One Direction: David Zolkwer was the creative director behind the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant
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One Direction: David Zolkwer was the creative director behind the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant

Whether you stood on The Mall to cheer it on, or sat on the sofa to watch in in the warmth, one thing was clear about the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee People’s Pageant– someone very creative must have put that together

Louisa Walters is Features Editor at the Jewish News and specialises in food and travel writing

That someone is David Zolkwer, a nice Jewish boy from Manchester, who has worked as creative director of live and broadcast projects all over the world. He worked on the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, four Commonwealth Games and the historic 1997 handover ceremony in Hong Kong, the Falklands 25 commemorative event in 2006 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa to name but a few. Zolkwer was also the creative director for the celebration sites in Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square created for William and Kates’ wedding and 10 years he directed London’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, a lighting projection and fireworks spectacular focused around the London Eye and the River Thames.

Zolkwer, 58, grew up in Salford and went to the King David Primary School in Manchester, followed by the local comprehensive. He says that his mainstream education gave him exposure to the wider community and an overview of society as a whole. He then went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, followed by Middlesex Universtity, graduating with first class honours in Theatre and English.

“I think the common theme to everything I’ve done is the idea of storytelling,” he says. “I think that’s probably something I get from my dad, and my general upbringing. If you add into the mix the opportunity to create immersive experiences and the ambition to deliver them with beauty and meaning and skill, and if you then add idea of creating an event that transports audiences and perhaps transforms them in some way too, so that something is different after the experience, and if you also add the opportunity to work with some wonderful people and extraordinary talents from all walks of life, all over the world, these are the aspects of work I’ve been lucky to do, that really attract me and keep me excited.”

He certainly worked with some incredibly creative talents on the Queen’s Jubilee pageant. “It wasn’t about it being the shiniest, blingiest, slickest,” he says. “The aim was to be human and authentic, passionate and smiley. And bonkers.”

The People’s Pageant featured more than 10,000 performers, giant hot air balloons, a colossal oak tree flanked with maypole dancers, a towering dragon, and much more.

Explaining his role as show director, he said: “On the one hand, I was kind of like the creative and production lead of the project. I was also responsible for conceiving and inventing elements of it, but the vast part of it was about commissioning and curating contributions from people all over the country. Most of it was about commissioning and giving the stage to people, and my job was to bring cohesion to that.”

There was no rehearsal for the show — the first time that the performers came together was for the pageant. “The madness, the eccentricity, the creativity, the passion and the stories that unfolded — that’s where the heart and soul of the event was,” he said.

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