AN East Lancashire events lighting company which has helped stage concerts for rock superstars Ed Sheeran and Rod Stewart has been thrown a £1million coronavirus lifeline by the government.

The Darwen-based firm says the cash from The Culture Recovery Fund will enable it to be ready to recover when the touring and shows restart after the Covid-19 pandemic recedes.

Founded five years ago by Mike Oates and Ryan Hopkins, Lights Control Rigging - based on the town’s Tower Business Park in Commercial Road - was booming until coronavirus struck leaving it without events to work on.

It was forced to reduce its permanent staff from 20 to 12 and left hundreds of its freelancers without work.

The firm had been awarded £1,076,179 - the second such grant to a lighting firm in Blackburn with Darwen after Shadsworth’s Lite Alternative Ltd was given £82,000 earlier this month.

Mr Oates, 44, said: “We are really grateful for this grant. It is a real lifeline. We had to make some hard choice recently about letting staff go so we can stay in good shape.”

Mr Hopkins, 35, said: “There is something of a live event lighting hub in East Lancashire and there with hundreds of freelancers employed.

“Lite Alternative got a grant in an earlier round of the Culture Recovery Fund.

“This money will enable us to be ready when live events and theatres start again, hopefully in the spring or early summer. I think it will be busier than ever. The performers and audiences are desperate to to get back but they need companies like ours to be ready to go back on the road.”

The firm was started by the two men over a restaurant table in Trieste, Italy, and originally based in Darwen’s Hulme Court, moving 300 yards across the road 18 months ago.

Its big break was getting the contract for Ed Sheeran’s 893-day Divide world tour in 2017 and since the firm has lit many rock acts on the road worldwide as well as looking after Bacup’s Royal Court Theatre, the Lytham Festival and the Blackpool Illuminations switch on.

Mr Oates said: “This is more than a job for us. It is a passion and we cannot wait to get back.”

Cllr Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s regeneration boss, said: “This is great news for an exciting local company.”

Mr Hopkins said: “It was going really well until coronavirus struck in March.”