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Evolution Bristol 2023

The evolution of entertainment with drones

Business Biscuit superfans will have noticed that we’ve reorganised our website menus and categorised our news.

It got us thinking: what does ‘culture’ encompass? What does ‘media’ include?

We confess, ‘drone’ was not considered for the SEO description!

Enter Evolution, a rather sexy-looking alternative to Christmas lights displays, to reconfigure what makes entertainment.

Evolution is a cross between a theatre show and a firework display – ‘sky theatre’ and ‘digital artistry’ they call it – where all the players are drones and the night sky is the stage. It has a rather ambitious aim to ‘tell the story of time’.

The narrated show starts with the Big Bang, through to the emergence of the sun and our solar system, to life on earth from single cell organisms to dinosaurs, to us and dolphins (probably), set to a cinematic soundtrack. Hundreds of drones flying in concert create images in light.

Frome-based Celestial, a ‘business that promotes the power of imagination’, devised the show from their airstrip. They’ve only been going a few years but already they’ve created a display for London’s 2022 NYE, and the Eurovision launch party in Liverpool, as well as the Prime Video Nigeria launch. There’s also a rather beautiful film made for Greenpeace for the 2021 G7 summit in Cornwall. The freezing cold was the setting for their first film show: Edinburgh’s Hogmanay in the covid lockdown NYE.

“Evolution has been three years in the making. This is so much more than a drone light show, it’s an experience with stadium scale, created to bring audiences together using a new medium to tell the story of time,” said Celestial co-founder John Hopkins.

Video: about Evolution

Drones are an up-and-coming medium in the artist’s toolkit and are safe for wildlife, and use sustainable power. Like any big show using technology, it combines artistry with technical knowhow. Celestial’s founders include John Hopkins, an award-winning filmmaker with decades of experience, and Tony Martin, a former VP of Sony Music as well as an accomplished musician, their animation lead is Anthony Head, professor of 3D visualisation at the University of Dundee, and their global projects and operations manager Lee Thomas was on the King’s birthday honours list for delivering ASTRA Strategic Change and Innovation programme in the RAF. (ASTRA is the campaign to build the next generation Royal Air Force)

Special software helps animate the show, which employs sophisticated AI to tell the Nebula drones where to go and how to move. This creates an ‘organic swarm’ movement.

Previously David Tennant has been a narrator, prominent poets such as Jackie Kay have written the words, and original soundtracks were recorded with a live orchestra.

So it’s a big show coming to Bristol’s Seat Unique cricket stadium, in partnership with Yuup, the Bristol-based ‘experiences’ company. Yuup is like a modern theatre box office with marketing support, where people can book things like spooky walks and cookery classes, or a ticket to an event. This 6,000 seater show with 24,000 tickets to sell is a significant step up for them, aimed to “support Yuup’s scale up across the UK.”

“It is the biggest event we have brought to the city since we launched here two years ago,” said Yuup’s founder Dominic Mills.

Evolution performs on the 20 and 21 of December, alongside a fairground and food village, and is suitable for family audiences.

Promotional video:

Christmas in Bristol and Bath

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