Great Western Light Show


Personnel (Lightship and Diorama):

Mike Dauntsey (decd)
Andy Densley
Keith Wilkins

Personnel (Great Western Light Show):

Mike Dauntsey (decd)
Keith Wilkins
Andy Densley

I have always been interested in Audio-Visual art and multimedia events and special effects in Sci Fi movies etc.

This developed during Art courses at school and the study of Light and colour at an Architectural course at Bristol University.

My first experience of liquid Light shows was at one of the early Pink Floyd concerts at the UFO Club in Tottenham Court Road in London. There was only 1 projector where the liquids were heated with a gas blower, such as the type used by plumbers.

The effect was greatly enhanced by the fact that Pink Floyd were all dressed in white and all the amps were painted white in front of a white wall. You could hardly see the group and the impression was

I immediately returned home to Bristol, bought an Aldis Tutor projector and began practicing with glass slides and different liquids. I soon discovered that it was more effective to remove the heat filter to make the liquids bubble.

I went up to London to see the Joshua Light Show performing with the Chambers Brothers at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.

During the interval and at the end of the show, I went back behind their back projection screen and chatted to the guys who showed me how they were doing some of their effects, particularly with their overhead projectors and their 16mm loop films.

Their set up was amazing complete with heads sets to communicate with each other. All very professional.

My other main influence was Glen McKay's Headlights from San Francisco. I first saw them at the Jefferson Airplane/ Doors concert at the Roundhouse in London.

Again, I was able to go up to the balcony and see their set up and chat to the crew and learnt a lot regarding the use of colour wheels and overhead Projector techniques.

The Great Western Light Show worked with hundreds of bands around the Bristol and Bath area, as well as all over the UK and in Paris, Amsterdam (twice the Paradiso and Melkweg) and in Berlin.

Well known bands such as:

Pink Floyd (twice Bristol and Cardiff)
The Who
Deep Purple
David Bowie
Steve Miller Band
Velvet Underground
Doctor John
The Faces
Ten Years After
Curved Air
Eric Clapton (Derek and the Dominoes)
Roxy Music

Quintessence ( The Great Western Light Show became their regular light show after a very successful concert in Plymouth (see write up), performing in major concert venues all over the UK, including the famous Royal Albert hall in London.)

The Great Western Light Show also did some TV programmes for BBC and ITV.

The Great Western Light Show was formed In the autumn of 1970 from an amalgamation of my original light show Lightship and Diorama run by Mike Dauntsey and Andy Densley and being based in Bristol, the name came from the Great Western Railway (hence the locomotive on our poster), built by the famous engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, to link London with Bristol by rail.

It ran until about 1974, when lightshows were being reduced at concerts to cut costs.

Andy Densley left in the early days and after the light show got bigger with more screens and scaffolding. We were using roadies to help carry the van full of equipment, weighing over a half ton at times.

When we went to Berlin, we had to cross what was East Germany, behind the Iron Curtain this involved making an inventory of every single item all in boxes, so we could present this at the border.

It took hours to prepare and type out. When we got to the East German border it was late at night and we
produced our long inventory list and when we opened the rear doors of the van, the armed guards just decided it was too much trouble to get us to unload the van to check every item, so he just waved us through!

At our gig at the Royal Albert Hall, we had to erect a free standing back projection screen, as we were working from the organ at the back of the stage.

We spent all day erecting this homemade metal scaffolding frame work which was very dodgy and supported by long ropes tied to the balcony rails at either side of the hall. The screen was suspended in mid-air above and behind Quintessence and gave a fantastic image above the group.

The concert went well, but after the show when we went to dismantle the screen, we found that someone in the audience had untied the rope on one side! It could have been a major disaster if the screen had fallen down!

I started out using an Aldis Tutor 1 for 2 inch glass slides with liquids that didnt mix heated by removing the heat filter. By adding more and more equipment over time to about 16 projectors, stage lighting, bubble machines, dry ice machine, strobes, UV lights, scaffolding etc. all weighing about half a ton in the late years.

When working with the Who, I found a huge spider in the bath on the night of the gig and squashed him between 2 pieces of glass. This we projected flashing above the group when they played Boris the Spider !!

We were continually developing new techniques and ideas using reflective surfaces and items such as prism gratings and shaped glass and crystals.

Thank you for compiling this list of long forgotten light shows. It brings back lots of happy memories.

Best Regards

Keith Wilkins
Great Western Light Show - August 2020


Please click images below for some lovely big scans :-)

Great Western Light Show

December 1969 (Melody Maker)

Great Western Light Show

Great Western Light Show with Curved Air - Bath University

Great Western Light Show

Great Western Light Show with Curved Air - Bath University

Great Western Light Show

(From left) GWLS roadie (name forgotten), Mike Dauntsey, Keith Wilkins and Andy Densley

Great Western Light Show

Great Western Light Show Poster

Great Western Light Show

Great Western Light Show reviews

Great Western Light Show

Keith Wilkins - Great Western Light Show

Great Western Light Show

Lightship at The Granary Club

Great Western Light Show

Reviews and Great Western Light Show at the Granary Club, Bristol

Great Western Light Show

Great Western Light Show reviews

Great Western Light Show

Lightship and Diorama - Pilton Festival September 19th -20th 1970

Great Western Light Show

Plastic Dog magazine article