Time and Place – Luke Bonner and The Madinat Arena

Posted on September 9, 2021

Falling in love with the Jumeirah Al Qasr in Dubai is easy. Stretching out for 40 hectares along the coat of the UAE, this glittering resort exudes luxury and style from every inch of its paradisial setting. But it’s much more than beauty and glamour that make the complex’s Madinat Arena special to Luke Bonner.

A lighting designer at Curiome, PTY Ltid. in Melbourne, Australia, Bonner’s strong connection to the world-famous venue grew out personal experience, or more specifically, the role it has played in his own professional development.

Bonner was about five or six years into his career when he made his first trip to The Madinat Arena lighting an opening act for a Mary J Blige show. He returned many times since, working a variety of shows and events, gaining new skills and a greater sense of his own design capabilities each step along the way.

He talked to us about what this high-profile venue means to him.

If you had to use one word to describe the Madinat Arena, what would it be?
“’Location!’ I say that because this spot is perfectly located, within beautiful surroundings, right on the beach. At the time I first worked there, it was very close the major lighting rental companies. You could almost say it’s a ‘boutique’ venue.”

What was the best thing about working at the venue?
“For me it was about the size of the space. Up until that first event in the arena, I had not worked on many events similar in size apart from maybe The Tennis Stadium in Dubai or somewhere in the desert.

“Bigger venues typically need more lights and the project is usually larger. In this case, it’ means more people, more lights, more opportunities. So, I’ve always said yes to any show I could there. Working there felt like the next step in my career progression. It gave me the opportunity to take on the challenges and responsibilities that come with larger events and shows.”

Are there any people you wish you could show this venue too?
“Most people I know in the live events industry know the venue, particularly if they’ve worked in The Emirates and of course, they’ll have a different perspective to me. It would be interesting to hear their thoughts. I think anyone looking to produce an event in Dubai would be interested in the venue, particularly because of the location.”

Have you been back since?
“Many, many times over the years. I’ve gone again and again for corporate events, concerts, and shows. It has definitely become more familiar with each visit.”

We know you’ve found much to love about The Madinat Arena, but are there any special challenges about working this venue?
“None that I can remember as long as everyone was working from the same drawing. But that’s the same everywhere.”

Was there one project in particular that you did at Madinat that stands out as most memorable?
“I would have to say the Diesel XXX Party, back in 2008. It was a dance party, headlined by the electronic music group Chicane. The crowd size was perfect for the venue and the rig was simple, fast and easy. We totally transformed that place and it felt intimate. For me, it was about as flawless as it gets.”