Jack Morton pulls off secret, multi-location new year show

London Fireworks: the display including drones, fireworks, live performances and light displays
London Fireworks: the display including drones, fireworks, live performances and light displays

For the first time, Greenwich hosted the main spectacle.

The London Fireworks 2022 was a multi-location experience showcasing "London at its best". The Old Royal Naval College, The Shard, Millennium Bridge and St Paul's were among the key locations.

With the pandemic lingering on, it became clear that the Mayor of London's new year show would once again be a spectacle without an in-person audience. Following a competitive pitch, Jack Morton would be delivering the project drawing on its knowledge from the 17 consecutive years prior that it had produced the annual event.

Creating a multi-site show was first explored for the 2021 display due to Covid, when having a crowd of 100,000 ticketed spectators for a show centred on the London Eye was scrapped. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan elected to continue this format but it was important to select new locations for the show to remain a secret and discourage spectators from congregating.

"We started planning this year's show in the summertime with lots of location reccies, we obviously couldn't repeat our locations from last year due to maintaining secrecy," Kara Porter, creative director, Jack Morton, said.

She continued: "We had to go back to the drawing board and think what location showcased London at its best and what locations could facilitate the show we want to put on. We wanted to push the technology, bring more drones to the table and tell a different story this year. For this, the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich was absolutely perfect. It had a beautiful view of the city's skyline – you can see the Shard, The O2 – and it's on the Thames. It gave us a really beautiful symmetrical canvas so we could centre drones in the middle alongside pyrotechnics, and the lighting really showed it off beautifully."

Jack Morton's creative show team worked in collaboration with On the Sly Audio Production and West End Musical Choir for the music production, Titanium Fireworks for the pyrotechnics design, Durham Marenghi for the lighting design and SkyMagic for the swarm drone sequences.

As Big Ben chimed at midnight, the 13-minute show began with a bespoke spoken-word piece by poet Tomfoolery and performed by actor and Hamilton star, Giles Terera. Set to an upbeat soundtrack, the show took a look ahead to some of the key events planned in 2022 including the Uefa Women's Euros in London and Notting Hill Carnival.

Greenwich played host to the main spectacle, with fireworks, lighting and 500 drones, synchronised by GPS, lighting up the skies above the Old Royal Naval College. Shakespeare's Globe was also a key location, with a chorus of 72 members from the West End Musical Choir singing a medley from the musical Mamma Mia, as a tribute to the performing arts scene across London. The grand finale was a firework display before a rendition of Auld Lang Syne ended the show back at the Globe.

Dispelling any speculation, Porter also confirmed that the show was filmed and broadcast live.

She said: "It's all live, there's nothing pre-recorded, which is even more of a feat because of all the syncing up of the different locations. Being live gives the magic of what London can do at midnight, that's something that we're really keen on and the BBC are really keen to always do. It's a midnight moment."

So as not to disclose the locations, Jack Morton didn't undertake a full rehearsal. On-site there were several drones that took to the sky at key points, with laser tests used to help scope out pyrotechnics and lighting. Even with months of planning, the show's success hinged on the weather conditions, meaning a plethora of backup plans were in place if high wind made the drone sequencing impossible.

Porter was unable to be on-site last year, due to enhanced measures being undertaken for the lockdown, but for 2022 she was one of the few to witness part of the show up close.

"It was slightly strange because we can't hear the accompanying audio on the ground because it's broadcast on the BBC. So we're just seeing the drones moving in silence and I'm recalling the track that is ingrained in my head. Seeing something take off that you've worked on for so long as it's very, very satisfying."

Jack Morton worked in conjunction with organisations across the capital to deliver the experience, on behalf of the Greater London Authority. These included the BBC, The Shard, Shakespeare's Globe, the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, St Paul's Cathedral, Tate Modern, City of London Corporation, the Port of London Authority, the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Metropolitan Police, City of London Police, Transport for London, the Civil Aviation Authority, and many more from the wider city operations.

As it stands, the 2022 show has more than three million views on YouTube alone and annually is estimated to generate in excess of 12 million television viewers. While a return to hosting an in-person audience would be welcomed by many, it's important to remember the show has always drawn a far greater broadcast audience than those spectators who lined the Thames.

Porter said: "Ultimately we hope to bring crowds back, we want people to enjoy it as an experience. At Jack Morton we build brand experiences and London is a brand we want to show off to the world. We want people to feel it, see it and be present. It will always be broadcast for everyone to enjoy, but hopefully, we'll have some sort of hybrid version in the future back again."

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