Nestled in the heart of Oxfordshire, United Kingdom, Blenheim Palace has long been an iconic symbol of grandeur and history. Every winter, this UNESCO World Heritage Site takes on a magical transformation, where over the holiday season, its grounds and palace interior become the canvas for a captivating display of ‘Christmas at Blenheim Palace’.
During Christmas 2022, this Hans Christian Andersen-inspired winter wonderland enchanted the hearts of thousands of visitors with its kilometres-long light trail and exquisitely themed interiors.
Find out how the Adlib team and its partners at Event Design and Culture Creative helped to deliver some unforgettable experiences that married beloved tradition with the latest lighting technology.
The Light Trail
The Blenheim Palace Christmas Light Trail is far from an ordinary holiday display; it's an extraordinary fusion of tradition and innovation. Stretching across the palace's extensive parkland, the technical delivery posed numerous challenges. Outdoor art installations needed to be meticulously planned, and preserving the historical integrity of the palace was paramount. Moreover, the display looked to be environmentally responsible, reducing energy consumption and incorporating sustainable technology.
According to Dave Smith, the Lighting Technician responsible for the installation and management of the trail, the technical production team had to embrace cutting-edge technology to address these challenges. LED lighting became the backbone of the displays, offering energy efficiency, minimal upkeep, and a wide colour range, all during difficult, sometimes freezing conditions. With over 230 fixtures spread across 12 independent artist installations, Dave admitted that the 2.8km-long trail is “quite breathtaking when you see it”.
The light trail featured fantastic installations by audio-visual design specialists such as Ithaca Studio and ArtAV. In total, it took a dedicated team over 2,000 man-hours to set up, involving the installation of electrical infrastructure spanning over 5.9 kilometres of heavy mains cable and roughly 19 kilometres of 16amp mains cable throughout the palace's grounds.
But the real star of the Christmas display was the South Lawn Show, where the palace itself served as a canvas where award-winning lighting designer Rory Beaton could pay tribute to some of the most well-known Christmas stories. He did so by transforming the whole southern façade of the palace using Ayrton Perseos as gobo projectors. Each projector was equipped with a sophisticated array of six to eight individual gobos, intricately programmed for precise movement across the palace's exterior.
While gobos played a pivotal role in the visual presentation, additional depth was achieved by strategically placing more than 50 OXO Pixyline 150 Battens that highlighted specific architectural elements such as windows and columns. These versatile fixtures effectively transformed each window and column into programmable entities, facilitating dynamic colour alterations synchronised with the rhythms of Christmas songs and carols. This approach allowed Rory to showcase the palace's grandeur and scale, which maximised the available projection space and resulted in a more intricate show.
However, it was Ayrton Cobra fixtures that got the show well beyond the palace’s grounds. Powered by their laser source and IP65-rated hardware, control, and housing, the fixtures placed on the roof and lawn easily punched through the cold winter evenings, fully immersing spectators, some even standing over 200 metres away, “There’s no other fixture that we’ve seen on these trails that can do what these are now doing”, Dave commented.
The interiors of Blenheim Palace, similarly to its grounds, exuded Christmas enchantment. As visitors entered this majestic stately home, they were welcomed by a mesmerising display of festive grandeur, aptly titled “The Kingdom of the Snow Queen”.
From the Great Hall, with its towering, 30-foot Christmas tree, to the Long Library, where the Snow Queen resides, the halls and rooms of the palace were adorned with intricate Christmas decorations, each narrating their own story through carefully curated displays.
With the meticulous placement of speakers, lighting fixtures, and gobo projectors within the palace, the technical team successfully managed to enhance the festive atmosphere and helped to create a cosy ambience that included crackling fireplaces or falling snowflakes. This elevated-by-technology experience transported visitors to an enchanting realm where the essence of Christmas was found in every detail.