At 3:43am on Saturday 16 May 2020 over 7,000 people experienced dawn together with live music as daylight swept across the UK.
Scroll for video, photos, music and stories
Thank you for coming together to make DAWNS happen.
On Saturday 16 May 2020 people were invited to find their own view of the sky and join in a shared witness of dawn, marking everyone's individual experience as daylight swept across the country in a continuous wave across the UK from the North East to the South West.
At 3:43am over 7,000 people tuned into an online broadcast as six performers from six sites across the UK created a live, musical performance that celebrated the darkness turning to light.
DAWNS was a celebration of togetherness, difference, nature and light. It acted as a reminder that we all experience the world differently, and that the natural world can't be pinned down, no matter how hard we try.
Time, money, gender, music...they're all systems we humans made up. 29 February is a four-year fudge and Greenwich Mean Time is just an average. DAWNS invited you to shrug off the constructs of time, connect with nature and welcome in the new day for a few moments - all together, from lockdown.
This mass-participation artwork by non zero one was made in collaboration with composer James Bulley, commissioned by the National Trust in partnership with Heritage Open Days.
It took place live and online, and is lockdown-friendly - people could find their own view of the sky and then tune in to the broadcast online. During the performance they were invited to take part in collective actions to mark their dawn, from showing their location on a pin on a map, to taking a photo at 4:49am.
Starting at 3:43am on Saturday 16 May 2020, a narrator joined five individual musicians in lockdown across the UK as they performed a newly commissioned work from composer James Bulley. Each performer’s contribution was defined by their own experience of the dawn occurring at their location, building from a solo to a quintet as the daylight swept across the country. The whole broadcast was recorded and mixed live from technicians and specialists also working from lockdown in their own homes.
Whilst their view in front of them changed from dark to light, DAWNS asked audiences to consider their own relationship to time, nature and community. Especially from the specific context of lockdown, what becomes our priority and what becomes more precious? What systems have we constructed that help us navigate the world? And what restricts us?
On Saturday 16 May 2020, DAWNS brought 7,000 people together for a shared experience of the early morning. Altogether listening, though watching from totally different viewpoints, DAWNS asked each person to consider how can dawn unite us whilst being unique to each of us?
Camera kits were sent out to all five musicians, the narrator, composer, sound engineer, and three participating households.
The introduction of lockdown halfway through developing DAWNS meant a lot of changes. Instead of professional camera crews filming at each site during the broadcast, the performers and the participants themselves had to become the camera people.
Not being able to meet in person also meant that performers had to become their own streaming and sound engineers, relying on equipment deliveries, instruction guides and virtual training sessions so that they were ready to broadcast to thousands of people, live.
This 11-minute film documents parts of the journey from the moment the kits arrived with the performers, through rehearsals, preparing for the big night, and then the broadcast itself. We see beautiful footage from some of the people who took part and hear a lot of the gorgeous music, as it was recorded live during the event.
Hit the pink button to watch the film.
"At 4:49am let’s all take a photo of our view"
Marking a mid-point in the arrival of dawn across the UK, at 4:49am parts of the country were in darkness, and parts were in light. Everybody on the north east - south west wave of light experienced their own dawn, and 1,320 participants sent in photos of their view from that moment.
Open the image fullscreen with the pink button, then click to zoom in, and drag the image to move around and see the photos people shared. There is also the option to download the full-size image (it's huge!)...maybe it would look good on the wall!
With thanks to the Visual Computing Group at HTW Berlin for image sorting
"For me, it was very much a reminder that whatever is happening in the world – and there is a LOT happening in the world just now – nature does its thing"
Gem's Things (Blog)
"As an eighty year young man ‘tis was the first time I have watched a dawn break with such attention"
"It was an amazing feeling, knowing so many others were taking part. Especially meaningful in lockdown, it was lovely to join my daughter 175 miles away in watching the dawn together..."
DAWNS: a case study
Read our illustrated report - DAWNS: a live, digital mass-participation experience in lockdown. Designed for people thinking about how to connect audiences with live artworks in a COVID and post-COVID environment.
