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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Wonder wall

HADRIAN’S Wall had never seen anything like it.

As night fell over the mist shrouded countryside, the landscape was suddenly dominated by a line of huge luminous balloons, moonlike as they hovered mysteriously in the gathering dusk.

At times white, then orange, then vivid green, the 6ft wide orbs shimmered as they changed colour in turn.

There were memorable scenes at Walltown Crags near the Cumbrian border last night as onlookers gathered to enjoy a huge art installation spanning virtually all 73 miles of Hadrian’s Wall.

From Bowness-on-Solway in the west to Wallsend in the east, the wall was united by a digitally-linked line of weather balloons, each pulsating with light and colour.

Spectators were able to use their smart phones to choose colours and send them wirelessly along the wall.

The Connecting Light event – to be repeated tonight – was created by the New York-based art collective YesYesNo, led by artist Zach Lieberman

His idea was to transform the world-famous barrier – built nearly two millennia ago to keep people apart – to bring them together.

Last night, spectators came from across the country to watch – and their reactions were entirely positive. “It’s inspiring,” said 11-year-old Bilaal Khan, from Nottingham, who was in the area on holiday with his family, brother Aadil, 13, and their parents, dad Saiful, 41, and mum Farheen, 39.

Bilaal added: “It’s getting us involved in the views and nature but also involving us in modern technology.”

Saiful described the spectacle as a “peaceful, and calming,” a bringing together of nature and technology.

Tom White and his wife Hannah, both 26, from Newcastle, were also thrilled to be watching. He said: “It’s totally different – probably a once in a lifetime spectacle.”

Londoner Sue Hall, visiting the wall for the first time, described the scene as “beautiful,” adding: “It makes you look further and harder at the landscape. There’s something very exciting about it.”

Travel writer Gillian Orrell, 39, commented: “This is probably the highest-tech thing that’s been here since the Romans. It’s other worldly.”

In Carlisle, volunteers Julie Wooding, 47, and teacher Nic Ashby helped set up the installation outside Carlisle Castle.

“It’s interesting to see something so modern next to something so ancient,” said Julie, adding: “It’s also good for Carlisle to be involved in an international initiative that brings people together.”

Nic added: “It also shows that the Olympics is not just about sport: it’s about culture, education, and inclusion.”

As she watched at Walltown Crags, Ruth Mackenzie, director of the London 2012 Festival, described Hadrian’s Wall as an iconic heritage site, saying: “What interested Zach about it was that it was built as a border, and built to keep out the people of Scotland.

“This installation has made it a place where people can communicate, showing borders can be a place people can cross, and not be kept apart.”

The Hadrian’s Wall Trust was invited by the Local Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the Arts Council to deliver a Wall-wide art installation as part of the London 2012 Festival.

To choose where to see tonight’s installation by logging on to www.connectinglight.info/visiting/

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