Ursula Lassos the Moon

Experiential, Visitor Attractions

For many of us, being part of something creative and truly immersive is thrilling. Being transported to worlds of wonder and enchantment can be good for the soul, good for the mind, and good for the whole family too. In 2017, Enchanted Parks saw Pufferfish involved in this inspiring, immersive world - and all through the genius of artist Lucy McDonnell.

Saltwell Park in Gateshead, Newcastle is a place where they take wonder to a whole new dimension. Their annual event Enchanted Parks sees festive audiences taken on fairy-tale journeys after-dark, as they walk through the Victorian park to discover illuminated artworks; and every year they completely transform what could be empty land into awe-inspiring and truly unseen environments. The December event has gone on for over a decade now, seeing over 30,000 visitors each year and over 100 original artworks commissioned to date.

Audiences were saddened to hear the event will be taking a break in 2019, but in honour of the inspiring festive event (and the impending festive season) we will transport you back to 2017 when Pufferfish were part of this thrilling event.

Commissioned by NewcastleGateshead Initiative, Enchanted Parks always aims to be a sensory art and entertainment experience, combining magical illuminations, sound, colour, and even fireworks to surprise families and inspire local residents. And 2017 was no different, with its overall theme of ‘The Inventor’s Ball’.

With an original story written by Susan Mulholland forming the backdrop to the event, each of the artworks centred around Ursula Wailes, a young Inventor and Victorian heiress to the Saltwell Estate. Some interpretations involved shining sculptures and projections, while others incorporated music or whispers of her voice. But for artist Lucy McDonnell, she had their sights set on the night sky.

Lucy, with the help of Stephen Newby and Pufferfish, created an incredible piece of art that combined lighting, projection, illusion and genuine innovation.

Entitled ‘Ursula Lassos the Moon’, it told the part of Ursula’s tale where she lassoed and pulled the Moon to earth, where she tethered it to a boat on the park lake and left it to float.

With a wider view of the Victorian era being considered, science and invention at that time, and the Victorian relationship with the Moon; Lucy wanted to plug into the desire to traverse space in that era, to understand this mysterious planet - the ultimate conquest mission, while also paying homage to the classic film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.

And with a bright, powerful woman like Ursula at the helm, the project sparked a real passion in Lucy.

Utilizing our PufferSphere® technology, Lucy was able to depict the magnitude of the Moon with our 2-metre screen, and also display the intricate details of the Moon’s craters, shadows and depth with our state-of-the-art internal projection technology. The result was an incredibly detailed, 360° display that gave the Moon life-like qualities to really stimulate the senses of audiences. And what better way to see the closest planet to Earth than floating above a lake before your eyes?!

“We couldn’t have done it without the PufferSphere. There is nothing better, and nothing that offers that hyper real WOW-factor like it. It made the project engaging, immersive, and created the feeling of realism, even including intricate movements as it slowly spun through the night.”

- Lucy McDonnell, Studio Vertigo.

Forming a wider conversation about art and family entertainment, this exceptional piece of work inspired the most important thing for audiences both young and old; imagination. The combination of illusion, wonder, beauty, and the Moon - in all her glory – captured the attention of audiences and inspired their imagination in such a thrilling and hugely memorable way.

While we at Pufferfish love any excuse to talk about the Moon, this project has been a real favourite of ours, and one we felt deserved a re-telling. These pictures form strong evidence of the power behind this installation, and while 2019 won’t see the event returning, we’re hoping it will be back bigger and better than ever in 2020.

Thanks to Lucy and Stephen, along with the team at Studio Vertigo. We hope to collaborate with you both again soon, and can’t wait to see how your upcoming installation at the Amsterdam Light Festival comes together!

For more on Studio Vertigo, see their website here. This image (right) is from the installation at Bowes Museum in County Durham.

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