It contains some of the insights gained from the 1,500 participant feedback responses we received post-event, as well as detail about the production and technical strategies we had to employ to make a live broadcast across multiple sites under restrictive lockdown conditions.
Explore the pins on the map to see 4,194 of the households who took part. See anyone you recognise?
The pink pins are people who signed up in advance of the event, and the blue pins show the original broadcast sites, where musicians were going to play live before lockdown meant they switched to playing from their own homes.
- Can I listen back to the DAWNS broadcast?
- Who was behind DAWNS?
- What was DAWNS?
- How long did DAWNS last?
- How did the project come about?
- Was DAWNS about coronavirus?
- What and where were the 'Broadcast Sites'?
- How were the Broadcast Sites selected?
- What did I need to experience DAWNS?
- Did it cost anything to take part?
- How was DAWNS made more accessible for more people?
- Could people outside of the UK take part in DAWNS?
- What did we mean by 'dawn'?
- Why is DAWNS called a 'sound experience'?
- Who are non zero one?
- Who is James Bulley?
- What is Heritage Open Days?
- How was the National Trust involved?
- Who can I get in touch with if I want to talk to someone about DAWNS?
DAWNS was only available for the general public to stream online and listen to in full during the live broadcast on the morning of Saturday 16 May 2020.
It was intended as a one-off special experience to be shared by people who were listening all at the same time, and used timings perfectly tailored to that specific day.
An excerpt of DAWNS can be listened to here.
DAWNS was created by non zero one who are Cat Harrison, Fran Miller, John Hunter and Sarah Butcher.
Project Manager: Katie Welford
Composer: James Bulley
Musicians: Daniel Pioro, Laura Cannell, Manu Delago, Ruth Wall and Huw Warren
Sound Engineer: Simon Hendry
Production Assistant: Greg White
Broadcasting: 42 Live and Streamingtank
Website: Common Works
Social Media: Alex Turner
DAWNS was a National Trust commission in partnership with Heritage Open Days.
With thanks to the teams at the Old Coastguard Station, Platform Leeds, Mussenden Temple, Dyffryn Gardens and Gribbin Head.
And thanks to Shoreditch Town Hall, Mountview and Marc Tritschler at the National Theatre for all their support in the development in this work.
DAWNS was an artwork by non zero one that brought people together across the UK as the sun rose in a continual wave from the North East to the South West. Taking place in the early morning of Saturday 16 May 2020, this live and online interactive experience marked the dawn via an original live music score by composer James Bulley, in collaboration with one narrator and five musicians performing across six different parts of the UK.
Using live streaming technologies, the experience started with a narrator at 3:43am, when it began to get light in John O’Groats, with music building from a solo to a quintet as the dawn reached each musician in their specific location, finishing at 4:59am when it began to get light at Lands End.
As the light travelled across the UK and more musicians started performing, the DAWNS online experience asked listeners to consider their own relationship to time, nature and community, and how this might have changed during the context of coronavirus lockdown. There were also moments when audiences could share their experience of watching the early morning sky from their unique perspective.
DAWNS was commissioned by the National Trust in partnership with Heritage Open Days.
DAWNS began at 3:43am and finished at 4:59am in the early morning of Saturday 16 May 2020.
These times represented the beginning of civil dawn at John O'Groats and Lands End.
DAWNS was a commission from National Trust as part of their 125th Anniversary celebrations. The National Trust has previously worked with non zero one on the 2018 Heritage Open Days project put her forward, which was an open call for artists to create a nationwide project to mark the centenary of Representation of the People Act.
non zero one started making DAWNS in Autumn 2019, always for the specific date of Saturday 16 May 2020, and always about togetherness, difference, light and nature.
Short answer: Not directly!
Long answer: DAWNS was conceived by non zero one in Autumn 2019 as a response to National Trust's commission to make a live artwork marking their 125th anniversary. We decided then we wanted to make something about togetherness, difference, nature and light that could be experienced by as many people as possible simultaneously across the UK.
