AS the sun sets on Thursday (September 8), the island will officially welcome more than 1,000 young athletes from around the world to Manx shores.
Next week the Commonwealth Youth Games will be held in Douglas.
The island will be playing host to youngsters from 71 different nations competing in athletics, badminton, boxing, cycling, gymnastics, rugby and swimming until the following Tuesday (September 13).
On Thursday evening, 350 young island residents, aged seven to 30, will put on the show of a lifetime in The Bowl in Pulrose to prove just how energetic, creative and talented our island is.
The evening, which will welcome around 3,000 spectators – including Prince Edward, will kick off with the athletes carrying their flags as they enter the arena before they take a seat and listen to various speeches. Then comes the really exciting part.
Assistant director of the Opening Ceremony show David Cowley, who runs Represent Dance Company in the island, explained: ‘The Opening Ceremony show will be the kind of performance that has never been done in the island before and isn’t likely to be done on this scale again. It will be a spectacular outdoor show with dance, acrobatics, fireworks and large-scale special effects.’
There are two main parts of the show. The first is about Manx heritage and the second incorporates the Spirit of Youth and Dancers of the World.
The first part will introduce the history of Manx culture – Vikings, fairies and a even spectacular mist effect to mimick Manannan’s cloak.
UK company Walk the Plank has been working with the Manx group of performers to provide large scale creations, special effects and pyrotechnics.
David said: ‘They have the resources and know-how to create such ideas as the massive Manannan’s cloak in the stadium and even a Viking longboat, which is being built and shipped over by them.’
The second half of the show will see huge numbers of performers out in the arena. ‘It will bring us right forward to present day and what’s happening here today. It kicks off with a section called the Spirit of Youth, which will include the island’s gymnasts and free-runners,’ said David.
‘And the Dancers of the World will showcase a variety of different dancers working on routines to reflect the different nations in the Commonwealth.’
The second section will then end with a carnival finale, throwing lots of colour and energy into the Bowl.
‘There will be fantastic huge carnival costumes and some large-scale things which will get bigger and bigger until a pyrotechinics show will finish the whole thing off. It will be really impressive. It’s going to be a very diverse show,’ he said.
‘From the start it’s been a very exciting project and we are getting to do some things we haven’t had the chance to do on the island before – something we can really be proud of as a country.’
He added: ‘Although we are working with Walk the Plank, an awful lot of the actual physical and technical work has been built and created here on the island.
‘A lot of people from the different performance and physical arts groups have come together for this, which is really unusual because they tend to work on their own shows. To be in a workshop with all these different talents from their own schools has been amazing. We’ve been batting ideas around with the students. It’s something we’ve all had fun with and seeing it all come together is really interesting.’
Some of the key people involved are the Ellan Vannin Gymnastics Centre, the Christine Wild Theatre School, the Pippa Salter Academy of Dance, Represent Dance Company, Ny Fenee and volunteers from organisations such as the Manx Operatic Society.
David concluded: ‘To see it all being put together in one place will be very special and it should be something we are very proud we have managed to achieve at such a high standard. We have been working hard in a creative and physical capacity for the last year and it’s going to show!’
It is also understood that at some point in the evening Manx blues star Davy Knowles, who currently lives in Chicago, will perform Reach Higher – an anthem he was specially commissioned to write for the Games.
Tickets for the ceremony cost £15 and are available from the National Sports Centre, the Welcome Centre at the Sea Terminal or by calling 600555.
For those residents unable to attend the opening ceremony, many of the young performers will be involved in the Urban Variety Show, taking place on Saturday, September 10, in the Gaiety Theatre as part of the Festival of Youth (more details next week). Tickets for that event cost £5 and are available by calling 600555.