lighting design

Re:lit Project: The Side Project Quandary

The Re:lit project is an award winning lighting initiative that has been embraced for three years. It sits at a crossroads.

From bringing communities together, to enabling the recycling of lighting products, we are now at a make or break stage of the journey.


A Re:lit Recap

If you are not familiar, Re:Lit is an initiative that sees Michael Grubb Studio work with lighting manufacturers. We take superseded, damaged and ex-demo lighting off the shelves and put to good use within community spaces.

The project won a LUX Award for Recycling and has been reported extensively in the press. It has also been presented at PLDC Rome and Lightfair USA.

Previous projects have included The Shelley Theatre in Bournemouth, Number 90 and Chicken Town (below) in London. These projects represent examples of lighting that would have been cast aside, but were instead put to much better use. This unlocked community spaces that can now be used and enjoyed by others.

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You could say it is a very upside down way of working. We are given products from the generosity of manufacturers and then we sit down and figure out the most suitable way of creating the desired lit environment.

It was originally set-up with the focus on one project per year, but the demand is there to deliver a Re:lit project every month. It has come to a stage where the initiative has become so successful, it has out grown us. We simply cannot control, operate and manage it without wider support.


Where Do We Go From Here?

According to Michael Grubb, creative director, the issues are very real when it comes to wastage. “We received an email from a manufacturer this month. It included a photo of four pallets full of lighting equipment. There was the stark message for someone to pick up by the end of the week, or they would be destroyed.”

“The frustration we now have is the sheer volume of waste. It is getting worse and we are contaminating the ground we stand on.”

“The harsh reality is that we have the potential for regular projects and save perfectly fine lighting equipment from destruction, but we just can’t physically do it.”

Michael highlights the possible options to bringing in industry bodies to take the initiative on a wider scale. “For this to retain its momentum and breathe new life, support from institutions could help to partner and harness projects.” 

“Re:lit could also take on an educational value where responsibility is provided to graduates. The initiative is there to provide hands on experience where the focus is on working in a slightly different way.”

Taking things further there is also the belief that trade shows could take on a responsibility at the end of a conference. Michael points to the fact that once an event is over, the lighting from the stand is often ‘forgotten’ about. Michael highlights, “It can be simple.

At the end of a show a manufacturer has the opportunity to sign up and donate lighting from their stand. This sounds far healthier than leaving it in a container for six months before destroying perfectly fine equipment, before the next show.”

Michael concludes that, “It is not about us! We have come to a point where we have to give a piece of Re:lit away. Call it a lighting franchise if you like, but why can’t this initiative work in other countries?” 


Another Perspective


Stuart Alexander, senior designer and co-founder of Re:lit, also takes the approach of assistance, but having a belief and structure is at the heart of everything.

“There are some real key issues here related to storage, management and taking on board an ethos. This is about a handshake, rather than a rigid agenda that is led by self importance.”

For the continued success of the Re:lit project, Stuart believes it has to be community driven. “There are ways to make an impact on a community. It needs people who genuinely care.”

Stuart believes that the growth, management and delivery of the initiative must retain its organic roots with people who want to be involved and take responsibility. “Lets look at it this way. Imagine Re:lit represents the role of a village hall.”

“When you visit, you meet other people and you chat about needs and requirements. It should be a community platform where sharing ideas and networking comes first. Extended from this is helping community based projects and achieving something great.”

“It should be something everyone involved can be proud of. It requires creativity, integration and design to get it to a standard that everyone is happy with.”
“There maybe people who think oh nice, free lights’ but there is still a lot of work and thought to take something that was originally for a completely different purpose integrated into a new positive shape. We don’t normally receive 12 of exactly the same downlight perfect for that residential project. This shouldn’t be seen as a freecycle. It is about getting people to meet each other, save things with huge invested energy from the landfill and create something positive for a wider community.”


Lets Round Up

The Re:lit project has come to a crossroads. There are questions to face and decisions to be made.

Everything is worthwhile when you see people celebrating space and environments being brought back to life. This is why we still believe in letting light live. We just need ways to support an initiative that has given back to so many people over the past three years.


What about you? Would you like to be a part of the Re:lit community and help join our cause? This is something we cannot do on our own. There are spaces in the UK (and beyond) where light plays a role to bring people together. Lets not waste this opportunity. Click here to enquire.




We are currently supporting SPUD Youth and their proposed HandleBar Café, based in Winchester.

This is the concept from a group of local teenagers who have been working on the project for three years.

The Handlebar Café is a cycle themed café that will be open to everyone. The design of the café will echo the shapes of two train carriages passing on the railway bridge, which will emphasis the history of the site. They will be crafted in timber and will be a model of sustainable design. An expert team of professional project partners are now working to deliver the community project in time for next summer.