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Chinese lantern display redesigns London skyline
- Time of issue:2021-11-18 11:12
One of London's most famous lost landmarks will be restored this Christmas as part of a spectacular display of thousands of handmade Chinese lanterns.
Lightopia will be illuminating Crystal Palace Park in South East London throughout the Christmas and New Year period, with the center-piece of the display being a recreation of the famous building, built for the first world fair, the Great Exhibition of 1851, but destroyed by fire in 1936. Its memory has been kept alive in the name of the area, and its local English Premier League soccer team, on whose badge it still features.
In addition to returning to the capital for the second time, after a one-year absence last year, for the third year running there will be a Lightopia display in Manchester's Heaton Park, and also at a new venue, the Alton Towers theme park in Staffordshire, one of the United Kingdom's biggest tourist attractions.
Around 250 people in China spent two months handmaking all the lanterns, and a team of 50 people has been working at each site to get them ready for display.
"It's a big challenge to organize an event of this scale but fortunately last year in Manchester, we were able to open at height of COVID-19, because we were outdoor and had timed slots, so we could manage things really well," Lightopia's co-creator He Ying told China Daily.
"In fact, compared to many other Christmas events we're one of the safest and most COVID-friendly. We know we can do it, and that gave us the confidence to make it bigger and better this year," she continued. "Additional challenges like international shipping and the driver shortage have made it a tough year but we've received a lot of support from local organizers so we're confident we can put on a wonderful experience for our customers."
Having chosen not to open in London last year, fellow creator Ian Xiang said something crucial for this year was moving across the capital from its previous location, at Chiswick in West London, to South East London, which would make this year's event much more spectacular.
"Chiswick was a lovely venue but there was no room to expand, and also there are several other illumination displays nearby so we decided to go across the city, which is a great opportunity for us," he said. "Crystal Palace is a famous name, and the park is home to the famous dinosaur sculptures which are over 150 years old. Each venue has its own theme - Manchester is fantasy, Alton Towers is four seasons in one day, and Crystal Palace is rebirth, so the highpoint of the display is recreating the palace itself, and restoring it to its former glory."
Xiang said he was delighted Lightopia had been invited to be part of Alton Towers's Christmas offering.
"Lightopia is a world class event, and that's why they want us there," he said. "To be working with the Merlin Group (owner of attractions around the world, including Madame Tussauds and Sea Life centers in China) is something we're very proud of, and we're going to build what I'm sure is the largest lantern and lights festival outside China this year."
Light displays seem to be becoming increasingly popular in the UK, but Xiang says he welcomes the competition.
"Lightopia is still one of the top events," he added. "We started here and know the UK market better than other places, but we're planning to expand to other parts of Europe, which is the next step for next year.
"We're good at telling a story and creating something unique. There's a long history and heritage behind Chinese lanterns, so we marry that to the Western Christmas. We call ourselves joymakers - Christmas and winter need light and joy, and all across the country, that's what Lightopia brings."
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