We developed this concept to be performed live at dawn and broadcast online, available to people in their own homes. Originally performers would be based in National Trust and associate sites across the UK, and some members of the public would have been able to see the musicians perform live at these sites as well.
After the UK went into lockdown in March 2020, we realised that the main construct of DAWNS could take place as we had originally planned - that although the performers couldn't be at the physical sites anymore, with a bit of extra training in streaming technologies they could play from lockdown themselves in the different timezones of the original sites.
We felt the original themes of togetherness, difference, nature and light had taken on an even more pertinent and powerful meaning, and it felt more important than ever to offer a moment of solidarity and community at a time of social isolation.
And so DAWNS wasn't about coronavirus directly, and wasn't originally conceived as a piece of "culture in quarantine", but the extraordinary context of lockdown and social isolation had a huge impact on the artwork - practically, creatively and emotionally.
Pre-lockdown, non zero one had designed for each performer in DAWNS to be performing from a different National Trust or associate site across the UK, marking the different vistas we have in the UK and the different times it becomes light in a diagonal sweeps across the nation.
On Saturday 16 May 2020 each performer was based in the same Dawn Zone time of that original National Trust or associate site (which we termed "Broadcast Sites"), experiencing dawn at [almost!] the exact same time as the original locations.
There was one narrator that began the experience at 3:43am, when it began to get light at John O'Groats, and then each of the five musicians were in the same timezone as each of the following original Broadcast Sites:
- Yorkshire Old Coast Guard, Robin Hood's Bay, England
- Platform, Leeds, England
- Mussenden Temple, Coleraine, Northern Ireland
- Dyffryn Gardens, Cardiff, Wales
- Gribbin Head, Cornwall, England
You can learn more about the Broadcast Sites and Dawn Zones in the Broadcast section on this site.
non zero one sent an invite to all National Trust locations to see which places might like to be involved. We toured the UK visiting sites that might be suitable, before curating the final six based on their spread across the UK, their particular timing of dawn, the technical capacities available and what kind of spectacular view they had.
We planned to do at least one broadcast site that wasn’t a National Trust location, to try and make DAWNS accessible to more people. John O'Groats was picked as the furthest northeastern point of mainland UK, and Platform in Leeds was chosen for its great view of the city and its timing of civil dawn at 04:15am.
The sites were selected by non zero one artists, in conversation with the National Trust.
We asked that audiences were able to reach their lockdown-friendly, chosen view just before DAWNS began at 3.43am, and provide their own device to listen to DAWNS. This device could be anything with working sound and internet connection, including a smartphone, laptop, computer or tablet.
If it didn't disturb other people, we advised listening to DAWNS through speakers (device speakers were fine) rather than headphones as then audience members could also hear their immediate surroundings too.
One optional part of the DAWNS experience involved taking a photo with a camera or device.
DAWNS was free to take part - audience members just needed to have access to a device with sound and internet access.
We tried to make DAWNS as accessible as possible, though recognise there were some barriers for some people to experience it.
The content was suitable for all ages, though due to the length and non-narrative structure of the work we recommended it for ages of 11+.
We always wanted to create something that people could take part in from their own homes. Audiences were able to choose a location that was suitable for them (from under their bedcovers was perfectly acceptable!) although ideally they could see outside.
We recommended that DAWNS was played through speakers so that people could also hear their immediate landscape around them, though if it was more accessible to use headphones that was completely fine.
For audience members who were deaf or hard of hearing we offered to send a transcript of the script.
As a musical experience, DAWNS was partly accessible to people with visual impairments, but there were moments when participants were asked to focus on a specific point in the landscape.
Short answer: Yes!
Long answer: You needed a UK postcode to sign up to DAWNS via the website, so if people wanted to take part in DAWNS from outside the UK they emailed us separately to be added to the mailing list. On Saturday 16 May 2020 we had listeners from Australia, USA, Japan, Canada and across Europe.
Countries with the same rough timings as the UK for dawn included:
- Burkina Faso
- Canary Islands (Spain)
- Faroe Islands
- The Gambia
- Republic of Ireland
- Ivory Coast
- Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
- Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
- Sierra Leone
The DAWNS experience charted the civil dawn as it swept across the UK in a wave from North East to South West. There are several types of dawn, including astronomical, nautical and civil, as well as the time of sunrise itself. For more information about astronomical, nautical and civil dawn click here.
