The Strand Story
    Through the years



    Born in London’s theatreland district in 1914 at the start of World War 1, Strand was famous for its lighting by the 1920s, pioneered controls in the 1930s, grew internationally in the 1940s and moved into television lighting in the 1950s.


    By the 1970s Strand was making big technological leaps – shifting into automation and rewriting the rules for consoles, while the 1980s saw major advances in dimming and controls.


    The revolution in computing in 1990s saw a time of rapid technological growth. Strand created its first digital consoles and software based control systems – direct descendants of those that control today’s highly-evolved, energy-efficient LED luminaires.


    Proud of our past but driven by today, we have developed high-quality products that help you to meet the demands of modern theatre, film and TV, as well as themed environments and architecture.







    2022: We will centralize our investments moving forward in one Signify entertainment legal entity, Vari-Lite LLC.  Therefore, all new entertainment products across product categories will be branded as Vari-Lite.


    The operations of Strand Lighting LLC will be discontinued.


    2021: Zero 88, the well-known entertainment lighting controls and power management brand, joined the Signify entertainment business unit.


    2020: Signify decided to centralize its investments in entertainment lighting, moving forward in Vari-Lite LLC with the intention that, over time, Vari-Lite LLC would continue as the sole legal entity to conduct and coordinate business for all Signify entertainment lighting.


    2019: Signify phased out the Showline and Selecon brands, while Vari-Lite and Strand continued to operate in their own business-focused brands.


    1914: Arthur Earnshaw and Phillip Sheridan, two theatre electricians register their first luminaire housing design and set up a small office and workshop at 66A St. Martin's Lane in the heart of London's West End theatre district. Strand is born.

    1918: The two electricians present their company to Moss Mansell, a manufacturer of arc resistances and dimmers in Cecil Court, who agrees to buy into the company.

    1922: Strand develops the Sunray glass reflector batten, or S-batten, a footlight with gelatin color filters to apply complementary colors and change effects such as costumes, makeup, and scenery.

    1922: The first show to use the S-batten is Round in Fifty at The London Hippodrome, a "musical adventure" starring comedian George Robey and American vaudeville star Sophie Tucker. Strand becomes an essential part of London theatre shows.

    1928: Strand applies for a patent for the Stelmar ellipsoidal spotlight, a 1K and 500W ellipsoidal profile spot that would set the stage for theatre lighting for decades to come.

    1929: Strand patents the Magnetic Clutch, Strand's first contribution to compact remote control of lighting. The Clutch could be used to grip onto or release a rotating wheel at the flick of a switch to move dimmers up and down.

    1930: Strand develops safer controls – at the time electrical circuits were typically controlled by on/off open knife switches mounted on a slab of slate or marble, leaving the operator vulnerable to electrocution.

    1932: Fred Bentham joins Strand. His revolutionary concept – a control desk that could "play" light, so just one person could manipulate hundreds of lights. He would go on to become Strand’s director of technology and change its history.

    1936: The company goes public as Strand Electric Holdings Limited.

    1936: Strand unveils its first television installation: the BBC Alexandra Palace television studios in North London. Studios A and B each had a Strand Grand Master dimmer board.

    1939: The arrival of World War II brings major challenges as well as global expansion, extension into the film and television markets, and innovations in motorized lights.

    1947: After the war, Strand began moving forward again, working with lighting designer and electronics innovator George Izenour to release the two-tube thyratron dimmer, one of the first electronic dimmers in England.

    1950: The L-16C02 Thyratron Tube Remote Control Preset was installed in the Carnegie Institute of Technology as a prototype along with three other locations: Yale Drama School, the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, and a theatre in Delaware.


    1953: The company introduces the world’s first mass-produced theatre spotlight. The patent, Pattern 23, was for the first die-cast construction stage luminaire.


    1956: Start of Commercial Television in the UK and the BBC Riverside pilot studios for the White City TV Centre project. Strand controls, the majority of which are variants on the CD principle, are supplied to BBC TV studios for the next decade.


    1958: The C Core dimmer system is installed at Yale University. The C Core is the first SCR dimmer.


    1960: The BBC Television Centre opens in White City in West London. Many of the studios included Strand pole-operated Pattern 243 pressed steel Fresnel spots, System C controls, and patching systems with “Jills” instead of “Jacks”.


    1962: Chichester Festival Theatre: Britain's first new theatre in thrust stage format and first LC control (72-way transistor/choke preset).


    1964: The Edkotron dimmer system was introduced and was said to be the first modular, truly portable electronic dimming system. Strand installs its thyristor dimming system at the Royal Opera House in London and at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera House.


