Crystalleum Lightshow

 

Personnel:
Martin Blake
Phil Conduit
Christine Conduit

 

I started Crystalleum Lightshow when I was a photography apprentice and used to skive off to do the shows. The name Crystalleum is a derivative of a name of process for making glass colour slides in the pre-colour film era. Various people helped initially but eventually it became myself and Phil and Christine Conduit.
As we grew there was much kudos to be gained by seeing how many credits we would obtain for the show ads in the back pages of Melody Maker each week.
One early residency was at The Temple in Wardow Street.  This was an all-nighter every Friday and Saturday, and we took over from the guy who was leaving, buying his equipment which helped to set us up with gear. This is where we learnt about the infamous VITRINA ink and the art/hard work of scrubbing glass slides clean.  It was a pretty evil place, a den of iniquity and they used to have the most enormous ugly guy by the cash till who would literally throw people up the stairs for misbehaving.

As the shows became bigger and projection distances greater, I used to spend much time searching out photographic emporiums that might have long focal length lenses for our TUTOR 1000's.  They were our particular prized possessions. 
Even in those days I had an inclination for mechanical designs and remember making a system of high quality wheels with colour discs or holes in, which could be accurately positioned in front of the projectors and synchronised to great effect with neg+pos images/photo slides/oil slides etc. These ran on rails with 12vDC motors / controllers and were quite mechanically sophisticated.

Of course, in those days there was a requirement on the larger shows, for higher power light sources, which has only really been fulfilled in recent years.
One speciality that Crystalleum had (unique as far as I know) was film projection. We obtained three 16mm Bell and Howell cine projectors, which were ideal with their high brightness and long focal length lenses, but the most interesting part was the images. 
We managed to acquire, amongst others:

  • 'French Windows'.  This was an amazingly surrealistic film about 8 minutes, consisting of cartoons and line drawings, commissioned to synchronise with a track from the Pink Floyd's 'Meddle' album.
     
  • 'Girl on a Motorcycle'.  The film contained a sequence with Marianne Faithful riding around a circus ring with her kit off! 
    This was then solarised (a process of introducing exotic colouring), all to surreal effect.  The two films were hard enough to obtain but this one entailed tracking down the film's producer, a Mr Ronan O'Reilly no less, the owner of Radio Caroline. After much time and effort I located him in some far-away tax haven and he gave his permission. I then went to a viewing at British Lion Films, selected the required footage and was given a print, all for nothing! Interestingly, about 11 - 12 years ago I was able to return this favour when asked (as a pilot) to fly some passengers to Ostend as they were visiting the Caroline Ship.
    One of the passengers was Ronan O'Reilly and his girlfriend. A nicer person you could not meet!

Needless to say, these films were very valuable to us and they were something very unique and popular on the lightshow circuit.

We did also attempt to obtain footage from '2001 - A Space Odyssey but making contact with Stanley Kubrick was like finding Lord Lucan riding Shergar! We gave up.

Crystalleum added some stage lighting later on (Strand 23's and 123's) and that led us into more venues including The Winning Post for Brian 'there isn't any bread in this gig' Mason. It was here that I met Status Quo who requested that the projected effects were not used, 'only the stage lighting'.  For some time afterwards I accompanied Status Quo around the UK, providing the stage lighting and of course Crystalleum was gradually 'put to sleep'.

Not only were stage lighting facilities very basic, but special effects were virtually non-existent and when a local Croydon band asked me to make them a dry ice machine I obliged (knowing nothing about dry ice), then made some for John Lethbridge.  Soon I developed a new system for pyrotechnics (the Pyroflash) and on that product Le Maitre was formed.

Now I am Managing Director of The Effects Company which manufacture a range of special effects products that are marketed and sold throughout the world.  Ironically, our policy is only to develop / manufacture 'non-optical' SFX, and very successful we are at it!

What an amazing transformation there has been in products during the last 25 - 30 years!

 

Copyright © Martin Blake July 2001

 

 

 

 

 

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Last modified

Sunday, August 18, 2002