Zoë Snow and Gary Beestone from Birmingham Ceremonies Ltd, and their sustainability advisor Selina Donald, reveal the work that went into making sure the Commonwealth Games ceremonies were carbon neutral.

Birmingham Ceremonies Ltd was launched last year to deliver the 30,000-capacity opening and closing ceremonies of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. The aim of the joint venture, formed by Gary Beestone Associates (GBA) and Done+Dusted, was to create efficiencies in the event production process while setting the creative bar high for the opening and closing ceremonies.

The events were not short of spectacular moments, not least a passionate homecoming performance by Ozzy Osbourne, but perhaps the most dramatic was the arrival of a 10-metre-high armoured bull during the opening ceremony. The bull was pulled on stage by 50 women representing the female chain-makers of the Industrial Revolution, who later broke free from their chains to symbolise release from oppression.

The Commonwealth Games Federation pledged to deliver the first carbon-neutral Commonwealth Games and so Birmingham Ceremonies executive producer Zoë Snow and GBA director Gary Beestone focused heavily on sustainability, working closely with events sustainability consultant Selina Donald.

“The organising committee required us to have sustainability as a priority throughout every part of our plans, so it was a massive challenge because by their very nature one-off events aren’t very sustainable,” says Beestone.

Suppliers’ sustainability credentials were closely examined as part of the procurement process, and in line with the wider event Birmingham Ceremonies focused on reducing the impact of travel, with no air travel or air freight involved.

“For the first time ever, on any event I’ve worked on, there was not a single car parking space available at the venue. All our workforce used buses to travel to Alexander Stadium,” says Beestone.

Snow says Donald was brought on board at the outset: “Selina sat in the first production meeting and embedded the focus on sustainability with the supplies from the outset. She was also involved in the design process working alongside production designer Misty Buckley.”

The Ceremonies were the first large-scale shows to use carbon calculator TRACE, which captured the full scope of show delivery from transportation, scenic materials, graphics, and catering to energy generating, to show the carbon footprint calculation in real-time. Birmingham Ceremonies also used the tool to estimate and compare different design and delivery approaches, using environmental data to shape decision making.