    1966: Strand’s first instant dimmer memory control (IDM/R) is demonstrated in March and two large installations are ordered for Ottawa, Canada.


    1968: Strand Electric is purchased by the Rank Organisation to become Rank Strand Electric, a timely acquisition that is said to have saved the company. The Memo Q console is developed with George Van Buren as the first computerised memory system.


    1969: In the USA, Rank takes over Century Lighting which becomes Strand Century. National Arts Centre Ottawa opens with 5 Strand patch-panels and two IDM/Rs.


    1972: Strand returns to The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon, to bring the theatre a new 240 way Digital Dimmer Memory (DDM) computer system.


    1972: the company welcomes another industry giant into its ranks when lighting designer and technical director Wally Russell becomes president of Strand Century Canada.


    1975: Wally Russell becomes president of Strand Lighting USA.


    1978: T/84 Variable Beam Profile Spot, the ultimate development of the T-Spot, makes its first appearance and sells over 600 units in its first week on offer.

    1981: Prelude, Harmony and Minim, Strand's new series of Profile, Prism Convex and Fresnel spots shown for the first time at ABTT Trade Show.

    1983: the iconic Pattern 23 diecast lantern is discontinued after more than 30 years of production and 500,000 units.

    1983: M24 micro-processor control launched, which opened the door of sophisticated memory lighting facilities to the small scale theatres and TV studios.

    1987: $150 million Strand sales achieved, substantial growth from $4 million sales in 1977.

    1991: Strand Lighting becomes the first (and only) North American company  to achieve ISO 9000 Quality certification.

    1998: ParkNet control system developed for Universal Studios Islands of Adventure theme park. The system operates the entire theme park's lighting from a central location using two miles of Ethernet cable.

    1999: 8 new compact, highly efficient cool-beam SL luminaires introduced in March at USITT in Toronto, including 6 fixed-angle versions and two zoom fixtures.

    1999: 300-series lighting control consoles introduced to cover entry-level to mid-range users (seven consoles, and a new compact show controller).

    2002: 100/200/301 series consoles were released. The Strand 100 Series console was a small, easy-to-use, pre-set lighting desk that could control 24 channels in one scene or 12 channels in two scenes with the ability to expand scenes.

    2004: Strand lights the Eiffel Tower in Paris for four days in celebration of Chinese president Hu Jintao's visit to France. It was "bathed in red – a symbol of happiness and prosperity,"

    2005: Strand continues its longstanding relationship with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) when it supplies five racks of EC21 dimmers for the Courtyard Theatre, the RSC's main performance space, while the Royal Shakespeare Theatre was redeveloped.

    2007: Following a difficult few years of trading during which Strand made significant cuts, it was beginning to make a profit for the first time in several years. Strand UK reopened with 11 employees under general manager, Alan Luxford.

    2008: Strand’s owner Genlyte was acquired by Royal Philips Lighting. As part of the acquisition, Strand was made part of the Philips Entertainment Group, paving the way for large company investment in LED technology.

    2011: Strand completes its work on the Qatar National Convention Center, a project that included EC21 dimming cabinets, Light Palette control consoles, control panels, hundreds of touch screens, and miles of fiber networking.

    2013: The 500ML lighting console from Strand is introduced to the market. Bringing a solution for entry-level operation to small to medium-sized theatres it merges the world of conventional dimmer/channel control using traditional command line operation with an easy-to-use interface.


    2014: Strand takes the PLASA innovation award for the DMX Bypass Switch, sighting as a well-designed turnkey solution for using DMX in an emergency system.


    2014: Strand introduces the groundbreaking NEO Lighting Control Console featuring a sophisticated software system with a rich set of hardware controls.


    2015: The NEO Lighting Control System expands with the introduction of the Submaster and Playbackwings along with the rack-mount Playback Controller. In the same year, the 500ML Console debuts at LDI, providing easy programming operation for live events and touring productions.


    2016: Two Strand NEO Lighting Control Consoles control the historic Niagara Falls energy efficient LED lighting installation. Lighting effects such as sunrise, sunset and the Aurora Borealis can be easily displayed on the Falls nightly using the NEO Consoles.


    2017: 200F/4000F and 150S/300S LED fresnel and softlight fixtures are introduced offering minimal power consumption and low heat output for television studios.


    2019: Having separated from its parent company Royal Philips in 2015, Philips Lighting rebrands as Signify. Strand and stablemate Vari-Lite regain their stand-alone brand status, with a renewed commitment from the business to innovate and support the visions of creative artists worldwide.