Coventry’s city of culture culminates with the city’s name in lights

Coventry drone display

The second of four big celebration weekends to mark the end of Coventry’s tenure as UK City of Culture 2021 saw an audience of more than 27,000 witness a record-breaking display of 360 drones in a stunning celebration of art and nature. Our Wilder Family by the Somerset-based drone art company Celestial, was a unique one-off free event that took place in the city’s War Memorial Park and streamed to audiences worldwide on the Coventry City of Culture website.

Drone display audience

The special display, commissioned by the Coventry City of Culture Trust, was a record-breaking 16-minute-long event where drones were used as pixels to create a spectacular light show that surprised and delighted audiences around the world. Coventry, known as the ‘Phoenix City’, is proud to rise against climate change and raise awareness to encourage action. The show was visible from up to 2.5km and for those who were unable to attend in person or see it in the sky, Limitless Broadcast live streamed it to any device with an internet connection.

It was also possible to follow the event on radio with a simulcast led by BBC CWR and other local community stations.

Celestial and the Coventry City of Culture Trust also partnered with City Voices and schools across Coventry to create the mesmerising display with BAFTA and Ivor Novello Award-winning Composer Dan Jones and Guy Hughes who assembled the score in collaboration with communities and poets in Coventry.

The new musical score featured the voices of children from Templars Primary School in Tile Hill, and environmentalists from Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.  Narration came from Coventry 2 Tone legend Pauline Black, reading new poetry from Bohdan Piasecki – based on the words of four Coventry City Voices poets Kim Hackleman, Navkiran Mann, Diana Roor and Paul Tafaro.

Celestial uses innovative technologies and a cutting-edge drone fleet – currently the largest in the UK – to create amazing projections that has seen it collaborate with Greenpeace, Amnesty, Eden Project, and Huawei. Celestial has also expanded to Australia, working on the Adelaide Fringe Festival and Melbourne’s New Year event. The drones use 3D animation techniques to cast giant images into the night sky to create a new tech-driven art form that premiered at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay in 2021.

Our Wilder Family was commissioned by Coventry City of Culture Trust as part of its #GreenFutures programme in partnership with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, supported by National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Our Wilder Family formed part of a weekend of celebrations as the UK’s first permanent immersive digital art gallery, The Reel Store, opened on Friday 13 May. Later that evening, and repeating on Saturday 14 May, The Awakening, a world premiere by ground-breaking French company Gratte Ciel, known for their aerial spectaculars full of colour and music, took place above Broadgate to an audience of thousands. This is the City, a parade showcasing the people and the stories of Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 also took to the streets of the city centre on Saturday 14 May.

Wildlife Gathering takes centre stage the following weekend (Friday 20 to Sunday 22 May), with Coventry’s myriad of parks and green spaces being celebrated with activities. The festivities conclude with Radio 1’s Big Weekend coming to Coventry’s War Memorial Park from Friday, 27 to Sunday, 29 May with Harry Styles recently announced as one of the headliners.