The Lightshow Laboratory


Light Show from London, UK run by Mike Hart AKA Molten Mick and Alan Day.

We emailed Mike Hart during November 2021 regarding the 'Official Story' of Proteus and associated projects but am still waiting for a reply.

In the meantime please enjoy this interview transcript, used with permission from the author Joe Banks (Days of The Underground):


Proteus lightshow was resident at the London Lyceum Sunday concerts and first met Hawkwind on the 2nd of August 1970 and again at the Lyceum on 6th September 1970.

I’m a bit vague as to whether Doug Smith approached me or vice versa, however he was convinced to use Proteus as we had a 5mW neon laser which could project moving images (lissajou patterns).

We had bought the laser, a bubble machine and 8 Aldis Tutor 2 projectors for the British Steel Corporation stand at the Ideal Homes Exhibition in 1971 which were given to us even though BSC paid for them.

We used all the projectors plus an overhead projector etc for our future gigs.

I can’t find any details for the whole of 1970, 1971, but there must have been gigs with Hawkwind during those years.

The first confirmed date I can find was 19/08/72 at the Rainbow Theatre. We used all the Tutor 2 projectors plus 3 Aldi’s Tutor 1000 projectors for the liquid projections and the overhead for other liquid projections.

We also used the laser occasionally for all subsequent gigs.

From 02/09/72 at Dagenham 03/09/72 Croydon it was Proteus.

Until the start of the Space Ritual Tour is better documented, I won’t last all the dates for 1972, but the highlights were and from 04/09/72 included Jonathan Smeeton. The Oval concert, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, France. Windsor.

The gig at Tunbridge Wells on 04/09/72 was when Jonathan Smeeton appeared unannounced with his equipment.

Although we had different projectors, slides and liquids we gelled and so the partnership began.

We began trying to come up with a suitable name for the combined lightshow and finally settled on Liquid Len and the Lensmen after the Lensmen series of Sci Fi novels.

It was a joint enterprise consisting of Proteus (Alan Day, Me ) and Jonathan. I am not sure at what stage we came up with the name.

Before the Space Ritual I was experimenting with bouncing projections off of flexible mirrors from a position on the stage - this is now known as Lumia and we weren’t the first to use this technique.

Additional questions:

  • When did you begin as Proteus Lights? How did you get into doing lighting in the first place? How did you hook up with people like British Steel – were you doing ‘Corporate Work’ too?

  • Any early references to Proteus online seem to be all based on Lyceum gigs – did you do shows elsewhere?

  • Were there any other bands you worked regularly with?

  • Early gig reports talk about Hawkwind using strobes, but you were obviously bringing more to the party than just this? Was there ever any discussions with Hawkwind about how the lights should be used?

  • Do you know what Hawkwind did for lighting when you weren’t working with them? Did they have any of their own ie. the strobes, or did they just rely on venue lighting?

  • When you start working with Hawkwind in 1971/1972, was this an exclusive relationship with them, or were you still working with other bands/venues?

  • Did an exclusive relationships only come about when you became the Lensmen?

  • Just to confirm, Jonathan Smeeton doesn’t start working with you and Hawkwind until Sept 72?

  • And finally, I know it’s a long time ago, but it’d be great if you could give me a sense of what Hawkwind shows were like using your lights, and how they differed from other shows of the time… For instance, I believe you projected words into the sky at the Oval?

The start date for the name Proteus was sometime between 1969 -1970. Before that we were called The Lightshow Laboratory.

We started experimenting with liquids in 1966 whilst working as a barman at The Cooks Ferry Inn which had a thriving music scene with many bands of that era.

The music promotor at the pub said to me as I am a scientist do I know how the Pink Floyd do their projections. I said who? He said they project coloured blobs on the screen.

As I was interested in making a lava lamp at the time I would be interested in seeing them, he said I will take you to Eel Pie Island to see them.

The lightshow operator was a woman who threw the spent slides on to the floor which I collected.

Thus the experiments begun, with a cheap second hand low wattage projector As we progressed we started doing projections for the Cooks Ferry Inn, eventually other promotors in North London heard about what was happening at the Cooks Ferry and so we got bookings in other pubs.

The British Steel Corporation event came about in 1970 when someone (can’t remember who) approached us either at the Lyceum or at University College.

The Ideal Homes exhibition was going to be a large stand. I think we bought 8 Aldi’s Tutor 2 projectors, a 5 mW laser and a bubble machine ( this came from Germany and was possibly the first in UK?)

The show was run automatically from an Electrosonic computer. The laser was hooked up to a Moog synthesiser and and visitors could play the keyboard and watch the laser patterns.

The show was in March 1971 and lasted a month.

We did several corporate events after that and the only one I can recall was for Thermos flasks.

Not only were we resident at The Lyceum we were also resident at University College where many bands performed such as Deep Purple, Free, Argent, Jethro Tull, Nice, Focus. We performed many times at several other colleges and Universities, private parties and we did several gigs with Sam Gopal Dream.

We did the Christmas on Earth gig ( one of many other lightshows ) we did the Castle Rock gig at Dudley Zoo in June 1970 with bands The Faces, Edgar Broughton Band, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Quintessence.

In 1971 we went to Iceland (the Country ha ha !!) where the bands were Man, Writing on the Wall and Badfinger.

We first became aware of Hawkwind at the Lyceum in August 2nd 1970. See my earlier notes for more details.

Before we did Proteus gigs with Hawkwind in 1970 several other lightshows did their gigs especially in their very early gigs around 1969.

We became exclusively with Hawkwind from September 2nd 1972 after we had joined up with Jonathan Smeeton to form Liquid Len and the Lensmen, this was the first date of the Space Ritual Tour.

I think the Liquid Len and the Lensmen show was spectacular and was in many ways ground breaking and many Hawkwind fans still remember it. It wasn’t just animated wallpaper but we all tried to tell the story of the music as well.

From our early days as Proteus we had the the best liquid colours of any lightshow which we continued to use with Liquid Len and the Lensmen.

The band did have an input but mainly left it up to us what to include. I had access to a photographic darkroom so could make many of the Kodalith slides we used.

I’m sorry to be boastful but I think Liquid Len and the Lensmen was the best lightshow in the UK at that time. Things have progressed now with video projections and many other new techniques.

I left Liquid Len and the Lensmen just before the American tour as I had studied for three years to get my degree in Biomedical Science and could not leave my work for the tour. Do I regret leaving, yes and no.

I did get recognition for my veterinary science but I also can see what success Jonathan Smeeton achieved in lighting when he lived in US with his company Robots for Peace.

Addendum: the start of the Space Ritual tour was not September 2nd 1972 but was November 8th.

As I said before Jonathan Smeeton & Proteus got together 4th September 1972 so it must have been between September and November 1972 that we decided on the name Liquid Len and the Lensmen.

The British Steel Corporation gig was designed by Habitat with Lord Snowdon and I now think it was someone from Habitat that approached us.


If you can help with more information about this Light Show we would love to hear from you.

Proteus Light Show

June 1970

Proteus Light Show

August 1970

Proteus Light Show

September 1970

Proteus Light Show

November 1970