Adrian Brooks of LiteStructures
LiteStructures’ main man talks to TPi about the birth of an industry standard...
This summer marks the 25th anniversary of the introduction of LiteStructures’ AstraLite, the world’s first-ever lightweight aluminium trussing system — a high-performance, modular concept that gained rapid acceptance and remains in worldwide daily use.
AstraLite’s creator, LiteStructures’ MD Adrian Brooks, recalled the events of the spring of 1983, and how one conversation led to the birth of an industry standard.
“That spring, I was approached by one of our good customers, Mike Roberts at Opera North and asked to provide a triangular truss which could sit on and span between two of our ‘Lightning’ aluminium scaffold towers, the manufacture and rental of which was our business in those days,” said Brooks.
“The truss itself was a very new concept at that time; we had used steel and aluminium ladders and beams in the construction industry and Telestage had made a few early aluminium trusses for use in entertainment but the whole idea was very much in its infancy.
“Prior to this, the whole theatre and performing arts sector had needed to rely on good old aluminium scaff tube to hang things from. A few rudimentary components existed which had mainly been borrowed from the construction industry for attaching things to and from scaff. The limiting factor in using scaff was the weight loading capability and its inability to span any significant distances.”
Roberts was about to tour a modern opera called ‘The Peace’ around schools in the north of England, and asked Brooks to supply two towers and this special beam. “I asked what he wanted to do with the towers, were they to be draped to form the wings? Mike explained that he didn’t want wings as all the kids would be sat around the performance space, in a semi in-the-round arrangement.
“I then suggested that he didn’t really want the towers at all, which frustrated him a little, as he didn’t think that I’d understood that he wouldn’t be able to fly the beam — or truss as it soon became known — in all the different school halls as very few, if any, would have any provision for flying anything at all.
“But I did understand and explained that I might be able to create an aluminium triangular truss and a corner component which allowed the truss to turn through 90° and stand on itself.”
Brooks built three straight trusses and two of the 90° corner components to create a goalpost. He also provided four of his scaffold tower outriggers to attach to the bottom of the vertical trusses together with tailored baseplates to stop the whole thing falling over!
“Mike was absolutely delighted with what we had made,” said Brooks, “so much so that he suggested that I should take it to the ABTT Show at the Roundhouse in Camden, London later in the early summer of that year. He suggested that I ought to take a tower too, just to hedge my bets!”
The show brought considerable interest and a number of enquiries, the most significant one being from Neil Rice, the MD of Optikinetics, who was planning a roadshow with Mode Electronics and asked whether LiteStructures could provide the same arrangement but on four legs to form a rectangular rig.
Brooks added: “I explained that we had already considered this and felt that it was possible to create a three-way corner which we subsequently produced. Neil loved his four legged structure and offered to become our distributor having measure the appeal of the product at the first of his roadshow events, so that is what we did. The rest, so to speak, is history.”
THE WAY AHEAD
These events marked the birth of Astralite and it’s difficult today to conceive of any event without aluminium trussing.
“We tried to patent the idea immediately after the show, only to be told that we couldn’t as we’d already exhibited it and some while later Neil produced his own derivative Trilite,” recalled Brooks.
Some time later, other similar manufacturers appeared on the scene but little of major significance happened until the early ’90s when many European companies set up in the trussing industry — one that, for the most part, had previously been confined to the UK.
“Ironically, the product of the year award at ABTT in 1983 was the humble butt hinge with its pin replaced by a pointed and removable version, designed to help revolutionise the theatre industry by allowing theatre carpenters to buy these detachable hinges rather than making their own!” commented Brooks.
Often imitated, but arguably never surpassed in its league, AstraLite is now also known as A03, and has been joined in the LiteStructures product range by smaller and larger formats, and professional, heavy-duty ranges.
All of these modular trussing systems are available as two-, three- and four-tube configurations, with a wide range of options, including the Livelite range of in-built power rails, numerous powder coat and polished finishes, and a huge selection of time and labour-saving accessories.
Digitruss further broadens the offering, being the first-ever trussing system to incorporate both power and data transmission capabilities.
LiteStructures has also taken an industry-leading position in staging with the Litedeck system, and has progressed to offer a full range of design and build facilities for complete stage sets, exhibition stands and customised components and projects.
The successful launch of LiteStructures Studios, conveniently located on-site at the company's Wakefield HQ in West Yorkshire, and the largest facility of its kind in Europe, has further expanded and enhanced what is now recognised by many as the industry’s most comprehensive and competitive resource.