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Sparks Will Fly

Part of the UK Cultural Olympiad

“Staging unique, one-off events of huge ambition and scale such as East Meets West and Sparks Will Fly – [we] couldn’t have have delivered these landmark projects without you.”

Cultural Development Team, Essex County Council

Sparks Did Fly

The Sparks Will Fly event was a special occasion with three distinct elements for an audience of 20,000. It was an interesting challenge to organise three large-scale and quite distinct events taking place consecutively and with hundreds of stakeholders.

The day commenced in the early afternoon with the county’s only celebration that was part of the official London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.

The crowds gather for the Olympic Torch Relay presentation

The daytime event featured entertainment by the three Olympic Torch Relay Presenting Partners (CocaCola, Samsung and Lloyds TSB) as well incorporating specially choreographed performances by Pinpoint Create and Walk the Plank whilst also working with local community groups to include large-scale audience participation. The culmination of this part of the celebration was the arrival of the Olympic Torch and the lighting of the onstage cauldron from the Olympic Flame plus the appearance of Guglielmo Marconi performed by Mike Dodsworth.

John Bowman lit the Olympic Torch earlier in the day prior to Feast, Drink & Play and the finale show

Following the Torch Relay Celebration, the audience were invited into an adjacent area of the event site to ‘Feast, Drink, Play!’ – the second element of the special occasion. This event had a huge variety of entertainment together with, as the name suggests, the best of Essex food and drink. There certainly was something to see and do for everyone.

The storytelling teepees at the preceding event entitled Feast, Drink & Play

As the sun began to set, the world-renowned Red Devils Parachute Display Team descended on to the site with a spectacular display carrying with them the final glass bead to enable the Glass Bead Game to begin…

The expectant crowd were led towards the performance arena where Marina Mightier and Boreas Zephyr were due to compete on a huge stage.

Marina and Boreas and their crews began answering the Monty the quizmaster’s questions about all the areas of Essex they had visited during the last 6-8 weeks. The human-sized characters metamorphised into 20ft giant figures which emerged from the stage. After various shenanigans on stage and the end of the interactive quiz, the crowd of 20,000 people all shouted un, deux, trois and the fireworks began.

Please see the short film of the project below.

The Grand Theatre of Lemmings
Mike Dodsworth as Guglielmo Marconi standing next to the Chelmsford Glass Bead
The spectacular firework finale by Walk the Plank
The comprehensive Sparks Will Fly Learning Programme was awarded the prestigious London 2012 Inspire Mark and included opportunities for carnival and event management training.

Sparks Will Fly Twilight Spectacle

preceded by Welcoming the London2012 Olympic Torch
& Feast, Drink, Play!

Among the other activities in the Feast, Drink and Play! event site there was the Tankton Slightly Odd Village Fete including the Art Cannon, a Storytelling Area with Mike Dodsworth and many others, the Bollywood Bling tent featuring a diverse list of song and dance talent.

The Art Cannon created by Buffalo Arts performed at the Feast, Drink & Play event

There was an outdoor display area for bands, cheerleaders and the Blue Falcons gymnastic display team. Also several community stages and spaces for community workshops. There was also an acoustic music stage, a dedicated dance tent and a family cabaret tent.

Some Statistics

The programme included over 9,000 performers and reached over 100,000 people at events – parades, storytelling workshops, carnivals and street theatre – across the county before heading to the Sparks Will Fly finale in Chelmsford.

There was plenty to do with displays of community sports and arts suitable for all the family. Local music, dance and other performances mixed with inspiring examples of physical prowess, accessible have-a-go sports sessions and an abundance of arts and crafts activities.

And as the Feast, Drink & Play name suggests, there were loads of different refreshments to feast upon – ranging from homemade cupcakes and sweets, to Indian food and hog roasts.

The Red Devils Parachute Display Team – with flares streaming from their ankles – descended on the event at the start of the Twilight Spectacle
The Sparks Will Fly tower with Monty the Quizmaster atop.
Monty was played by the late, great Ian Smith of the Mischief La-Bas theatre company
The Sparks Will Fly Twilight Spectacle ended with amazing fireworks by international theatre company Walk the Plank

In the weeks before the Sparks Will Fly Twilight Spectacle

The Grand Theatre of Lemmings created a show, with amazing costumes by Joanna Peacock, specifically to tour the entire region over the weeks leading up to the Sparks Will Fly finale – with a team of six actors they used improvisation techniques to fashion an outdoor theatre show.
The aesthetically impressive theatrical tour was based on mythical creatures (see below)
Marina Mightier performed by Joanna Peacock wowing the young crowd
Marina at Harwich – costume by Joanna Peacock
The show visited Harwich, Saffron Walden, Stansted, Basildon, Harlow, Braintree, Maldon, Castle Point, Southend, Waltham Abbey, Colchester and Brentwood before then appearing at the finale show in Chelmsford.
Both Marina and Boreas, the champions of the invented Glass Bead Game, toured the county for weeks prior to Sparks Will Fly to build excitement and support for the competition finale.