Mark Wynn-Edwards, Lighting Designer and Lead Creative, Simple Minds

The creative mind behind the aesthetic of the Scottish rock band’s shows shares his design process…

At the start of the creative process for any tour, the early conversations between show designer and band are critical. So, when Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr briefed Lighting Designer and Lead Creative Mark Wynn-Edwards ahead of the band’s Global Tour 2024, it’s safe to say that the LD was pleased with the room for creativity that he was afforded. “Jim’s main criteria was that the show needed to look massive – the show was going into some big spaces, and we needed to fill every inch,” he smiled. “That was handy because it happens to match by ethos perfectly. If I’m given 40 or 50 sq ft to play with, I want to fill it and go as high and wide as I can. People are paying a lot of money to come and see a show and they deserve to see something different and special.”

Catching up with TPiMEA following the band’s one-off show in Dubai on the way back to the UK from the New Zealand and Australia dates, Wynn-Edwards, who grew up in Oman and has worked extensively in the Middle East, delved into the design of the Global Tour 2024. “Video is an important part of the show, but one thing we were sure of was that we didn’t want to have a huge screen at the back of the stage that dominates the design. I’ve never been a fan of having a huge telly in a show; it’s like having a TV in a pub – people will end up just starring up at it slack-jawed,” he commented, explaining the decision to go with split LED screens rather than a large central LED wall.

Content is run across the central and side screens, with IMAG content blended with the creative imagery on the side screens. “It’s important to stick to some of the known design codes of an area gig, but always on our terms,” Wynn-Edwards stated.

“It’s a functioning piece of artwork. It works well, because as content goes over people’s faces and clothes, you get those different colours and textures.”

Starting on the tour a Catalyst Operator, Wynn-Edwards has now handed over the video reins, which has seen the tour switch over to Video Designer John Minton’s preference of Resolume. “We’ve invested a lot in the video side of the show. John is free to do his thing, which takes a lot of the workload off me,” he explained.

Having come through as a tech, the LD understands the stresses and strains of touring on the crew and as such has designed the lighting rig to be as crew friendly as possible. “It is all on pre-rig; we can roll in, hook up, get it in the air and it’s done. Of course, there’s a lot of it and it still takes a fair bit of work, but we have made it as easy as possible. I’ve been that soldier, so I know how hard load-ins can be.”

With the front mid truss sitting at 60ft in the largest UK arenas, the design can scale up and down as required. “We want to give fans a similar experience wherever in the world they are,” Wynn-Edward stated. “It should look the same in Wembley as it does in Bournemouth.”

‘Simple yet impressive’

The design retains the multi-tiered look from the previous tour, giving the impression of a ‘wall of lights’. “We came up with the initial concept, toured it, then thought about how we could improve it for this time,” the LD explained. “I wrote everything down so when it came to designing this tour, I had a good idea about what I wanted to change. It’s evolution, keeping it simple yet impressive.”

Robe fixtures are used extensively – “there’s a lot of Robe up there!” – with BMFL WashBeams doing the heavy lifting and Robin iFORTEs selected for their IP rating. “The tour moves on to festivals after the arena run and the world seems to do a lot of raining these days, so having IP-rated fixtures in the floor package was a very conscious choice,” Wynn-Edwards explained.

Ayrton MagicPanel FX fixtures provide wash light, with the distinctive square beam adding a point of interest over the more common rounded shaft of light. “There are a couple of gags where I’ve moved to digital gobos and done asymmetric looks with the beams,” the LD recalled.

GLP is also well represented in the design with impression X4 and X4 Bar 20s joining JDC1 Strobes on the rig. “We’ve fully embraced LED for this run, and the JDCs do a great job. The lack of molefays has made the racks easier with no dimmers required. I think molefays would look out of place on this show – the type of light they produce doesn’t really work with a modern setup.”

A long-term ETC Hog user, having been on the platform since version two, Wynn-Edwards operates the show live from his Hog 4 console, with not a hint of timecode in sight. “I love working with Hog; I can do everything with a matter of a few clicks, and the way it handles light is very satisfying,” he commented, going on to explain the aversion to timecode. “This show doesn’t require timecode. It has its purpose, but I’m of the era that you learn the songs, learn where things go, and then you need to have the timing to pull it off.

“The flourishes and extra bits of drama are what I really enjoy,” he added, expanding on his love for riding the console live. “The way I programme my shows is we have a main list that is the show, then I have a load of things I’m running as I feel on the night. No gig is ever same, which is great, because shows are all about being in the moment and experiencing a gig live that will never happen the same again.”

While the Dubai show was a departure from the tour’s usual design, with the venue’s giant in-house LED screen utilised, the LD was pleased with the effect they were able to achieve for a one-off performance. “Coca-Cola Arena is a hell of a venue,” he reflected. “MediaPro International supplied the lighting for us in Dubai; I’ve worked with them a lot in the past so I knew all their crew, and they were every bit as professional as I would expect. Everyone went away happy.”

The UK run meanwhile saw a full turnkey supply from Solotech, including lighting, video, and audio. “I’ve been massively impressed with them,” Wynn-Edwards reported. “Everything is just so. All the kit is presented right, has been thought through, and is cabled to perfection. I’m hands-on with everything and the Solotech team have taken a lot off my plate. It gives us more time to focus on the creative and think about the trickier venues.”

With summer season fast approaching, Simple Minds are set for a string of festival performances throughout the UK and Europe – much to the delight of Wynn-Edwards. “They have been going for more than 40 years, and to still be touring properly after all that time is a huge achievement. It’s a wonderful tour to be involved with.”

Photos: Thorsten Samesch |