It has been a huge honour for Story Events to work on The UK Holocaust Memorial Day Ceremony for the past three years. As with all live events during the pandemic, this year’s ceremony saw a number of challenges and changes to the format, but the event proved a great success for the Story team and our client, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
The theme for this year’s UK Ceremony was “Be the light in the darkness” and role of Story was to project manage the pre-event logistics and on the day delivery of the UK Commemorative Ceremony on 27th January 2021.
During the initial stages of the event planning back in early 2020, the hope and aim was to have a hybrid ceremony where some guests would be able to attend safely in person and others would join virtually by a live stream. We anticipated operating at a reduced capacity complying with social distancing measures and strict biosafety. Story would, as in previous years, organise the production and staging, guests invites and registration, the VIP receptions, booking celebrity contributors and various other associated activities.
However, as the pandemic continued the decision was made, in order to prioritise the safety of all staff and guests, that the event would be held as a fully virtual ceremony. We had also anticipated the 3rd lockdown and that Government guidelines would not allow an in-person event around the time of the ceremony, no matter how small.
The original 1,000-seater venue was replaced with a studio setting and remote at-home filming for those that could not make it to the studio safely. Story worked together with the hugely talented Postcard Productions to produce an hour-long film for the live stream to be broadcast on the night of 27 January. The film would include archive footage, narration/readings by celebrity contributors and location readings and personal stories from survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, along with beautifully moving live music.
Part of the incredible opportunities that came with hosting this event in a virtual format was that the reach of the event could be national (even international as we had people watching globally). Story designed, organised, packed and delivered 218 gift boxes to survivors. Each guest was invited to light their special memorial candle at 8pm and place it on their windowsill and we encouraged everyone watching the ceremony to do the same with a candle they had at home. Streets across the UK were lit with flames, shining the memory of those lost in the Holocaust and in the genocides that followed. Bespoke commemorative candles were sent to political, religious and faith leaders as well as HRH The Prince of Wales and they were invited to film themselves paying tribute and lighting their candle at home.
At 7pm the live stream of the ceremony filled homes across the UK and beyond with the help of Kick Digital and Streaming Tank. Story also served as a technical helpline and talked guests through any problems they may have experienced at home, but the phone line also added a human connection for anyone who may have needed extra support.
We had over 25,000 homes view the ceremony on the night, a ceremony that usually has to cap its in person audience at 1,000. The reach of Holocaust Memorial Day UK Commemorative Ceremony 2021 surpassed the expectation of our client, special guests and trustees. Holocaust Memorial Day Trust has said that this virtual ceremony has made them realise the reach that is possible with a virtual and hybrid event. They had incredible feedback about the immense power and gravity of this year’s ceremony.
Both Story and HMDT learnt a great deal from this event in terms of the logistics and capabilities of virtual, hybrid and live streaming events, whilst managing the changes and challenges of creating an event of this scale during a global pandemic.
To watch the UK Ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day please click here