The United Arab Emirates marked 50 years as a nation with 50 days of celebrations, culminating in a spectacular live show from Dubai’s Hatta Water Dam in the Hajar Mountains featuring a floating stage and drone-launched fireworks, produced by live event specialists, LarMac PROJECTS.
LarMac PROJECTS brought its considerable experience in high-profile corporate live production to the UAE’s 50th National Day Celebration – a spectacle that charted the country’s history in the lead-up to its inception in 1971 and across the subsequent 50 years.
Every year, the UAE’s National Day celebration is anticipated as one of the most important dates in the live events calendar. For the country’s Golden Jubilee, the creative team – led by Artistic Director and Designer Es Devlin and LarMac PROJECTS Executive Creative Producer Jo MacKay – knew that the boundaries of possibility needed to be pushed to their limit.
The initial show was live streamed on 2 December and followed by 10 additional special performances that took place between 3-12 December, featuring specially composed songs and poetry, drone-launched fireworks, a light show, exciting water displays and 5.1 surround sound to convey the relationship between people and nature, and the ties between Emiratis, their homeland, and the environment.
This is the second time LarMac PROJECTS has been engaged by the UAE National Projects Office to deliver the prestigious National Day event. The company, again under Es Devlin’s creative direction and design, also produced the 49th National Day in 2020, which began as a single, socially distanced show in Abu Dhabi, and evolved into a six-week long art installation, with its kinetic sculpture centrepiece gaining must-see attraction status in the country.
“This year, Es’s creativity was the most technically audacious and emotionally ambitious in order to deliver a country’s attitude to its past and future,” says LarMac co-founder and Executive Creative Producer, Jo MacKay.
LarMac enlisted a team of 650 creative, cast, technical and safety personnel from 100 countries to bring Devlin’s vivid designs to life, with 1.5 million hours of work necessary to build the floating stage alone.
“The whole show floats, the audience floats,” explains Es. “We explored some new ways of using less pyrotechnics to elevate the fireworks into the air, using drones to lift them to a height, then a combination of drone and fireworks to create a new illusion that I certainly haven’t worked with before.
“In addition, we created projections in mid-air through the use of water screens, as well as a huge sculptural element that, again, is floating. All of these things pushed engineering to its limits at the site in Hatta.”
Wonder Works provided technical engineering, while Stage One oversaw the centrepiece rotating disc stage, PRG supplied lighting, and Creative Technology handled projection – utilising the impressive power of VYV Photon media servers. Industry veteran Bruno Poet was the show’s lighting designer and Luke Halls Studio created the detailed video content.
This core creative team was completed by Groupe F (pyro and drone displays) and Auditoria Systems (audio design), whose goal was to create a listening experience that delivered a high-fidelity nearfield sound using individual 5.1 systems.
The entire production required monumental teamwork, as LarMac PROJECTS Director Ian Greenway explains: “Like all National Day projects, this one came with its challenges. We hadn’t built a lake on top of an existing lake before, never mind with automated stages or grandstands on top. As always, we try and engage with the best and only by promoting a hugely collaborative team effort were we able to pull this truly unique and culturally significant event off.
“We relocated hundreds upon hundreds of talented teammates to the Hajar Mountains and, at times, had to rip up the manual of how to stage events,” continues Ian. “We learnt how to build mountain roads, install dam bed anchoring systems, float audience reception and grandstand areas, and manage water safety and diving teams. Most of all, we were inspired everyday thanks to the incredible UAE landscape that we were working in.”
As well as Ian Greenway and Jo MacKay, the LarMac PROJECTS team comprised Executive Producer Nick Levitt, Technical Director Simon L. Lachance, Creative Producer Siobhan Shaw and Assistants to the Producers Zoe Gillespie and Finlay Bowrey.
In closing, Jo notes: “Thanks and congratulations should not only be extended to the crew and companies working under the LarMac PROJECTS umbrella, but to the five young Emirati female creative forces at the heart of the 50th National Day celebrations. Creative Executive Producer Rawdha Al Qubaisi, Artistic Director Shaikha Al Ketbi, Scriptwriter Maryam Al Dabbagh, Voiceover Artist Raihana Al Hashmi (‘Voice of the Nation’) and Brand Designer Kholoud Sharafi, who have truly contributed to a meaningful cultural evolution in the region.”