There are just some things you just tend to frown upon when you gravitate to professional show production.
Things like bunting and balloons for example.
To unpack this sweeping and offensive (to some) statement, let’s first start with bunting.
When I see a village street take on this adornment during some kind of fete or festival it’s often two things to me. It’s a quaint local tradition which I love…. but this otherwise lacklustre 'lamppost bondage' is also a warning sign that people who don’t understand how to make an original impact are around.
That’s the thing with the concept of tradition…. it’s just something you do - because it’s always been done. It simultaneously brings colour to your drab high street once a year (for no cost) and it also shows a total lack of imagination.
I live in a small Scottish village and we put ours up every year for our spring gala… and I love everything (and photograph everything) that this great community event brings…. including even the bunting…. I don’t own any… but I guess I’d help put it up if I was on the committee.
In my professional life there is a fairly long list of things which I would tend to avoid for most of my clients. For example, and in no particular order… Comic Sans font, Tina Turner's ‘Simply the Best’, prawn vol au vents, clip art and of course balloons.
What do balloons tell you? - They say ‘we’re having a celebration…. we’re having a good time!’ - but do they REALLY? - Yes they add colour… and colour is good - I obviously don’t want to be seen as a party popper or be criticised as an over inflated snob but balloons, as an aesthetic, sort of exist as a staple add-on that people reach for without imagination. They’re not original but they are garish, they are not classy but they are cheap.
Some people say they are fun. But I would say, unless you’re a young child, I would love to see how much fun you can really have with a balloon. Do they lift your spirits? I mean really?
A Balloon archway at your wedding. Woop, woop. Some helium and they can attach to your table centrepiece…. now we get the party started!
THE KITSCH EXCEPTION
I suppose Kitsch is a respectable genre when it’s celebrated within its boundaries. Most festivals for the masses like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Hen Nights and Valentines etc all belong to the world of cheap plastic things from China - and I guess this could be a similar exception to the same traditional purposes surrounding my bunting comments earlier.
But when a client approaches me, they never say ‘I want a show that just looks like every other show please - don’t make any special effort’. It’s my job to pull off proper ‘wow’ and class.
Whenever we start the creative process, we would just never entertain the idea of balloons for a second. And yet, they just keep cropping up!
AND THEN LAST NIGHT...
This picture shows the moment (last night) when I cued a 500 pink balloon drop on Will.I.Am and friends at the Albert Hall.
I wasn’t the creative behind the decision, but I was directing the show. I needed them to come down on him and his band during the second chorus. Which means I cued them toward the end of the first chorus, coz the Albert Hall’s ceiling really is quite high up!
In the end, as they floated down on to the stage and the crowd danced and cheered…. I ended up really quite liking the whole thing.
So, I don’t take back my earlier diatribe - but I guess I need to bite the bullet here and say that, at Night Train, I might occasionally entertain the idea of balloons on a show… but there are no shortage of caveats surrounding this statement.
And please note, despite this small compromise, I absolutely refuse to allow Comic Sans to show up in any invite, signage, slide, logo or document. It’s contractual!