How Private Drama delivered Save the Children's Winter Gala

Adam Blackwood, founder and creative director of Private Drama, looks back on this year's Winter Gala.

Private Drama created a Roald Dahl theme for the Save the Children event
Private Drama created a Roald Dahl theme for the Save the Children event

This year was the first time we’ve worked with Save the Children – the work went out to tender at the beginning of the year and I’d always wanted to be involved as it is highly theatrical, so very much our specialism.

The original brief was rather detailed and the bar was set high with previous years including Grimm Tales and Alice Underground plus the English National Ballet with The Nutcracker. Different authors and stories have taken the central theme in previous years so there was quite an expectation of what the event would be. The Roald Dahl centenary made it an obvious choice for 2016.

We studied previous years and noted that the arrival needed to have quite an immediately impressive impact, there then needed to be a social media moment and the journey to the reception was often highly stylised with lots of experiences.

I thought that while there was heavy investment in the reception spaces, the audience, which includes a host of celebrities and high-net worth individuals, doesn’t really spend so much time in those areas. I wanted to really focus our efforts, budget and creativity in the Great Hall itself. Of course, working with a charity meant being very mindful of the budget and its constraints.

Upon arrival at the venue on the night, at every touch-point, there were magical dream jars twinkling everywhere. 

Guests were greeted by a giant stilt-walker with his own dream jars and you could hear giant footsteps and whispers as you walked down the corridors.

The big idea was to recreate the peach from James and the Giant Peach and really link an experience to the event’s content itself. Dream Engine produced our heliosphere, which we fashioned in to the giant peach and while we’ve worked with these before in the Turbine Hall at the Tate and in the garden at the V&A Museum, the Great Hall was a lot more challenging due to its chandeliers.

In the past, the event has raised £600k, so the CEO of Save the Children told the guests that if they beat the target, the peach would fly. Over £800k was pledged and I don’t think anyone actually believed the peach would fly, but it did and we provided the most fantastic, uplifting and dramatic moment in the evening.

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