World Culture Summit -Welcome to the World

Date: June 2006
Client: NewcastleGateshead Initiative
Position: Producer

In June 2006 NewcastleGateshead hosted the World Culture Summit. This is a biennial event (last hosted by Singapore) with 400 delegates including government level cultural policy advisers. The location was Baltic Square and the Newcastle Quayside.

EI was commissioned by NewcastleGateshead Initiative and Culture 10 to devise and produce a public welcome event for the delegates which would also be open to the public. The brief was that the welcome should combine aspects of ‘Geordie warmth’ with a sense off global community. This was to be a mid-evening event of not more than 45 minutes duration (as the delegates were en route to dinner). Unusually for EI this event had a very strong community aspect and eventually 17 groups from the city and wider region were involved, ranging from brass bands and choirs, to dance and theatre companies, schools and Gateshead Central Nurseries. An early decision was that flowers should play a prominent visual role in the Welcome event because of their civic role in the UK and the more person-to-person welcome (giving out garlands) in other cultures. Eventually the floral aspect of the event included a Tall Ship decorated with flower chains and anchors, an Indian flower sculpture, a floral carpet laid across Millennium Bridge and a floral arch which became the centrepiece for a welcome dance.

The international aspect of the event was provided by Xhosa dancers and drummers from South Africa and dhol drummers from North India. These provided vivid processional elements into Baltic Square, where a high level of intimacy was achieved through the intermingling of performers, delegates and public audience. This was strengthened when performers of all ages handed out 500 flower garlands and 50 individual orchids to individuals in the crowd. The event culminated in a short but highly effective daytime firework display from a pontoon moored on the river Tyne and a cascade of flower petals from confetti cannon placed at either end of Millennium Bridge.

Once again this event achieved and exceeded its brief, creating a warm and intimate welcome to NewcastleGateshead for the international delegates on a beautiful summer’s evening. The total estimated attendance (on both banks of the river) was 3,500.