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Lift off! Londoners awake to a year of surprises with the Sky Orchestra

25 July 2011

Londoners are waking up to the sound of music emanating from the skies, as seven hot air balloons projecting sweet melodies soar above the capital, heralding one year to go to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In advance of the ceremony taking place in Trafalgar Square on Wednesday to mark the milestone, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has teamed up with the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT) to bring UK artist Luke Jerram's Sky Orchestra to the city. The spectacular event offers a preview of more than 12 months of extraordinary cultural events and celebrations being organised in the run up to and beyond the 2012 Games. Sky Orchestra's appearance in the capital also marks LIFT's 30th anniversary for groundbreaking – and in this case uplifting and gravity defying – productions.

From today and over the next two mornings, and some evenings, the seven balloons are due to take off in quick succession from the launch site, gradually rising to a height of around 500 feet, to be seen – and heard – as they float across the capital. Amplified to be heard by people at ground level, each of the balloons will broadcast a different element of the musical score, which has been composed by award winning British musician Dan Jones. Together, the music from the balloons will create a massive, but graceful, sonic landscape – a musical wake up call or gentle lullaby.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: 'With a year to go to the 2012 Games, London is waking to one of the most exciting periods in its illustrious history. As the Sky Orchestra floats gracefully across the capital's skyline, it provides a stunning preview of the astonishing variety of cultural events and activities that people will be able to experience as part of Open Weekend, but also over the course of the next amazing year.'

Mark Ball, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of LIFT, is in no doubt about Sky Orchestra's uniqueness: 'This really is a blue skies project: the Sky Orchestra was created by the extraordinary team of Luke Jerram and Dan Jones and all of us at LIFT are thrilled to be staging such an enormously public and entertaining performance of their idea. For 30 years LIFT has succeeded in bringing international theatre and performance into the heart of our community and in doing so has radically changed the theatrical landscape of the UK. It's no casual thing to fly hot air balloons across a major city and we wouldn’t be able to do it without the direct input of many organisations, including flight controllers at Heathrow and City airports.'

Sky Orchestra has been created by artist Luke Jerram, renowned for bringing pianos to the streets of London, and BAFTA and Ivor Novello award-winning composer and musician Dan Jones. For more information about one year to go to the Games, please go to For background information about Sky Orchestra, its history and the artists, and to track the balloons live, go to

Luke Jerram said: 'A form of acoustic urban art, Sky Orchestra questions the boundaries of public artwork, private space and the ownership of the sky. The aim is to lift the sleeping public into a space on the edge of sleep, and to inspire their imaginations through sound. Each balloon plays a different element of the musical score creating a massive audio landscape. Like whales calling in the ocean, the same sounds may be heard in succession passing from one balloon to another across the sky.'

Munira Mirza, Mayoral Advisor on Culture and Youth said: 'Sky Orchestra is one of those ingenious, breathtaking ideas that epitomises London. This is the city that serenades you whilst you eat your cornflakes. We're very grateful to all those who have helped make it happen - especially the artists Luke and Dan, as well as LIFT. We hope Londoners enjoy this unusual morning wake-up call.'

Sky Orchestra over London is being supported by the Mayor and follows Open Weekend 2011, which has just taken place and is part of the four year Cultural Olympiad programme. This year's Open Weekend featured more than 1,200 unique bespoke projects, sporting and cultural activities in London and across the UK.

Ruth Mackenzie, Director, Cultural Olympiad, said: 'This weekend over 1,200 events across the UK have welcomed audiences and participants to celebrate one year to go to the Games as part of Open Weekend, supported by BP. It is a taste of what's to come - in the summer of 2012 the London 2012 Festival will bring the biggest artists from around the world to the UK for a 12-week UK-wide festival to celebrate the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad.'

Commenting on today's launch, which took place in Southwark, Cllr Veronica Ward, cabinet member for culture, leisure, sport and the Olympics at Southwark Council, said: 'We're delighted to be able to support this magical event, and are proud to be the launching pad for the Sky Orchestra in London. It was a marvellous sight and a fitting way to usher in the final year to the Olympics.'

LOCOG recently announced more details of the London 2012 Festival, a 12-week UK-wide cultural celebration that takes place next June to September as the climax to the Cultural Olympiad. Throughout the year there will also be many other events large and small taking place in all 33 boroughs, including a programme specially commissioned by the Mayor's Office. This will include outdoor arts activities at town centres in every London borough; arts project and installations in unusual places around the city; and live performances at Live Sites and other public spaces.

The plan is to create a programme of artistic and cultural activities, which showcase London's creativity and add to the excitement and experience of the 2012 Games wherever people are in the city. More details about these will be announced in due course. ENDS


Notes to editors



The Mayor of London is supporting the launch of Sky Orchestra over the capital, as part of a programme of artistic and cultural activities, which showcase London's creativity and add to the excitement in the run up to and during the 2012 Games. For information about the Mayor of London's activities and aims for the 2012 Games, go to: For more on cultural objectives in 2012 go to



For information about this year's Open Weekend, go to For more on the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival go to



Sky Orchestra is collaboration between artist Luke Jerram and musician Dan Jones. Since its inception in 2002, The Sky Orchestra has been performed in Sydney, Birmingham, Bristol, Yverdon Switzerland and Sydney.

Luke Jerram is a Bristol-based, multidisciplinary artist. His work involves the creation of sculptures, installations, live arts projects and gifts. Since his professional career as an artist began in 1997, Luke has created a number of extraordinary projects which have excited and inspired people around the globe, including Sky Orchestra, Dream Concert and his celebrated street pianos installation 'Play Me, I'm Yours' which is currently touring and has materialised in many cities across the world including New York, Sydney, Sao Paolo, Barcelona and London.

Dan Jones is a BAFTA and Ivor Novello award-winning composer and sound designer, working in the theatre, film and television. His scores for feature films include Shadow of the Vampires and Jericho Mansions for which he received the Ivor Novello Award for Best Film Score. 2004. Dan has written for all the major British television broadcasters and his work includes Sir David Attenborough's The Life of Mammals. He recently composed the music for the BAFTA Best Drama Serial Any Human Heart for Channel 4.which also won both BAFTA and Ivor Novello Best Television Score Awards. Dan has also created music and soundscapes for large scale public artworks. He is the co-creator of Sky Orchestra where music is played from seven hot air balloons positioned over a city, making it one of the largest sound works in the world. His most recent work is 'Suburban Counterpoint' subtitled Music for Seven Ice Cream Vans, which was co-commissioned by LIFT, Norfolk and Norwich Festival and the Sydney Festival, 2010.


The public can track The Sky Orchestra balloons live on a Google map and also archives of each days' journey so that it can be re-played. The site has been created by Watershed, Bristol City Council and Play Nicely in celebration of Luke Jerram's extraordinary project, which began in his home town of Bristol. The live balloon data is captured by a custom-built Android phone app, created by The Pervasive Media Studio, which records the balloon's GPS position every 10 seconds and uses the mobile network to relay this information to the web site.



Above all, LIFT is proud to be in and of London. No other organisation or festival brings theatre to so many diverse, quirky and accessible places and spaces across our city. There’s a sense of discovery in all LIFT's work and it’s our intention to give members of the public the chance to see the world through the eyes of others, both artists and ordinary people, and to experience art on their own terms. Every performance or event we stage we intend to be a personal experience that will mean something unique and real to each and every individual lucky enough to witness it. The Sky Orchestra is no exception.


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