro-processor based architectural lighting control system is introduced.
  • Undoubtedly the year of the M24 - the micro-processor control which opened the door of sophisticated memory lighting facilities to the small scale theatres and TV Studios. Production began in July and M24 was chosen to light a video recording of Giselle at the Kirov Theatre, Leningrad, later in the month.
  • TV-AM: Both studios fully equipped by Strand Group with Quarzcolor luminaires, Strand Galaxy lighting controls and dimmers, Tele-Stage studio suspension and electrical contracting by Strand.
  • Limehouse, an independent studio facility in the heart of London's Dockland also fully equipped by Strand Group with Quartzcolor luminaires, Galaxy lighting controls, Tele-Stage suspension equipment and electrical contracting by Strand.
  • 1983 saw the end of the Pattern 23 the first die-cast lantern, 30 years in production and half a million made and sold. All good things must come to an end.
  • Strand complete their new range of luminaires with the introduction of Cadenza 2000W spots, Minim small 500W spots, Nocturne and Coda flood and cyclights.
  • M24 features in the ABTT Awards at this year's Trade show and wins a coveted "silver" plated hook clamp, for starting a trend, perhaps exemplified by its operating philosophy, which it is suggested others will follow.
  • Galaxy 2 introduced - no longer a single multipurpose lighting control, but a range of systems incorporating specialised developments in control and programming for TV studios, theatres and major opera houses.
  • Galaxy 2 Arena incorporates all the features of its predecessor, but is now supplied in rich dark walnut veneer as standard
  • M24 is expanded to 120 channels and has substantial improvements in memory capacity.
  • Solo followspots developed from Cadenza lens system.
  • Act 6 dimmer pack introduced.
  • New facilities added to Galaxy
  • Premiere architectural lighting control system is introduced. The system offers a wide range of fully programmable functions on every station. Multiplex control LAN wiring simplifies installation.
  • Strand buys Quartzcolor.
  • Strand Galaxy installed at Glyndebourne Festival opera house.
  • 4th January: The London offices move from Brentford to Grant Way, Isleworth
  • The Lightpalette 90 control console dramatically expands the functionality and performance of the Lightpalette operating system. The installed base of over 700 systems exceeds the quantity of all other Lightpalettes previously sold.
  • Strand Lighting becomes the first company (and only North American company) to achieve ISO9000 Quality certification. Applied to all of our current line of electronic products this rigorous quality programme assures customers that they will receive the most reliable equipment possible.
  • Strand Lighting registered to BS5750: Part 1: 1987, EN29001-1987 and ISO9001-1987.
  • The first fully digital status reporting dimming system, the CD90, is installed at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. This high end system brought full 2000-step fade resolution with line and load compensation to high density dimmer racks for the first time. CD90 wins the Lighting Dimensions New Lighting Product of the Year
  • Strand Galaxy Nova with C1 software introduced.
  • GSX lighting control console is introduced. GSX is the first software-based lighting control system that allows the user to choose from a wide range of software packages.
  • The Premiere Network Manager wins the Lighting Dimensions International product of the year for Architectural lighting. This user-friendly Windows-based program is designed for use as the Central Lighting control for major hotel, convention and presentation facilities.
  • Strand introduces Genius Plus and Tracker software for its 430 and 530 series consoles. These systems integrate for the first time montion control and theatrical-style cue writing on a single console. This series of consoles is the first to operate 32-bit pre-emptive multi-tasking software.
  • The latest generation of the CD80 dimmer is introduced. CD80SV combines the rugged construction of CD80 with the technological enhancements of CD90 to produce an economical high-performance digital dimming system.
  • Enhanced Lightpalette software is introduced for the 430/530 and new 550 series consoles. Combining the power of these hardware platforms with Lightpalette and Tracker software, Strand has created a new standard in lighting control.
  • Strand updates lighting system at San Francisco Opera House with two 550i consoles and almost 2000 CD80 dimmers. This is the first major Shownet Ethernet distribution system.
  • ParkNet control system is developed for Universal Studios Islands of Adventure theme park. The ParkNet control system is able to operate an entire theme park's lighting system from a central location, using Ethernet data distribution. The system can route DMX data for up to 18,000 devices on the network.
  • 8 new compact, highly efficient cool-beam SL luminaires introduced in March at USITT in Toronto, including 6 fixed-angle versions and two zoom fixtures.
  • 300-series lighting control consoles introduced to cover entry level to mid-range users (seven consoles, and a new compact show controller). Modular in construction, they can be arranged in any pattern to suit the needs of a wide range of users. Panels may be remote up to 300 feet from the main processor for flexible functionality.

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