Jodrell Bank Proms took place in the grounds of Jodrell bank observatory, the home of the 218 feet diameter Lovell telescope. This was part of the Live transmissions series that in the past have been headlined by Sigor Ros and Elbow. Hallé live at Jodrell Bank was the 6th event of this kind and took place on what would have been Sir Bernard Lovell’s (founder and first director of Jodrell Bank observatory) 100th birthday. This added a great deal of poignancy to the event as Lovell had been an enthusiastic lover of the Hallé and attended many concerts by them over his lifetime. Sadly he died on the 6th August 2012 at the grand age of 98 so unfortunately never got chance to see his two great passions come together.
The day itself started a little after 3pm as we entered the site queuing behind a few hundred other early attendees coming in with table, chairs, candles and picnic baskets. This was our first time at an event like this and it surprised us how much people brought in. By the time everyone had set up we were kicking ourselves at how little we had brought. We looked out enviously from our picnic blanket at how comfortable and prepared some people were.
We started by going into the Science Arena, which included entry into the recently refurbished discovery centre. This area was fantastic, both fun and educational for kids and adults alike. It was run by enthusiastic knowledgeable staff conducting experiments who explained the science behind it. We unexpectedly spent 2 hours in this area and my daughter got involved hands on with everything she could. She came out with solar system bracelets, homemade slime (Borax and PVA glue) and a LED badge that she made herself after soldering the parts together. The other highlights were the creation of volcanoes and explanation and demonstration of non-Newtonian fluids (sounds boring but get a cup full of corn flour and a little water and kids will play with its weird properties for ages!).
After a couple of hours of fun we headed to the main stage area to watch the music. The layout was the usual food stalls around the outside with toilets towards the back. The main difference to other festivals was the stage stood right in front of the imposing telescope. We thought this looked great but didn’t realise until later that it was to be used as a gigantic screen to stunning effect.
First on stage was Broadway and Beyond which was music that ranged from Broadway such as ‘The Music Of The Night’ from The Phantom of the Opera and ‘I Could Have Danced All Night ‘ from My Fair Lady to Opera classics like Nessun Dorma from Turandot. It created a very chilled afternoon and the picnics were getting opened all round the field. If you hadn’t packed your own there was all the usual festival fare available and even picnics you could pre-order to pick up. They also let people bring in their own alcohol with a limit of 1 litre per adult and there was a couple of reasonably priced bars to use as well.
The second act on was DJ Tom Middleton. The producer, re-mixer and DJ warmed up the crowd with space related mixes and special guests. The highlight of these was his Star Wars mix that included sound bites from the film.
The headline act was Hallé – the oldest symphony orchestra in Britain and described in the programme as ‘The original Manchester band’ formed in 1858.
They played a two-part set with an interval and all the music had a space connection apart from one – Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This was because Firebird Suite was dedicated to Lovell as it was one of his favourite pieces of music.
The first half contained classics from Dvorak’s Rusalka: song to the moon to Holst's The Planets: Mars but this was mixed in with relatively new music like John Williams’ Close Encounters. They were all played beautifully with the only small gripe about the festival set up being that they had placed two ice cream vans right in the crowd so on quiet pieces the unmistakable hum of a Mr Whippy could be heard over the music.
As the interval began the telescope made a surprisingly fast movement and turned round so the dish faced the crowd. This was then used to play a short film about Sir Bernard Lovell. It was a fitting tribute to a remarkable scientist and went down well with the crowd.
The second half started and the telescope was used throughout as a backdrop for images while the symphony played. This was especially effective when they played Holst’s The Planets: Jupiter with the telescope seemingly turning into a huge revolving planet. Second set was like the first with classics mixed with new film scores and ended with a magnificent rendition of John Williams’ Star Wars: Main Titles which included a firework display that beautifully complemented the music. I say ended but they did manage to sneak a final encore piece in for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who by playing Ron Grainer’s Doctor Who theme, which both surprised and delighted the crowd.
Overall this was a brilliantly organised event that was both enjoyable and breath taking at times and we will definitely be keeping a look out for who is announced for future Live Transmission events.
latest on this festival
festival home page
video of the day
Live from Jodrell Bank 2013 review
Live from Jodrell Bank 2013 review