The clocks turn bright !

Thursday, 1 April 2021 19:17

The Litten Trees has been such a fantastic project to work on. I would like to call it a show, but I think pop up drive-by art might be a better description.

It was a very short time from original idea to the final project (around 6 weeks). As it was designed to take place the last 3 nights before the clocks went forward. To give encouragement during our darkest period of the year and to highmight the state of our industry. So no time to dither about. When Stuart (fuel theatre) asked me to think about the idea I was very excited, but two questions came to mind. How do I light a really big stick? (winter tree) and how would I make limited kit/budget strectch to light a big tree?

As we were asked to explore a local tree (COVID reasons) mine was going to be in Leek, Staffordshire Moorlands. I liked the look of a large established Oak in the main park, it had the right shape, like a children's lollypop tree, wide branches and a single trunk. 

I was also working with the idea of tying it to the heratage in the town, textiles, threads, ribbons and button making. Through further research I discovered the Macclesfield and Leek Deaths Head button that was made as a cottage industry in the 18th century.

So I began to look for products that would allow me to explore these patterns, and create a tapestry of light. I knew EL wire would not be bright enough so started looking at Non Neon.

I felt it was important to explore the area under the trees branches (the place we, as residents of the blue dot inhabit the most). So this beacame a ring of 20 stretched non neon lengths, criss crossing from the underside of the tree canopy connecting to the ground. Then using 4 waterproof Chauvet tour zooms from under the tree to light the main canopy, kept the image strong and simple but beautiful. I definatly wanted this to be an in the round tree, and I really wanted people to experience it not only from affar but also from underneath. The quality of light from the inside would be quite magical. 

When I drew this all out (old fashioned pre vis) I knew I wanted my husband (qualified drone pilot) to capture it from above, and there on the drawing was another button!

It turned out my first choice of tree was not avaliable, but I had a plan B, that turned out so much better, still an oak tree, but at a local school who were so hospitable and delighted by the project, it made it a dream to work on.

So with 1 week to go and a confirmation of a tree, we could commence with making the structure. My deputy at the New Vic, Pete Morgan joined me for 5 hours intensive wiring and some head scratching as to which colour should go where. 

The day before opening (Wednesday) my on site assistant Andy Waddell joined me for a tech and test rig. Putting in pulleys checking connectors dry boxes and working out what cables I had forgotten. The weather was on our side, and all went well.

Thursday brought a bit of last minute plotting (in the kitchen). Then the re-fit for opening night, each day we had to take it down and pack away, as sadly it was unsafe to leave the kit out.

Due to the nature of the project and covid restrictions, we could not advertise the Litten Trees wearabouts too widely, so most people on the first night were discovering the tree accidentaly on there way past. The location of the tree was great as it sat in a large field near the road, so people could drive by or stop and take pictures from behind the railings, or come up to the tree. It ment that people could access it however they chose.

Over the 3 nights we had 764 ish people come to see the tree, all of those who came to speek to use were overwhelmingly positive and really appreciated the tree and our reasons for doing the project. 

I have felt very privaledged to have been part of The Litten Trees, and to have worked with a great group of lighting designers. We have now handed over all our pics and footage, so there will be a chance to see all the trees as a collective film soon. In the mean time please visit the fuel theatre web site to read more about the other trees.

Keep Safe Danni