White Light Supplies Lighting & Sound for Tower Poppies Display and Remembrance Day Events
For the past several months the Tower of London, part of the Historic Royal Palaces, and its ambitious sculptural commission: Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red have been a central symbol of the UK’s WWI Centenary observations. The display, which grew in size over time, marked each commonwealth casualty of WWI – 888,246 in total – with a hand-made red ceramic poppy “planted” by volunteers around the venue’s exterior. Entertainment and event production supplier White Light has been closely involved in the event, providing lighting, sound, and video support services for the opening ceremony on August 5th and closing ceremony on November 11th (Remembrance Day) as well as providing lighting for the entire poppy display throughout its three-month installation.
White Light Managing Director Bryan Raven commented on event’s significance saying, “The Tower Poppies have had such an amazing public response. The display truly captured the world’s imagination. We are immensely proud to have been involved in such a beautiful and important project.”
White Light worked with Lighting Designer Phil Supple for the opening ceremony and three-month long lighting installation. Among many varied works, Supple has gained recognition for his unique outdoor lighting designs and has worked with White Light on previous projects such as Christmas at Kew, The Electric Forest, and NVA’s Speed of Light. From White Light, Project Managers Richard Stirzaker and Dominic Yates oversaw technical elements of the display’s opening and closing events respectively, while Event Services Supervisor Jamie Wells looked after the installed lighting and sound elements and ensured the day to day success of these systems.
The White Light team spent an initial two days on site at Tower of London installing lighting for the display’s beginning sculptural segment and for the Roll of Honour events taking place daily at sunset. The team returned for two additional installations as the display grew around the Tower of London exterior, eventually taking up most of the site’s moat with some special sections making up a wave – frozen in time – or spilling out through wall openings. The size of the display, outdoor exposure, and public access each presented challenges for the project. In total, White Light supplied more than 30 custom-fitted lighting fixtures for the display with water-tight fittings to protect against weather damage. White Light also provided custom-made safety barriers to protect the lighting in high-traffic public access areas. After installation and throughout the life of the exhibit, White Light provided constant support with teams on call 24/7 to handle any issues and keep the lighting running smoothly.
The installed lighting illuminated the poppies for additional viewing in early morning hours and during the evening, adding another layer of atmosphere to the emotional display. With an unprecedented 60,000 – 70,000 visitors each day and up to 4,000 each night, exhibit organisers at Historic Royal Palaces decided in November to extend lighting of the display in order to allow thousands more the opportunity to see the massive temporary artwork. In the final days of the display, the Tower of London poppies were lit from 4:30am to sunrise and from sunset to midnight each night. In total, an estimated 4 million people visited Tower of London to see the poppies before its closing.
The last poppy in the exhibit was placed in a special ceremony on November 11th – Armistice Day. The poignant ceremony was attended by exhibit creators: artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper, military leaders, special guests, and thousands of members of the public. Following on from White Light’s support of the opening ceremony and installation support, the team once again provided production solutions for the closing event. Speaking from site, Project Manager Dominic Yates called the event “probably the most important event of my career”.
Photos by James Mackenzie and Dominic Yates (credits listed in file names)
About White Light
For more than 40 years, White Light has been a leading supplier of lighting and technical production solutions for the entertainment, presentation and event industries across London, the UK, and worldwide. The company is an approved supplier of production services to more than 50 venues across London and the UK including all five Historic Royal Palace venues: Banqueting House, Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, and Kew Palace.