Willie Williams (set designer)

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Willie Williams, show design, U2 360° Tour, 2009
Willie Williams show design, R.E.M., Up Tour, 1999
Willie Williams show design, George Michael, 25 Live Tour, 2006
Willie Williams, 'Vigil' installation, Canterbury Cathedral, UK, 2006

William Peter Charles Williams (born 1959) is a show director, stage & lighting designer and video director for concerts, theatre, and multimedia projects. He is best known for his groundbreaking work with the rock band U2, and is recognised as one of the leading artists in this field.[1] William Gibson, writing in Wired magazine, said “Willie Williams combines a passionate delight in technology with an infectious low-tech joy. His innovations have become industry standards.” [2]

He was born in 1959 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and raised in Sheffield, England, son of Robert Woodman Williams, a singer & medical practitioner who was an early pioneer in the then fledgling field of physiotherapy and who also sang with South Yorkshire Opera. Williams excelled at mathematics and science in school and planned to study physics at University College, London. The advent of punk rock caused him to enter the music scene instead, and he began doing lights for various bands such as Writz, Deaf School and Stiff Little Fingers.[3]

Willie Williams has been responsible for the design of U2's tours from 1982 onward, most famously the extravagant, bewildering Zoo TV Tour (1992–93), and most recently the Innocence + Experience Tour (2015), the Joshua Tree Tours 2017 and 2019, and the Experience + Innocence Tour (2018). He has also worked with musical artists such as R.E.M.,[4][5] David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Robbie Williams, Darren Hayes,[6] George Michael[7] and Self Esteem.

Williams has designed for the Montreal-based dance company La La La Human Steps. Other collaborations have been with Laurie Anderson, Marianne Faithfull and the Kronos Quartet, most notably on Sun Rings, a joint effort with NASA that combines the string quartet's music with video and audio material collected by the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft.[8]

Gallery and architectural installations[edit]

In 2015, Williams designed the giant kinetic chandelier installed at Omnia nightclub at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.[9] He has exhibited his own kinetic light sculptures in several art galleries.[10] The sculptures, entitled "Lumia Domestica", create kaleidoscopic projections in the tradition of Nicolas Schöffer and Thomas Wilfred by refracting light through household glassware. Other public works include the creation of lighting installations at London's Southbank Centre and within Canterbury Cathedral;[11] "SkyChurch", a multimedia performance space at the Experience Music Project in Seattle, Washington, and a permanent exhibit at Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.[12]

Theatre works[edit]

Theatre shows Williams has worked on include Prima Facie, starring Jodie Comer, at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London, We Will Rock You, Little Britain Live, French and Saunders Still Alive, Steve Coogan is Alan Partridge and Other Less Successful Characters, The Fast Show Live, Barbarella and Pam Ann.[13][14]


  • 1987 Lighting Director of the Year, Performance Magazine, United States
  • 1992 Lighting Designer of the Year, Performance Magazine, United States
  • 1992 Lighting Designer of the Year, Lighting Dimensions International, United States
  • 2000 Top 25 Visionaries in Entertainment, Wired Magazine, United States
  • 2001 Eddy Award for Excellence in Design, New York
  • 2002 Lighting Designer of the Year, Live Magazine Awards, London[15]
  • 2003 Lighting Designer of the Year, Total Production Awards, London[16]
  • 2006 Lighting Designer of the Year, Total Production Awards, London[17]
  • 2006 Metropolitan Home, Design 100
  • 2007 Best in Book, Creative Review Annual (George Michael, 25 Live Tour)
  • 2008 Excellence in Design Award (George Michael, 25 Live Tour), Live Design, New York
  • 2009 Redden Award for Excellence in Design, United States[18]
  • 2010 Live Production of the Year (U2360), Lighting Designer of the Year and Video Visionary, Total Production Awards, London[19]
  • 2016 Most Creative Stage Production (U2 Innocence and Experience Tour), Pollstar Concert Industry Awards[20]
  • 2019 Honorary Fellowship, Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance


  1. ^ Marian Sandberg. "LDI 2007". Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 15 October 2007.
  2. ^ William Gibson. "U2's City of Blinding Lights". Retrieved 1 August 2005.
  3. ^ Paul McGuinness (2008). U2byU2. ISBN 9780007196692. Retrieved 15 July 2008.
  4. ^ Larry Shaw. "R.E.M. Monster Tour". Archived from the original on 22 August 2006. Retrieved 3 March 2005.
  5. ^ Hannah Kate Kinnersley. "Re:Sources". Archived from the original on 24 June 2009. Retrieved 1 November 2004.
  6. ^ Ellen Lampert-Greaux. "Birdman". Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  7. ^ Live Design. "25 Live". Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2007.
  8. ^ Kronos Quartet. "SunRings". Archived from the original on 19 January 2008. Retrieved 8 January 2008.
  9. ^ Marian Sandberg. "Omnia Nightclub: The Chandelier By The Numbers". Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  10. ^ Meryl Doney. "Wallspace". Archived from the original on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 1 December 2008.
  11. ^ Sarah Rushton-Read. "LSI online". Archived from the original on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2004.
  12. ^ AW. "Architecture Week". Retrieved 19 July 2007.
  13. ^ IMDB. "IMDB". Retrieved 6 June 2007.
  14. ^ Marianne Sandberg. "Live Design". Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  15. ^ Mark Cunningham. "TPI 2002". Retrieved 31 January 2005.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ Mark Cunningham. "TPI 2003". Retrieved 31 January 2005.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ Mark Cunningham. "TPI 2006". Retrieved 2 February 2006.
  18. ^ Marian Sandberg. "LDI 2009". Retrieved 16 November 2009.
  19. ^ Mark Cunningham. "TPI 2010". Retrieved 31 January 2015.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ Pollstar. "Pollstar Awards 2016". Retrieved 2 December 2016.

External links[edit]