Nostalgia. It’s a powerful thing. The word derives from the Greek “nóstos” meaning homecoming and “álgos” meaning pain or ache and is used to describe that physical sense of yearning for times or places that evoke fond memories.
I’ve found as I march on through life that this sense of nostalgia seems to take me more often, as with my current obsession of re-making the model kits that I made when I was also a scaled-down version of my current self. The feel of the plastic, the smell of the paints – they take you off to a place where the world was much, much bigger – slightly scary, but full of excitement and wonder.
The world is still the same size now as it was back then as far as I and NASA know, but there are still occasions that give me that sense of nervous excitement when I opened the model box and stared at the fresh plastic pieces to imagine what sort of job I might make of it.
This month, our Event Team at Broadsword opened that model box again to deliver one of our biggest shows. We had delivered this event for the last three years and arrived at a very successful format. And then the scale changed. Our 400-piece kit grew to a thousand and our challenge was to glue all of the pieces together to create a marvellous and magnificent machine – the Airfix Hawker Harrier Jump Jet was now the B52 Stratofortress, and building it would need all of our strengths and skills if we were to avoid ending up with a dusty, unpainted Fokker!
Ropey aircraft gags aside, it can be a real challenge when an event scales up like this to resist the tendency to just do what you did last time, but bigger. For us, it’s always about the ‘why’ of the event – when something seems an insurmountable challenge, look at it in its simplest, most fundamental form, and ask yourself what experience you would want to have, if you were in the audience.
Using that formula, the answer presents itself quite easily. If I am one of 1000 people in a space the size of an aircraft hangar, I want to feel close to the main stage and I want the sense that I’m not alone. The solution here was to build the stage in the middle, seat the audience around it in a ring, and close down any excess space by surrounding guests with scenic walls and flown screens.
Once you have the reason and the method, the execution becomes a matter of following the plan, gathering the parts and gluing them together on site using a team of dedicated modellers and expert painters.
The payoff, is in creating something that the audience feel compelled to photograph when they walk in. Something that gives them that child-like sense of wonder and excitement and scale, and which will hopefully live on in their own memories as nostalgia.
That’s my idea of a sustainable model.