Page last updated at 20:44 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Challenge of Hadrian's Wall line of light

By Catherine Lee
BBC News, Newcastle

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A rehearsal showed how hundreds of beacons would illuminate the 84 mile route of the ancient monument from Tyneside to Cumbria.

More than 1,000 people are poised to play their parts in the creation of a spectacular line of light across the width of northern England.

The aim is to use hundreds of beacons to illuminate the 84 mile (135km) route of Hadrian's Wall - from Wallsend on Tyneside to Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria - on Saturday night, on the eve of British Tourism Week.

So what is involved in lighting, in strict relay, 500 gas beacons or flares set at 820ft (250m) intervals in areas ranging from city streets to farmland, woods or open moors?

Crucial to the scheme are the illuminators, made up of members of the production team, and about 1,000 volunteers willing to brave the northern weather.

'Very magical'

Organisers have described the response as "overwhelming", with people from as far afield as Canada and Australia signing up to take part.

All have to be transported from muster points to the beacons, and returned afterwards.

The spectacle also requires the co-operation of more than 120 local landowners.

In addition it is hoped that people living alongside the route will heed calls for a voluntary blackout to enhance the scene, which will be filmed by helicopter.

rehearsal for Hadrian's Wall illumination
Much of Hadrian's Wall runs through remote countryside

Linda Tuttiett, chief executive of Hadrian's Wall Heritage Ltd, said she hoped it would be "really very magical and quite emotional".

The producer, John Farquhar-Smith, was the technical director for the eight-minute "handover ceremony" for London 2012 at the closing of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

He said: "Our aim is to capture the public's imagination."

Members of the public will have the chance to take part in entertainments and parades marking the beginning and end of the hour-long illumination.

During the ignition event "angels" will appear around the Roman fort at Segedunum in Wallsend, in a performance by the Berlin-based Theatre Anu.

Roman artillery

In Carlisle, there will be a torchlight procession, street entertainers, music and a Heliosphere balloon with an acrobat suspended beneath it.

The last beacon, at Bowness-on-Solway, will be lit by Roman re-enactor Robin Brown.

Flaming arrows will then be fired into the sky using replica Roman artillery.

Mr Brown said: "We are still undergoing some technical testing, but we will be using a Roman scorpion which is like a giant crossbow.

"It's about twice as powerful as an English longbow so we are hoping for a spectacular effect."

He added: "Hopefully it will miss the helicopter which will be filming it."



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