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Pearce Hire creates magical nature wonderland for the National Trust’s Anglesey Abbey

Pearce Hire creates magical nature wonderland for the National Trust’s Anglesey Abbey
Pearce Hire creates magical nature wonderland for the National Trust’s Anglesey Abbey

UK – The National Trust team at Anglesey Abbey in the picturesque Cambridgeshire village of Lode recently opened its gates for its ‘Winter Lights’, an imaginative and breath-taking night-time trail through the beautiful heritage gardens of the listed Jacobean Abbey.

Pearce Hire, an award winning expert in deploying technical production in Greenfield sites and areas of outstanding natural beauty, was the clear choice for the Abbey’s events team as the company designed and activated the brief for an enchanting 2km lighting and audio nature trail through the grounds and taking in the house, mill and the aptly named ‘Winter Garden’.

“We may be better known in the industry for providing technical production support for festivals and tours, but this garden brief really got our creative side going”, smiles Jim Brown, general manager, Pearce Hire. “This year’s production took on another dimension and we were very happy to embrace this, and work in close collaboration with the team at Anglesey Abbey to help achieve their vision.”

“The brief was clear, with the end goal of creating a ‘sense of place’ within the gardens, connecting visitors with the natural surroundings and environment they were walking through. Through this, we were able to embrace the natural beauty in the grounds and brought the space to life in an exciting, eye-catching and thought-provoking way.”

Kayley Wilcockson, senior programming and partnership officer from Anglesey Abbey expands: “Originally, Anglesey Abbey ‘Winter Lights’ was created as a way to highlight our beautiful gardens during the winter months. From small beginnings, it has grown into an inspiring annual installation which is now our largest fundraiser of the year, providing vital funds for our conservation work across the estate. We have worked for several years with Pearce Hire and so it made sense to work in close collaboration with them on the overall creative design and they truly embraced our strap line of ‘Nature by Night, Nature by Light’.

Pearce Hire led the design and production team, supplying the full technical package including power, lighting, sound, projection and effects. In addition, some bespoke lighting units were customised in its workshop to deliver unique touches for this project.

The Pearce Hire team was thrilled with the creative lead they were able to take, as Jim explains: “On most of our projects we’re employed by the production team after an initial concept has been developed. For ‘Winter Lights’ we took the lead in designing the creative and technical concepts so we had an opportunity to influence the process from day one.”

2021 saw Anglesey Abbey’s ‘Winter Lights’ celebrating its tenth anniversary and, having had an enforced Covid-19 year off, the team wanted to pull out all the stops with the production. Pearce Hire appointed Eddie Barcan of Splendid Events to co-produce the project, ensuring a cohesive creative theme ran throughout the trail. “I was able to work as conduit between the Anglesey Abbey team, and Pearce Hire to bring a fresh perspective to the design,” confirms Eddie. “Throughout the planning phase I challenged Pearce Hire to deliver the nature theme by bringing out natural elements such as fractals, murmurations and natural sounds.”

Collaboration was key to the planning, with an expanded team taking on various aspects. Lighting designer Andrew Keightley and Pearce Hire’s project manager John Huson were responsible for the lighting design and programming; Eddie Barcan and Jim Brown sourced sustainable nature-themed wire and wicker animal sculptures and other novel effects; projection content and interactive elements were provided by Ross Ashton of The Projection Studio and the Cambridge Film Project and Gregory Ovenden produced the soundscape which covered the entirety of the trail.

As a result of this considerable collaboration, the 24,000 visitors who attended over three dark December weekends were treated to fantastic projections and illuminations onto trees, the House and the Lode Mill and an interactive projection in the Courtyard.

Key lighting fixtures used throughout the installation included Cameo ZENIT W600 IP65 rated washlights, the powerful and versatile IP65 rated StudioCob PlusFC LED PAR from Prolights, alongside the very bright and very fast Robe Pointes (protected by Selby Rainguards). Additional LED fixtures included 10W LED accent lights, 400W MBI floods, and LED festoon lighting.

To provide elements of surprise along the route, animal sculptures were strategically hidden and then revealed using lighting, complemented by clever soundscapes including nature sounds and poetry from ‘The Lost Words’ books (narrated by the author Robert Macfarlane) and drawing attention to the scenes the visitors were viewing, in particular the animals who live at Anglesey Abbey including badgers and otters, to owls and bats. The soundtrack was reproduced by Panasonic 100V Line outdoor speakers concealed around the route.

A unique addition to the sensory Winter Garden location was the use of scent and fantastic visual effects including a murmuration pixel mapped across the East Lawn using SGM LB-100 LED pixel strings. Musical entertainment was provided by live performers from Cambridge Jazz Festival and the Cambridge Folk Festival in the intimate Courtyard and Orchard areas.

The PA systems positioned in the Courtyard and Orchard for these performances were Yamaha’s flagship DSR PA systems with an L-Acoustics PA system providing audio inside the shop and visitor centre.

Another important aspect of the brief was sustainability. “We needed to deliver an event which was sensitive to the conservation environment it was situated in,” explains Anglesey Abbey’s Kayley. “With the National Trust being Europe’s leading conservation charity, minimising our environmental impact is a key part of our day-to-day work and so it was integral to every aspect of the event from initial design, to final delivery and de-rig. Pearce Hire totally took this on board which we were thrilled with.”

As an award winning power supplier for temporary installations and events, Pearce Hire utilised its extensive knowledge and experience of temporary power solutions to address this requirement. Integral to this was a synced pair of 100 kVA generators which ran on HVO Green D+ fuel, delivering an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions from previous iterations of the ‘Winter Lights’ trail. In order to further minimise the loads, running times and therefore emissions of the generators, Pearce Hire introduced a hybrid system which also utilised the venue’s mains power supply, supported by energy from Anglesey Abbey’s solar panels.

Working in immaculately maintained gardens brought several challenges from a production point of view as Jim explains: “Delivering heavy generator equipment and lighting fixtures into the gardens without damaging the ground is a key challenge. Once the equipment is installed then there’s the British winter weather to contend with! Obviously all the temporary installations and artwork, cables and control systems have to survive rain, high winds, ice and snow for a month; no easy feat!”

The National Trust team at Anglesey Abbey were delighted with the collaborative way Pearce Hire worked throughout the project. “Working with Pearce Hire from start to finish has been great as always. The communication between Pearce Hire and our event management team was exceptional. We knew our brief was unique, but the team were really receptive to it, even with the restraints of working in a heritage garden. Pearce Hire were empathetic to our challenges, particularly around access, and found solutions to ensure that the event could run smoothly throughout. We were confident that from start to finish the tech support was there, and responsive if anything needed attention.”

photos: Sam Whitehead.

Pearce Hire creates magical nature wonderland for the National Trust’s Anglesey Abbey Pearce Hire creates magical nature wonderland for the National Trust’s Anglesey Abbey

2nd February 2022

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