As part of our research we experienced the different dawns and we found civil dawn provided the best transition from darkness to light, which is what we wanted to mark in DAWNS.
DAWNS was not like a traditional classical music concert. non zero one make interactive experiences for the public, and we saw the DAWNS experience beginning the moment people signed up to take part. Through emails, audio pieces and the website people were asked to think about certain things before Saturday 16 May 2020, and during the broadcast there were moments when they were invited to actively participate in DAWNS, so it felt more involved than passively listening.
non zero one is group of four artists - Sarah Butcher, Cat Harrison, John Hunter and Fran Miller - who came together in 2009 at Royal Holloway, University of London. Now a prominent voice in interactive theatre making in the UK, they create experiences where you, the participant, are active and important. At a non zero one event, you will have the chance to make a choice, and that choice will directly affect the outcome of the artwork.
The group has made work for all manner of public spaces, arts spaces and museums, and has been commissioned by organisations including most recently from the National Theatre, Cambridge Museums, Barbican, Imperial War Museums, Roundhouse, Science Museum and Fine Art Society.
non zero one continues to explore new places and ways of working with interactivity as a focus. As a participant, you might be sat around a large table on a roof, amongst many others in an auditorium or on your own in a public space. With a consistently creative approach to technology, non zero one have become known for making use of multi-channel wireless headphones, live sound mixing and sampling, 3D printing and the occasional treadmill to create opportunities for choice and interaction.
You can currently experience non zero one’s Documentary Challenge at Imperial War Museums in London, Duxford and Salford, and see the 25 new statues of women we created as part of put her forward in public spaces across England.
James Bulley (b.1984) is a composer and sound artist whose practice explores natural systems, locative sound, and site-specific sound installation. He has exhibited and performed at the Royal Albert Hall, the Barbican, the Natural History Museum, Mykolas Žilinskas Gallery and La Gaîté Lyrique. His work has been featured by the BBC, ITV, the Quietus, the Daily Telegraph, Nature and the Guardian.
Selected works include: the world premiere performance of Daphne Oram’s Still Point with Shiva Feshareki and the London Contemporary Orchestra (BBC Prom 13, 2018); Tactus (2015), a touch–sound landscape installation (exhibited at Kaunas Biennial, commissioned by Crafts Council UK) and Living Symphonies (2014), a forest–located spatialised sound installation by Jones/Bulley (commissioned by Sound and Music and Forestry Commission England). As part of a long term partnership with the systems artist Daniel Jones, Bulley was nominated in 2012 for British Composer of the Year for the real-time multi-channel radio re-composition Radio Reconstructions. Bulley collaborates with the multimedia design studio Marshmallow Laser Feast, including two recent acclaimed public installation projects, Distortions in Spacetime (2018) and Nest (with musician Erland Cooper, 2019).
Heritage Open Days exists to bring people together, to connect individuals and communities through history, heritage, nature and stories; to better understand our past, our present and each other. Now in its 26th year, Heritage Open Days is the UK’s largest festival of history and culture. Every September 2,000 local people curate 5,700 events for 2.5 million visitors to enjoy a diverse range of happenings, tours, walks, talks, openings and happenings, all for free.
DAWNS was commissioned as part of the National Trust’s year-long celebration of connecting people to nature to mark its 125th anniversary.
DAWNS was developed before the Covid-19 lockdown and was inspired by several National Trust and other sites across the UK where the performers were going to be based, with members of the public able to see them live. On Saturday 16 May 2020 the performers were based from their own homes to trace the path of dawn in the same time zones as the six original sites.
The themes of DAWNS ‒ togetherness, difference, nature and light ‒ took on an even more pertinent and powerful meaning as the nation underwent lockdown.
Though we were all in our separate homes or gardens around the country, we could be together, experiencing our different dawns.
For any general enquiries about DAWNS please email the DAWNS team on firstname.lastname@example.org