Your Interview Juliet Rennie
Introduce yourself (name, company, position, country) and tell us how you got into lighting design (including education/qualifications).
My name is Juliet Rennie, I am the Communications Manager (formerly Coordinator) for the Society of Light and Lighting (SLL). I am based in London but, the SLL is international, and a division of the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineering (CIBSE). I work alongside the Society’s Secretary, Brendan Keely.
I have an English Literature degree and I am passionate about literature and poetry, particularly the weird and wonderful world of Franz Kafka. Before working with the SLL, I knew absolutely nothing about architectural lighting or the lighting industry. Having worked in a few different roles after finishing uni, mainly focusing on marketing, I joined CIBSE as the Coordinator for the Society.
It became clear to me that the Lighting Professionals and volunteers that I was working with love what they do. It was impossible not to feel inspired and curious when working alongside such passionate and enthusiastic people. My interest was rewarded with kindness, patience and encouragement and I went on to do the Lighting Education Trust (LET) Diploma in Lighting Design.
Tell us about your work – is there a specific type of project you like to work on or an area you specialise in and why?
The work I do for the SLL focuses on supporting Lighting Professionals and helping to raise awareness and disseminate lighting knowledge for public benefit, part of CIBSE’s remit as a charitable body. This includes promoting lighting guidance and helping people with their continued professional development. This takes a few different forms, I organise events like talks, workshops and competitions, which are accessible to all. I support people in their membership of the Society, helping them gain professional recognition and addressing technical queries. I support the volunteer members and committees, who give so much of their time and expertise to developing lighting guidance and supporting the industry. Alongside Brendan, I represent the Society and its aims to raise awareness around the importance of a quality lit environment and the lighting professionals that make this happen.
What project are you most proud of and why?
Annually, the Society runs the SLL Young Lighter competition, along with Ready Steady Light. These are a highlight for me. One supports lighting professionals at the early stages of their career and the other is a return to the basics of lighting and engineering. With the SLL Young Lighter competition, I get to work with enthusiastic people who are eager to make an impact in the lighting industry and on the application of light and lighting. With Ready Steady Light, I get to work with people from different stages in their careers, from practice heads to interns. Seeing professionals working together as a team, having fun, and creating light installations is always a great experience.
I was also lucky enough to support the SLL Members behind the Night of Heritage Light. Originally a celebration of the International Year of Light in 2015, I got to work closely with the team that thought of and led this incredible event, including Liz Peck, Dan Lister, Rhiannon West, Simon Fisher and the SLL Secretary, Brendan Keely. The first event saw teams of SLL members light nine UNESCO World Heritage sites across the UK, all in one night. The project won a Lighting Design Award and a [d]arc award. The event was repeated the following two years, once in association with Illuminating York Light Festival and again the following year, alongside the Oxford Curiosity Carnival. Getting to work alongside such dedicated, creative and talented people never gets boring.
What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career?
Studying for two years whilst working was a challenge. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it but, trying to work out the best time of day, either before or after work, to put my mind to daylight calculations and other assignments was hard. Having studied English, I think I assumed that maths wasn’t going to play a big part in my working life. I had my work cut out building on a patchy GCSE knowledge of trigonometry! It was definitely worth it though!
How does light inspire you?
It is such an influential factor in creating or changing an atmosphere, in physical space and in art. Light is such a powerful descriptor, whether being represented in a book, a painting or in a memory of a particular moment. I am excited about trying to explore and understand the way light defines atmosphere and in seeing how other people understand its role in lighting design, architecture, nature, and art.
What is your message for other Women In Lighting?
Come and say hello! The professional bodies that exist for the lighting community are here to offer support, and with that comes a network of people from across the industry. Whilst we would love everyone to be a member, there are plenty of events and initiatives that you can engage with either way. If the timing is right and you would like to contribute to shaping lighting practice, guidance, or the types of events and information that are available, there are groups that you can work with. We want to contribute to an inclusive and representative sense of community within the lighting industry (and beyond) and that comes with sharing ideas and experiences and working collaboratively.
Event Organiser, Non-profit, Outreach
“Come and say hello! The professional bodies that exist for the lighting community are here to offer support, and with that comes a network of people from across the industry.”