Over the course of 2020 we submitted numerous proposals with a variety of different ideas for projects to our clients and local councils as a response to the restrictions brought about by C19. Ards & North Down Council invited us in to discuss one of these suggestions and Window Wonderland was born.
Designed as a way to help re-animate town centres and drive footfall at a time when town centres and retail had been hit hard, this proposal was a covid safe template that could be replicated and scaled up or down as needed. Council desired a project that could be effectively delivered for 2 days each across the 5 towns of Bangor, Newtownards, Comber, Donaghadee & Holywood and could be flexible in its approach with changing restrictions. We proposed placing performers in shop windows to bring these spaces to life with magical fairytale characters through storytelling, dance, mime and music. By having performers behind glass, this would allow safe viewing for the public who were outdoors and able to distance successfully along with protecting our performers which was important for us. We wanted the public to feel safe themselves but also feel they could enjoy each performance in the knowledge that the performer was also safe. A key element of this project was not just to delight and give the public access to performance that they hadn’t been able to access for 9 months but also to help inspire audience confidence through spreading a little bit of magic. At a time when panto’s and Theatre weren’t accessible or open, this created an energy and a sense of engagement around Christmastime that was severely lacking otherwise.
With the idea in progress, initial site visits allowed us to draw up a long list of potential retailers that was dependant on a number of different factors, window size, accessibility for running cabling outside for PA systems, clear windows (ie no obstructive frames, structure or decals that would obscure the view of the performer).The plan was for shoppers to enjoy numerous performances across the space of a couple of hours and so considered placement of participating retailers meant that shoppers would also encouraged up and down high streets and around quieter corners through a good spread of the area. Bite sized performances of up to 5 minutes repeated 3 times an hour were created to ensure there was no prolonged gathering in line with current restrictions but that would allow shoppers to be able to still enjoy the shopping and eating experiences available to them.
Our long list became a short list through time as we made sure to balance these retailers out geographically and spacing them out to also minimise competing sound spill where possible. We also had to ensure any watching public wouldn’t be at crossroads or pedestrian crossings creating any additional hazards on the high street. Once the final retailers had been confirmed this also generated interest and excitement for them, this was something to look forward to and to help improve footfall into their shops. Many retailers went to town on their windows creating Christmas scenes and getting excited by dressing out their spaces for us. One even produced a red velvet curtain, very theatrical and perfect!
Having also finalised our performers and content we made sure to have a rigorous event plan in place taking into consideration all the current restrictions and regulations in place. This gave both us and the Council great confidence in the robust nature of the project which was an important document as it was reviewed by both the PSNI and the Department of Environmental Health.
Opening in Donaghadee we received a warm welcome from retailers and the town alike with one resident allowing us to take over his first floor flat so we could position two singers singing out of his windows. As part of our safety measures we had supported the council in not pre-announcing the performances because we were being mindful about not attracting or encouraging large groups to gather. As a result what we experienced was very organic word of mouth that saw numbers of onlookers growing steadily across the course of the first day and into day two. The reactions were magical, an older lady dancing along with the ballerina and numerous children who watched our mime artist openmouthed. Many returned on the second day with family after they spotted our performers on day one and it was also a treat for the drivers in their cars whenever they had a few minutes stopped at the traffic lights. All of our characters created a buzz and a talking point about the town.
We were delighted with the initial response but then an announcement was made to suspend all non essential retail for two weeks meaning we had to very quickly reschedule the dates for two of our participating towns. In the down time of the two weeks closure we made the decision to improve elements of the road safety by including barriers and suspending some parking bays for the future dates which went into our updated event plan.
Happily we were able to successfully deliver all 10 days to the 5 towns. Our performances made the news and the reactions across the board were incredible from members of the public across generations who were able to experience this together safely.
*Well Done every one of you, I had the pleasure of seeing you in Newtownards, Holywood ( by pure chance) and a very wet Comber evening. Really made my Christmas. Have a very well earned break xx
*We saw this in Hollywood. What a great idea to boost everyone’s spirits! Thank you!
*Congratulations to all involved. It was JUST what we needed in the Dee!
*Lovely morning in Ards with hubby and grandson. Enjoyed all the window performances.. well done ards
*Just such a lovely thing to do at this difficult time
*Trust the Irish with generous hearts and gorgeous voices to get it right. Good job.
*This should lift anybody’s mood in this current climate. Amazing.Love it
*Beautiful what a great way to get out the Christmas spirit in lockdown
*Amazing!! Well done for doing something so magical and lifting the mood
*Lovely well done to who ever organised, fabulous idea