Being "El Presidente"

It's been a big year for the Society of Lighting and Lighting (SLL) and now, as an early Christmas present, we have a bumper blog from its President Liz Peck. Liz looks back on the last year in the run-up to, and start of, her Presidency

For me, my presidency effectively began in January. I was mapping out what I wanted to do, what I was going to say during "the speech" in May. By that time, I'd already decided I wouldn't be wearing a suit. I'd sounded out a couple of trusted SLL friends with mixed response, yet I knew I was right: I don't "do" suits. If I could be elected in jeans, I could give my Address in them too.

In January, my previous 'stalking' of the RIBA President Elect, Jane Duncan, came to fruition as she joined me and John Aston in Paris for the International Year of Light launch. In February, my personal quest to engage with the RIBA extended locally too as I joined the RIBA Yorkshire Awards judging team: a thoroughly enjoyable process indeed.

I spent time in the early part of the year going through the archives and looking back to the very formation of the Society. I tell people we are the Society who is open to all, that  having an interest in light or lighting is all we ask. I knew that that had stemmed from the formation when architects were as vital a part of the Society as illuminating engineers and I wanted to draw on that in my Address.

Liz makes her inaugural speech as SLL President

In March, my duty as president-elect was ramped up rather more than I had expected as I was to look after His Royal Highness, the Duke of York, when he attended the Fresnel Lecture at the Royal Institution. He's the UK Patron of the IYL and I have to say, was very interested in the subject, asking lots of questions as the evening progressed. A great honour, indeed.

During the spring, I started developing my "hit-list" of organisations who we have obvious - and some less obvious - synergies with and started doing what I hate doing most in my life: contacting complete strangers to introduce myself and the Society I'm so passionate about. Most replied in a positive way and I was especially delighted to have so many of them as guests at my inauguration in May.

The Lighting Family had been born. And I was "el presidente". Crikey.
Royal Photographic Society volunteers capture the Giants Causeway on
the Night of Heritage Light ©Gareth O'Cathain

In June, I went over to the National Media Museum in Bradford and met their press officer to discuss their forthcoming Light Festival and possible connections between the two organisations. We even discussed the possibility of having a temporary exhibition in the new year of the Night of Heritage Light.  I was also back at the Royal Institution for the ILP Lecture by Russell Foster as well as giving CIBSE Council an update on the Society's activities and a trip to Bath to meet with the Royal Photographic Society's Director-General, Michael Pritchard, who I'd been having regular and forthcoming correspondence with since meeting their then president, Derek Birch, in Paris. The RPS were very supportive of the Night of Heritage Light, promoting it in their Journal. Later, the ECA would come to our rescue with finding us electricians for five of the sites.
The Stirling Prize nominated Maggie's Centre in Lanarkshir©Phillip Durrant
In July we had the CIE Quadrennial meeting in Manchester and I was invited to be a guest at their celebration dinner at Manchester United. You can't have it all, I suppose, sacrifices have to be made! Brendan and I also had a further meeting with Jane Duncan at the RIBA regarding joint ventures and she pledged their support to the 2015-2016 Masterclass series.

September usually marks the start of the "busy season" at SLL and I met with Nick Mead, the CIBSE president along with Stephen Matthews and Hywel Davies from CIBSE HQ and the chairmen of SoPHE and ILEVE, when we enjoyed lunch together. Having reviewed the draft Masterclass presentations at Balham, I was back at the RIBA to see Jane take office and Jeff Shaw and I stayed on the president's fundraising dinner that evening. The same evening, Brendan was representing the Society at the Royal Photographic Awards; unfortunately I haven't yet mastered being in two places at once.
Liz accepts her Person of the Year 2015 award at Lux Live

Then came October 1st: the Night of Heritage Light. That's probably a whole story just in itself but on the day, I was over at Giant's Causeway. I'd landed the day before and immediately became part of the Ranger team there, welcomed by head ranger, Neville. I quickly understood the dark art of entertaining the visitors as Neville cried, not so much, wolf, more like "basking shark, right there, did you see?" and "Ah you've just missed the dolphin show". There's no such thing of course. He had me embroiled in his antics before I knew it! As everyone knows, the night was a huge success and well worth all of the effort involved by the whole team.

October is no time to rest on your laurels though, as we had a meeting of the Executive the following week and once again, I was able to make a presentation to CIBSE Council, this time, to show them the results of NoHL. To say the audience were dumbstruck would be under-playing it. The first question was "How on earth...?" - I think they were impressed. That evening, I was at the CIBSE President's Dinner and delighted to be there to congratulate past president, Kevin Kelly, who received a CIBSE Silver Medal in recognition for his work in the Republic of Ireland.

Cardiff was next on my itinerary as we kicked off the Masterclass series at the Millennium Centre.  Then it was off to Glasgow for the second Jonathan Speirs Memorial Lecture. An emotional evening as the subject was the Maggies Centre in Lanarkshire, shortlisted for the Stirling Prize and Jonathan's last project. Another honour.
Open to all: Ready Steady Light targets young lighters
November seems to be the start of Awards season and I was delighted to be invited to the Institute of Physics awards dinner. The IoP are integral to the UK's IYL efforts so it was a joy to be invited.

Before the Masterclass in Leicester at the end of November, we had Lux Live at Excel: another hectic two days with welcoming members new and old to the SLL stand. On day one, Jeff hosted the Mini Masterclasses, while I was able to introduce the session on the new SLL LED research which was conducted by Public Health England. My day finished with being a particularly fierce dragon, not buying into any of the inventions. Sorry about that! The second day for us is all about the Young Lighter of the Year Final. The four finalists presented their papers in the main Lux Arena, quite a formidable task. We invite all four finalists to join us at the Lux Awards in the evening and the winner is announced. My congratulations again to Youmna Abdallah.

The biggest surprise then came as I was just coming from the stage and looking to congratulate Youmna properly, completely oblivious to anything happening on stage when suddenly Brendan shouted at me to pay attention. I turned round to see my face on screen as the LUX person of the year. I'd heard nothing of the citation, so was probably the absolute last person to realise; it took me two days to get over the shock!

Six months to the day after my inauguration, I accepted that award on behalf of everyone who made that six months the most enjoyable - and challenging - I've ever experienced.

Now for some time off. Where those mince pies?


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