On December 2nd 2022, the UAE celebrated its 51st National Day with a spectacular ceremony at Abu Dhabi’s National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC). Wonder Works were delighted to have been invited back for a fifth consecutive year to oversee the technical design and engineering for this ambitious project.
Designed to take its audience on a generational journey of the UAE’s inspiring pioneers, this year’s celebration took the form of an immersive 100-meter-long celebration. Emirati musicians and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra provided a beautiful live soundtrack as the audience followed the story of a group of children who learn about the UAE’s rich culture, present-day achievements and its future goals and ambitions.
Featuring a procession of moving vignettes, unique technologies and rich storytelling that paid tribute to the UAE’s past and the vision of its forefathers, the show invites its audience to be part of the celebration like never before. And with the orchestra and 3000 cast sharing a grandstand with its spectators, it represents a departure from the traditional stage set up seen in previous National Day ceremonies.
Working alongside Creative Director, Es Devlin and creative agency People, we were responsible for bringing Devlin’s creative vision to life with the technical coordination of a custom grandstand, two giant end portals with full projection, state-of-the-art lighting and audio. Having previously worked on the Olympic Opening Ceremony Parade in Athens 2004, Wonder Works’ Piers Shepperd was able to draw on his knowledge and experience to help steer the talented team through a myriad of challenges within a tight time frame.
One of the biggest technical challenges lay in the overhead video strips. The unique concept, designed by Es Devlin, gave the outdoor setting a distinctly intimate feel. The technical scheme design and coordination was completed by us with engineering support from Cundall. The installation included 657 LED Roe strip fixtures, hung from nineteen 106-meter-long catenaries. A total of 968 meters of Roe strips were suspended in the air with four 30-meter-tall towers providing support in the middle of the catenary spans. Over 1,200 tonnes of ballast was required to resolve the forces in the system. This huge
undertaking required the combined talents of Stage One, Al Laith, VK Scenic, Creative Technology Middle East and the People production teams who worked closely together to ensure it was a success. The finished system allowed video content to run down the full length of the parade, creating the illusion of being inside a portal.
A key aspect of this year’s ceremony was to shine a light on sustainability, both in its content and approach. In a bid to reduce waste and save on resources, real objects were used where possible, instead of manufacturing from scratch. This is best seen in the use of a real locomotive as part of the parade, the use of tower crane trusses to help support the catenary cables, and modular scaffolding systems wherever possible. Having built a trusted network of local suppliers over the past few years, we were able to use local scenic specialists to supply the majority of the production’s needs. This not only significantly reduced air miles but it also helped support local industries.
Piers Shepperd, Co-Founder, Wonder Works: “In an effort to work more sustainably, our biggest challenge was resisting the need to build absolutely everything from scratch and to always use international suppliers. We are on a journey, but I feel that this landmark ceremony shows that with the right focus and support of the production company and client, you can make massive inroads to the challenges posed by these large scale events.”
William Jensen, Head of Major Projects, People: “Wonder Works naturally became a seamlessly integrated part of the team, who were invaluable in realising creative concepts on a fast-paced major production.”
Hosted at ADNEC, the main show took place on December 2nd followed by 9 consecutive days of shows attended by the general public.
Creative Director & Designer – Es Devlin, Producer – People , Co-Creative Director – Francisco Negrin, Co-Show Directors – Gavin Robins & Bryn Walters, Lighting Design – Bruno Poet, Sound Design – Scott Willsallen, Composer – Mohammed Al Ahmad, Music – Al Watan Studio, Musicom & Polyphonia, Content Creation – Luke Halls Studios, Choreographer – Leigh-Ann Vizer, Broadcast – Done+Dusted
The Organising Committee of the 51 National Day Celebrations:
Creative Executive Producer – Rawdha Al Qubasi, Artistic Director – Ayesha Hadhir, Head of Operations – Butti Al Muhairi, Head of Communications – Eisa Alsubousi
Production Specialists & Suppliers:
Wonder Works, Stage One, Cundall, Al Laith, Creative Technology, Maestra, VK Scenic, Encore, Agora, Clair