Great North Run Culture intern Alicia recounts her experience of the Great North Run Million Opening Ceremony in her latest blog post...
Thursday the 4th and the big day was finally here! I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who dragged themselves out of bed earlier than necessary just from the pending excitement, but in any case I left my flat feeling truly prepared for the day whatever it brought... I was not prepared!
I very quickly regretted putting on my jeans, wishing instead that I’d pulled on my sports kit, put on far less makeup and instead of straightening my wild hair, cut to the chase and scrunched it on top of my head right at the beginning, because ‘oh boy’ was I unprepared for the exercise I was about to do.
My day was to be constantly on the move after being assigned to production running, now for anyone who (like me) wasn’t entirely sure what this entails, the name is actually an appropriate description. You RUN!
The first of my assignments was to shop for and organise the Artist’s dressing rooms, filling a family sized trolley full of goodies and hot footing it back down to their base at Sage Gateshead, setting up just in time for the artists beginning to arrive. From there I was sent across the water to hunt down the final Protocol script which was to be used for the evening’s celebrations with the slight handicap of having nowhere to print it! For this however I had just the right connections for the job, having worked in the Sage for 2 years I knew who to call on for a favour (for which I cannot thank them enough) and managed to get back down to the production base in what I feel was record time. My various jobs were to send me flying across the quayside that I have lived and worked alongside for the best part of 2 years and this served me extremely well during the course of the day, however it’s a wonder that I recognised it as the transformation was truly incredible! The Quayside had become a giant arena during just a few hours, the stages were ready and the sound checks boomed across the water throughout the day, the whole time hundreds of volunteers practiced their moves alongside the final preparations, barriers were up, lights were on, roads were being closed and the brakes were off as the entire team sped towards the start time. Being behind the scenes of this amazing set up revealed to me the sheer scale of the operations and planning that had gone into ensuring that the Opening Ceremony was smoothly delivered, the organised chaos of the last few hours proving to be entirely efficient and even being a small (very red and out of puff) part of that team was one of my most rewarding experiences to date.
Soon enough the Opening Ceremony was upon us and I joined the rest of the Culture Team at Baltic before we accompanied the masses of people along the Newcastle quayside who came along to watch the world’s first Opening Ceremony to celebrate a million finishes. As the countdown began, introduced to the audience by our beloved Ant and Dec, the audience (including myself) wondered just what to expect… which is probably why we were completely blown away.
The GNR Million Opening Ceremony was truly epic, David Almond’s words pulsed across the quayside in time to Tal Rosner’s beautifully constructed projections onto the Sage, whilst a parade of boats stole the limelight as they cruised down the Tyne, re-living their youth in a re-enactment of our ship building and industrial heritage. But for me the ultimate stars of the show were not the talent that serenaded the masses throughout the ceremony, or the amazing team that preformed as they were suspended from a crane across the water, or even the unbelievable fireworks that accompanied this one off celebration. These stars came from all over the country, dedicating their weekends and spare time to practicing their routines, and on show night they flanked the Tyne collectively, to be the power and energy that the GNR Million Opening Ceremony celebrated. The hundreds of volunteer performers created a buzz of excitement on show night; laughing, smiling, cheering and dancing throughout, infecting all who watched with their energy. Perfectly synchronised, they made the Opening Ceremony shine with Joseph Swan’s light bulb, become the greenery of our beautiful countryside and showed the strength of our communities proving, yet again, that the North East’s achievements on a whole come from the strength of individuals that work together. For me their involvement was the ribbon that tied together an unbelievable celebration of sport and industry and perfectly introduced the countdown to finding the Great North Run’s Millionth finisher.
The GNR Million Opening Ceremony, like all long awaited events, has been and gone all too quickly. However, its place in the history of the North East has never been more assured. For the Culture team and myself, seeing the Opening Ceremony come to life after existing for a long time in e-mails and phone calls was truly amazing and did very much blow me away. However, if I felt bereaved at the passing of our beloved event it would have only been for a moment as our work was nowhere near done and all of our energies shifted to the next event in the programme diary - the Great North Run itself.