“He changed Glastonbury forever” – lighting designer Tim Routledge on Stormzy’s star-making Glasto set

Stormzy‘s headline set at Glastonbury 2019 was one for the ages. A lesson in how to use your platform to elevate others while making a statement of intent, it proved exactly why the Croydon MC deserved to be there. His stage show was flawless, made up of giant video screens, explosive pyrotechnics and a wide variety of lighting themes, each played their part in helping Stormzy shutdown the Glasto crowd. Put together by lighting designer Tim Routledge, whose credits include the recent Spice Girls reunion tour, and creative director Bronski, of creative production house Tawbox, NME spoke to the pair about their epic Glastonbury work.

What was your brief from Stormzy, and the main inspiration?

Tim Routledge, lighting designer: “The show was created by Stormzy with Tawbox – a South London creative production house ran by Bronski and Amber Rimmell. They are fast becoming known as the heavy lifters of the urban music scene live show. So they created the storyboard and then together with myself and Misty Buckley – she’s the set designer – we visually worked up the show into a live production. Ultimately this performance was always going to be a celebration. Not just a celebration of a big show but a celebration of the achievement in getting there, and also celebrating Stormzy’s roots, his culture and all the highs and lows of that.”

How hands on and involved was he?

Bronski, creative director: “He came with ideas and thoughts, including how to integrate dance into the show, and then Tawbox developed it into a reality.”

Tim: “In rehearsals he was very present. He let us create based on the artistic brief of the show and then commented on what he saw. He came in with a grace and acknowledged everyone in the room from the top table to every member of crew. He wasn’t locked away, he was approachable and it was very refreshing. His energy is very engaging. When he rehearses he has his game face on and he always gives 100%.”

How would you describe the act of bringing Stormzy’s music to life?

Bronski: “For us, putting together a Stormzy show it’s always about acknowledging his hard hitting roots, powerful stance, and his towering nature. But it’s also about showing his humbleness, which is completely genuine and I think that it’s what shon through during his set. He’s always very forward thinking when it comes to the vision of his performances which is why we got to create so many striking and beautiful looks.”

Stormzy

Stormzy at Glastonbury 2019

Which part of the production are you most proud of?

Tim: “I love the fact we didn’t just deliver a music festival show, it was a full-on production show that had numerous acts like it was theatre. We switched from harsh rap to a sudden blackout and then to Ballet Black appearing onstage in a beautiful moment. It’s the ambition and investment in creating something unique that gives me a real buzz. I’ve lit a lot of artists over the years but this was a bucket list show for me. I couldn’t be prouder of our entire team – they really delivered.

Which part was the most challenging?

Tim: “It was definitely the changeover from George Ezra into our show. We had the biggest set on that stage. We had to dismantle the huge onstage video wall in order to get our set in and then fly five tonnes of it in through the roof. Think hundreds of cables, lights, videos, microphones and everything that comes with it all, and it all had to be done in an hour.”

Stormzy Glastonbury

Stormzy at Glastonbury 2019

Did you feel any kind of pressure, in regards to his headline set being such a historic event?

T: “I’ve worked on many big shows, from the London Olympic ceremonies to designing Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ tour, and I can honestly say that Stormzy’s gave me just as many chills as being at the Olympic Ceremony. To some extent Danny Boyle brought a farm to East London and we took South London to a farm – my stomach was rolling for that full hour waiting for all systems go.”

How did working with Stormzy compare to working with the Spice Girls?

T: “In one respect they were two very different beasts with very different setups and styles of genre, but they were similar in a lot of ways too, especially in their importance and scale. Both shows were outdoors and the Spice Girls played a lot of rainy nights, so we were fortunate to be blessed with amazing weather for Glastonbury. I always base my designs firstly on how I want to light the artist. So for the girls it was about glamour and perfection in key lighting, while for Stormzy it was about him being a sculptural figure with a very different vibe. We wanted to create stunning looks by playing with artistic key lights to shape his look and go from harsh looks to the more clean looks for the up-tempo poppier tracks.”

Will you and Stormzy be working together on any projects?

T: “After this show I really hope so, but who knows what’s next for Stormzy? I’m sure he will have the world knocking on his door after last night. He changed Glastonbury forever.”