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News Great North Run Million Opening Ceremony announced

This year, the Bupa Great North Run will be the first event of its kind in the world to reach its one millionth finish, ahead of events in London, New York and Berlin.

On Thursday 4 September, the NewcastleGateshead Quayside and the River Tyne will be transformed into a huge outdoor arena for an Opening Ceremony, marking the start of the official countdown to the 1 millionth finish of the Bupa Great North Run on Sunday 7 September.

Through new writing, mass choreography, live music, a giant floating sculpture, video mapping onto the Sage Gateshead, pyrotechnics, a specially commissioned film and more, the Great North Run Million Opening Ceremony will tell the incredible story of the North East - a story of innovators in industry, sport and technology, of ordinary people working together to achieve extraordinary things - inspired by the energy of a million runners powering Tyneside’s past and future.

Award-winning North East author David Almond will write the story and an exceptional creative team, led by Artistic Director Bradley Hemmings (co-Artistic Director of the London 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony) and other members of the London 2012 Opening Ceremonies team, will bring it to life along with thousands of volunteer performers forming a giant choreographed circuit around the Quayside.

"In creating this Ceremony, I wanted to honour the spirit of running for all. One million is much more than a statistic - it’s a movement; a sporting movement born out of the North East’s proud traditions of mass participation, endeavour, industry and ingenuity. So, in this, the first ever One Millionth Ceremony, the River Tyne, surely one of the world’s most iconic settings, will become the arena for an epic and inclusive story. Fittingly a mass cast of 1,500 volunteer performers will appear throughout, coming together to celebrate a vision of how, by acting together, we can achieve the most extraordinary and transformational things.” Bradley Hemmings, Artistic Director

"I’m so happy to be working with such a talented team on this marvellous project. It has everything – words, music, theatre, video, fireworks, lights, barges, bridges, northern history, The River Tyne. What a great way to celebrate the success of the groundbreaking Bupa Great North Run. What a great way to dramatise the dynamism of our culture. And what a thrill it is to be involved.David Almond, Writer

BAFTA-winning artist and filmmaker Tal Rosner is creating a specially commissioned film and animation celebrating past, present and future ingenuity in the North East to be projected onto the Sage Gateshead. His work on multi-disciplinary collaborations, from orchestral music and contemporary dance to television graphics, has been described as "most astounding” (The Times), "ingenious” (Variety) and "heralding a new genre” (The New Yorker). With a unique style of digital craftsmanship, he stands out at the forefront of international moving image practice, both on screen and on stage.

Designer Jon Bausor worked on the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, and more recently the kinetic sculpture to light the flame for the 2014 Paralympic Games unveiled in Stoke Mandeville live on Channel 4. As well as designing the spectacular arena for the event, Jon will create a huge floating sculptural installation on the River Tyne, "My family is from Gateshead, and my sister Juliette is principal flautist of Royal Northern Sinfonia, so I’m particularly excited to work on home soil for the Great North Run Million Opening Ceremony!

BAFTA Award-winning composer Dan Jones is writing new music for the Royal Northern Sinfonia for the event. Dan has earned a reputation for integrating music with powerful large-scale sound design, including Sky Orchestra - surround sound over a city using seven hot air balloons – which opened the Sydney Festival in 2007 and marked the start of the countdown to London 2012.  Dan has written and conducted numerous scores for theatre, film and television and won BAFTA and Ivor Novello awards for his score for Channel 4’s Any Human Heart

Co-Artistic Director of award-winning physical theatre ensemble Tangled Feet, Nathan Curry will work with 1,500 volunteer performers to form a giant circuit around the Quayside, running down both sides of the River Tyne and across both the Swing Bridge and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

Nathan says, "This is a unique opportunity to perform alongside 100s of other performers and to be part of something life-changing. The experience of being in shows this big is like nothing else - ask anyone involved in Opening Ceremonies and they will tell you – it’s a huge thrill! The great thing for me of working with a mass cast is that we can create huge images and statements that the audience find truly awesome. We are looking for anyone and everyone - no experience is needed just come along and represent the North East!" Nathan Curry, Mass Movement Director

Find out more about taking part and sign up online

Not only does Bupa Great North Run Culture provide opportunities for people to engage with the arts, but the Great North Run Million programme also has the extraordinary quality which has secured an Exceptional Award from Arts Council England. Sarah Maxfield, Area Director North, Arts Council England said, "I am delighted that we are able to support this exciting cultural programme through our Exceptional Awards programme. The one millionth finish of the Bupa Great North Run offers a unique opportunity to celebrate both the heritage and culture of North East and to mark this landmark occasion. The year-long programme will also bring more visitors to the area while enabling local audiences to experience the great art and culture on offer where they live.”

For the last 22 years, Bupa has been the headline sponsor of the Great North Run, inspiring people of all ages across the UK to get active and take on a new challenge. The partnership, one of the longest in sport, has helped the event to achieve its millionth finisher this September. "When we started the Run all those years ago we could only dream of the millionth finish across the line. The Bupa Great North Run has since gone on to become the world’s greatest half marathon and this September, we’re proud to be the first event in the world to be officially recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) to celebrate this significant moment in the history of running." Brendan Foster, founder of the Bupa Great North Run

"The Opening Ceremony is the most incredibly exciting way to celebrate the millionth finish of the Bupa Great North Run and the rich, dynamic heritage of the North East. It's an honour to have such a brilliant team create such an ambitious event in the tenth year of Bupa Great North Run Culture. We're really grateful to all of our funders, particularly the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England's Exceptional Award, for their valued help and support." Beth Bate, Director of Great North Run Culture

Last month, Bupa Great North Run Culture and Tyne & Wear Archive & Museums announced a grant of over £400,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to support a yearlong programme of events inspired by the Great North Run Million. The programme will focus on the people and stories behind incredible North East world firsts from our region’s rich sporting and industrial heritage including Joseph Swan (inventor of the lightbulb), Charles Parsons (who designed Turbinia, the first vessel to be powered by steam turbine), and Harry Clasper (the Tyneside oarsman famous for the first boat race on the Tyne). Artist Matt Stokes will work with communities along the course of the Bupa Great North Run, starting in South Shields in summer 2014, and the programme will culminate in an exhibition at Discovery Museum in Newcastle in September 2015.

Ivor Crowther, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: "Celebrating the millionth runner to cross the finish line at this year’s Bupa Great North Run is a fantastic achievement. People come from all over the world both to compete and to show their support so what a great opportunity to get those thousands of people engaged with the North East’s incredible cultural offering. We’re sure this project will be a success and hope everyone gets involved in celebrating all that makes the North East great.”

More details will be announced in the lead up to the event. To sign up for news and ticket alerts, or to apply online to be a volunteer performer, visit

Download the full press release here.



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