A WHALE OF A TIME AT THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

POSTED ON 07/08/2017

Marking the beginning of a new era for The Natural History Museum, the installation of Hope the Blue Whale has already caused quite a stir since being unveiled earlier this month. Giving visitors the opportunity to walk underneath the largest creature ever to have lived, the impressive 25.2-metre-long blue whale took centre stage at a private birthday party this weekend, the very first commercial event to feature the stunning 126-year-old skeleton. We had the honour of providing full technical production for the occasion on behalf of client Smart Live devising an impressive moving light rig to bring Hope the Blue Whale to life.

A glamourous black tie dress code, a mouthwatering menu from caterers Moving Venue and entertainment from 17-piece Dov Amiel Band made sure it was a night to remember, with Hope the Blue Whale at the top of the exclusive guest list.

Appearing to dive straight at you as you enter the magnificent space of Hintze Hall, the whale is cleverly positioned to recreate the moment when a blue whale corkscrews in to capture krill. Breathing life into the spectacular skeleton, we created a stunning lighting design that used textured animation and complementary colour washing to showcase the blue whale whilst also providing the perfect party atmosphere. 

“To create natural shadows throughout the space we used a mixture of cross lighting from the balconies along with uplighting the skeleton from below using a large floor package” says Jack Sayer, our Lighting Designer. “I decided to use a mixture of Martin Viper Profiles & Viper Performances to light up the main dining space as these deliver such vibrant colours, perfect for creating the perfect party atmosphere.”

Sayer also opted for Robe BMFL fixtures to assist with lighting the Whale from beneath whilst also providing powerful beams throughout the band’s set. “Hope was very much the star of the show for the evening so I used subtle textured animation and colour washes to really bring her to life.”  

The extensive stage package also featured an array of attractive Portman P1 Retro Lamps that provided a tungsten glow throughout the space. Also working as scenic pieces, the fixtures provided a strong identity to the stage and complemented the candles and centerpieces within the room.

We also provided audio, staging and power distribution for the evening, along with supplying the red carpet and spectacular flame effects for the grand entrance. With just 90 minutes from the museum closing its doors to the event opening, this was no mean feat. “Audio for the evening was a point source system of four D&B Y7Ps, 4 four Vsubs and fourteen T10 distributed down the room” says Rob Allen, our Group Head of Sound. “As the band was 17-piece, there were full drums, full percussion, bass, guitar, keys, a brass section and six vocals. These were on wireless IEM packs for monitoring with the brass section, some of the percussion section and all the vocals on radio mics. This meant that in total we had 34 ways of RF, including the speech mics.”

Chris Smith, Project Director at Hawthorn said: “Its impossible not to smile when you’re working in such a stunning venue. It was a huge honour to be part of such a milestone event for the museum and use our technical expertise to showcase Hope the Blue Whale and the stunning Hintze Hall in all its glory. We’ve worked on many fabulous events here but this will certainly be one we’ll remember for a very long time to come.”

Robert Wetherell, Head of Venue Hire at the Natural History Museum, said: “This is a monumental occasion in the museum’s history and we welcomed high-profile guests to the new-look Hintze Hall to celebrate under our new resident, Hope the blue whale skeleton. We couldn't ask for a better set of suppliers to work alongside for the creation of our unforgettable re-launch event. The Hawthorn team played a pivotal role in producing a spectacular lighting masterpiece that helped set the underwater theme for the evening’s entertainment and illuminate the event space’s new ‘Wonder Bays’ filled with fascinating new exhibits.”

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