Dawn of a new day was like no other
A woman from Congleton narrated the start of a dawn chorus like no other on Saturday.
Cat Harrison led a team of performers to create a musical welcome to the new day and a moment of unity for the country, which took on a special meaning during the pandemic.
Ms Harrison heads up a theatre company called Non Zero One, which linked with the National Trust for the Dawns project, which marked the trust's 125th anniversary.
As the morning light first touched the UK in Scotland at 3.43am on Saturday, the 33-year-old welcomed early birds watching online before five musicians began playing when dawn broke at their particular location.
As the first light of morning swept over the land from the east, a violinist in Leeds started the piece before being joined by a double recorder player in Leeds followed by a percussionist in Northern Ireland, a pianist in Wales and finally a harpist joining in from Cornwall at 4.59am.
Using live streaming technologies, the early morning music experience enabled people to tune in to the broadcast from their homes, in their gardens or from their balconies and be connected to others around the country.
More than 4,000 people signed up to welcome the dawn as part of the unique event and there was a slight delay when the system crashed briefly because of the volume of interest. Early on Saturday, Dawnslive was the number one trend on Twitter.
The event was timed specifically for dawn on 16th May and was about music responding to light.
The idea for Dawns was developed before the Covid-19 lockdown and was inspired by several National Trust and other sites across the UK where the musicians had planned to play, with the public able to see them live.
Ms Harrison, whose parents Helen and Peter were watching from their home in Congleton, had been due to narrate from John O’Groats in Scotland as the country welcomed a new dawn but due to the lockdown was sat in a shed at her home near Harlow in Essex.
However the enforced alterations to the project did not take away its intention.
She said: “The piece has been really special. It was always going to be about people coming together. Dawn is completely different for everyone.
“There's the dark and then the light and with the lockdown it makes these kind of themes mean a lot more.
“The opportunity to come together like this to watch the dawn is more important than ever.”
Ms Harrison is expecting her first baby at the end of June and this was the last project she was to be involved in before becoming a mum.
“It's definitely heightened everything being heavily pregnant and not being able to see family in Congleton. It's been really tough,” she said. “Where I am, the dawn is on the same curve as for Congleton so the light is connected to mum and dad in a way, which is nice.”
She added that the way the dawn moved over the country meant that there was not a north/south divide.
Of the narration she said: “I started off, poked my nose in during an interlude and then I finished it all off.”
People around the county who had set their alarms early on Saturday had been asked to set up their own view of the dawn.
“So we were providing the soundtrack and they were providing the visuals. It was a reminder that we are all together and it was more than just listening to the music,” she explained.
She said thousands had signed up to get involved and joined from back gardens and the beach.
“I was talking about how the dawn works at this time of year and how it appears across the country very gradually. There is a two-hour difference from when it first appears in the Shetland Islands to when light arrives in the Scilly Isles. Each dawn is different for everyone but we are all part of the same country,” Ms Harrison said.
“I got lots of nice comments, some saying how much they liked my Congleton accent!”
The Non Zero One theatre company was set up by Ms Harrison and three others more than 10 years ago. It bases its productions on interaction, has worked with the National Theatre and The Barbican in London as well as The New Vic in Stoke and Imperial War Museum North in Salford.
Ms Harrison attended Mossley Primary School, the former Westlands School and then Eaton Bank before studying drama at the Royal Holloway University of London.
On Thursday, mum Helen had said: “I'm going to be setting my alarm and then afterwards going back to bed!
“We are really proud of her. Cat always stretches herself to do her best; that's the key thing. Everything she does has been a bit different.”
On Monday, Mrs Harrison said: “It was absolutely brilliant. The music was really good. It was so appropriate for that time of the morning. It was just a shame it was cloudy in Congleton but I thought it went really well, and the fact that more than 4,000 people took part as well, not only in the UK but in other countries as well.”