Homegirl London pays homage to Carousel Lights www.carousellights.com. This business designs and produces vintage style fairground lighting, circus lighting, neon tube lights and illuminated letters. The main range is inspired by iconic fairground rides from the rusty steel of the Helter Skelter to the chrome-effect of the art deco era Waltzer. They use a mix of materials to mount the lights on, from aluminium and steel through to timber and Perspex which are either left in their bare state or coated with paint. Choose your favourite fairground attraction light from their ready-made collection or commission your very own design. All the products are made in Britain using traditional craft experts so you can expect top quality all the way. I caught up with the owners to find out more about Carousel Lights.
Carousel Lights – Light Selection
Meet the Owners of Carousel Lights
The owners of this business are brother and sister – Ben and Rebecca Reynolds. Ben has a first class master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with a heavy emphasis on industrial design. He also trained in Fashion Photography at the London College of Fashion. His career started with British Airways on their graduate training programme. During his eight year employment he held various Sales and Marketing roles. He was also Head of Marketing for ebookers and BBC studios. He says – “I didn’t realise this would all eventually be combined with a significant interest in fairgrounds and showmanship to setting up Carousel Lights with my sister!” Ben’s background in Engineering and Design sees him focus on the development and construction side of the business.
Carousel Lights – Rebecca and Ben Reynolds
Rebecca graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Leeds in 2000. She moved to London to begin a career in Project Management at global brand agency Imagination. Here she worked as a Senior Account and Project Manager specialising in Events for the company’s VIP clients. Rebecca left Imagination to set up her own Events Company working with clients such as GlaxoSmithKline, TK Maxx and Cancer Research UK. She’s now in charge of the manufacturing process.
Carousel Lights – Vintage Light
They explain how their fascination of fairgrounds started – “Our love of the fairground began as young children after a trip to Lincolnshire’s Boston May Fair. This has been held in Boston every year since 1125 and is one of the oldest travelling fairs in the UK. We always thought there was something magical and enticing about them, from the smell of candyfloss to the exceptional lighting schemes. When it comes to lighting, showmanship is very much about one-upmanship. If the neighbouring ride operator has eleven strobes, then you need to have twelve!”
Carousel Lights – Vintage Speeding Sign
The business idea was born out of these childhood memories. They reveal – “We’d both been working in the corporate world for over ten years. We kept having the niggling feeling that we should bring our passion of Carousel Lights to life. We therefore spent about a year working on a business plan and many evenings visiting fairs and piers in order to get inspiration for our lights. Many prototypes later, we then launched our first style of Waltzer light to great reviews.” As for the company name, they explain – “The term ‘Carousel’ is an all-encompassing name for fairground rides that rotate in a circle and it also has quite a Victorian sound to it which we thought was just perfect. Our lights are all heavily inspired by iconic fairground rides and the galloping horses was one of our favourites as children.”
Carousel Lights Collection
Ben talks me through the designs he’s created – “The style is heavily influenced by Victorian fairgrounds, along with a dollop of Circus inspiration too. Whether it’s from the typeface through to the colours and materials, everything we design and produce is rooted in history. Each style of light is based on an iconic fairground ride and the shape options are letters, numbers, hearts, stars and arrows. We spend a lot of time getting prototypes right before we put products for sale on the market.” Let’s take a look at the ready made selection. Meteorite consists of a brushed steel tray with clear fairground lights, sitting on a gold base and encased within the metal as if holding the riders in place as with the original ride.
Carousel Lights – Meteorite
Helter Skelter has the look of a light that’s been exposed to the elements for many years with the traditional lamps being protected by a rust-effect steel surround.
Carousel Lights – Helter Skelter
Satellite consists of blue fairground lamps that ride aboard a brushed stainless steel base in line with how the cars were situated on this often-scuffed iconic ride.
Carousel Lights – Satellite
Dodgem is all about neon and polished steel. To mimic riders running to choose their favourite coloured car, the colour of the neon can be chosen with this style.
Carousel Lights – Dodgem
Waltzer is an art deco style using polished steel and Mason Ayres Red to match Thurston and Lakin’s original Waltzer ride.
Carousel Lights – Waltzer
Inspiration for their lights comes from various sources – “The business is based in London although we spend a lot of time roaming the UK finding fairs to visit. One minute we’ll be wandering up Brighton Pier and notice the artwork that’s been used on some of the buildings then the next minute we’ll see a book of old Americana diners or Victorian Circus. We’re constantly keeping our eyes peeled as we normally see something particularly inspiring when we’re least expecting it!” Tattoo artist Ed Hardy is a source of inspiration – “There’s something very iconic about the shapes and colours used in many tattoos (hearts, snakes, anchors, etc) and it’s something that we’re experimenting with. We’d love to collaborate with a tattoo artist at some stage for our ‘Artist Collaborations’ series which is where artists design lights which we manufacture.”
Carousel Lights – Collaboration with Rosie Gordon-Smith
Neon is their favourite light source to work with, they tell me – “Neon has fascinated us from the very beginning when we started using it in our Dodgem style of light. It can be used for your dodgy flickering kebab shop sign right up to a work-of-art by Tracey Emin. The key of course, as with any material, is how it’s employed. Neon is a very flexible light, with a wide range of colours available as well as different thicknesses of glass. We can easily create so many designs with it. If a customer wrote something by hand, scanned it in and emailed it through to us, we can replicate that handwriting in a stunning neon light. It’s also dimmable – something which is set once when it’s initially wired up to the transformer.”
Carousel Lights – Neon Lights
Keeping the craft of making these wonderful fairground lights alive is important to them. They explain – “Some of our heavier engineering for products like large lights in commercial premises is undertaken by a team of people who also make galloping horses for fairgrounds all over the world. If you want the real deal, even the elements that you can’t see, this is what our lights are all about.”
Buy Carousel Lights
To buy one of these lights you can visit the website at www.carousellights.com. Prices range from £195 up to thousands of pounds for bespoke lights for homes or businesses. A large proportion of their work is custom built using steel, wood, neon and fairground bulbs. This could be replicating handwriting in neon (e.g. Marry Me?) or perhaps creating a light out of shape or phrase for the children’s bedroom.
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Carousel Lights. Thanks: Ben Reynolds, Rebecca Reynolds and Sharonne Lewi.