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Creating Enchanted Witley Court

Key Stats.

English Heritage
Witley Court, Worcestershire
The Feeling?

The Brief

English Heritage cares for over 400 historic monuments, buildings and places across the country, from world-famous prehistoric sites to grand medieval castles and Roman forts.

In December 2017, it piloted a new initiative, Enchanted Woodland Walks, at six of its sites, which saw 70,000 visitors enjoy a magical walk through the forest.
This year, it added Witley Court – an extravagant stately home – to the venues, to host a month-long installation for up to 10,000 visitors.

The brief was to create an immersive environment, using a combination of technical and fabrication aspects, which submerges visitors into an enchanted wonderland of lights, creatures and magic.

Taking advantage of Witley Court’s beautiful and natural backdrop and enhancing it with lighting, sound, projection and props, the journey takes people on a stunning walk through thousands of magical lights and lanterns, through a world of fairies and gremlins and culminating with an audience with a magical talking tree.

The challenges we faced

Through our work with agencies, we have built up a strong knowledge base in the experiential installations space, which made it easier for us to interpret the objectives for this project, before creating and delivering a compelling proposal.

The site for the installation covered a large area and a number of different terrains such as a lakeside walk, and paths through the gardens and up the hill into the forest.
Because of its nature, a clever combination of lights and fabrication was required to set different moods at different parts of the walk and enhance these with sounds and other props to create a compelling storyline into which visitors could submerge themselves.

Individual elements we had to find solutions for would include a woodland walk, a fairy forest and gremlin village, a floating display on the lake and a final flourish for the animated, talking tree.

We were also tasked with bringing an element of the history behind Witley Court into the story. It used to host the most extravagant parties, and in later years burned down.
To bring out this element, we installed a 12ft Christmas tree and a mirror ball in the old ballroom, then lit it up from further down the court to make it look like a fire burning in the building.

What we did

Step 1

Working to our own creative brief, the walk started through the woodlands with 30 glass domes filled with fairy lights, which was lined with festoon lights above. The Fairy Village was created under a large tree to the side of the path, which was lit up with more micro-copper fairy lights. Giggling fairy music was played in the background to bring it to life.

Step 2

Visitors then moved along a hanging installation of lights, a bird house, bird cages and snowflakes strung between three trees, with mystical chime music and tweeting birds in the background. The lighting then went red and light-up eyes were installed in the bushes and more mischievous background music was played as guests entered the gremlin lair.

Step 3

Up the hill, they went through the light tunnel and then approached the giant oak tree, where we projected a face of an animated tree creature, to create the effect of a talking tree. We wrote the script for this part of the installation, which was then professionally artworked, animated and narrated.

Step 4

Finally, the lake was filled with multi-coloured floating umbrellas, while lights were projected onto the two large fountains up at the court itself. One of these was interactive and included a podium with control buttons to allow guests to change the colours and patterns.

Anabelle Parslow, our fabrication project manager, said: “This was an interesting project to work on in the grounds of a stunning, historic stately home. The trick with this installation was finding a creative way of using simple technology to create a totally believable, immersive world which took visitors on a magical and enchanting journey.

It’s amazing to think how applying a bit of creative thought to lights, props and sound can result in something truly memorable and captivating and we look forward to seeing this initiative go from strength to strength next year.”

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