On Thursday morning I got up early. The cranes were all packed and ready to go - glowing away flatpacked in sandwich bags then wedged into holdalls and bin bags. More sandwich bags filled my rucksack full of useful things like duct tape and netting and scissors and pritt stick (I never used the pritt stick, it just seems like the sort of thing you should carry if you're an artist). My helper for the morning (who was also giving me a lift in) had dropped out at the last minute, so I was going it alone. The taxi dropped me off outside the Town Hall, and I lugged my bags inside.
I got down into the tunnels and the first thing I noticed was that it was full of stuff. The porters hadn't got round to clearing it yet, so there were crates and chairs and trolleys and even a chaise longue! One of the Light Night organisers promised to get it sorted quickly (which she did), and disappeared off to fetch the ladders I was borrowing. She returned a few minutes later with the tiniest stepladders I've ever seen in my life. Seriously, they were the sort of ladders old ladies use to reach the top shelf in the kitchen. By standing on the next to top step and stretching really hard I could just about reach the pipes we were hanging the netting off. Unfortunately, because I was on my own, I wasn't allowed up the council ladders in case I fell off (which to be fair was a real possibility due to the rubbishness of the ladders). Pleas on Twitter for someone to come and sit with me were unsuccessful (though I had amazing people already coming later on). I was left, after a brief recounting of ghostly encounters by the porter, on my own with a thousand cranes, lots of netting, and absolutely no way of attaching them to the ceiling.
I have to admit I sat and had a little cry. Suddenly it looked like all the hard work was going to go to waste, because I needed the set up time so badly, and here it was ticking away with me sat on the floor in a dusty corridor with only a ghost for company.
Then I shouted at myself. I reminded myself how brave I'd been attending that first Light Night meeting when I hadn't known anyone and everyone else seemed to know each other. How easy it would have been to run away after I fell down the stairs at the budgeting meeting and embarassed myself. How when I'd got to 600 cranes and I was sick of the sight of them I could have given up. I stood up, shook myself off, introduced myself to the ghost and told myself to get on with it.
I emptied out all my bags and tried to work out a way to get going. My original plan was to put all the netting up then as more volunteers arrived they could climb ladders (I'd envisioned decent ladders, and at least a few sets) and string the cranes through. Clearly that wasn't going to work. So I hit upon the idea of laying the cranes out on the floor, then laying the netting over, tying the cranes, then lifting the whole thing into the air when more people arrived. I cut the netting into chunks for different parts of the tunnel, and started work.
As I was getting on with this my husband RobW (there were lots of Robs involved in my project) rang to say he'd left work to come in and help, and he arrived shortly after with a sandwich and a big hug, then got on with tying the cranes onto the net. For about five minutes before declaring it would take a million billion years to do 1000 this way (he wasn't quite so dramatic about it). We stood and puzzled for a bit - could we jam the thread through the netting rather than tying? Should we tie the netting up with cranes ABOVE it, like a balloon net? Finally we hit upon the idea of making strings across the netting which meant it was easy to tie the cranes to it, but we could still use the netting to hold it all together and to space the cranes. Then he chanced upon the idea of tying the nets at waist height, making it amazingly easier to tie them on, and also giving us the first glimpse of flying cranes. My friend Jane arrived and quickly and quietly got on with laying out cranes ready for us to tie on - taking an extended lunch break for me.
Soon we were flying, and by the time Katie arrived, an acquaintance from Twitter who'd responded to my plea for help, we'd got it down pat. She, like a trooper, took control of a net and got on with it. A while later Fran, Dave and Lisa (Foldageddoners), Brett, Aretha and RobC (friends from my husband's work), RobE (a fellow LightNighter) and the lovely aforementioned Jane arrived, and we soon had most of the nets ready to go up. With the teeny ladders it was a struggle until someone suggested rigging up a pulley system. This worked really well, and our first net was up! Then a porter walked through, laughed at our ladders, and offered to go and get us some proper ones.
With big ladders in play, it was nothing (nothing! it was a LOT of work!) for Dave, and later RobC to scamper up to the ceiling like a spider-monkey-super-squirrel, and before we knew it, the ceiling was covered in nets and we were rushing to sneak up the last one before the Town Hall kicked us out. We got it up, and around 700 cranes were dangling from the ceiling. As we were leaving a few cranes dropped down where the thread had slipped through the sellotape, but that was a problem for the next day. Saying goodbye to the ghost, we left for the night.
Thanks to Dave 'boiler-man' Naylor (@caramboo) for the awesome pics. I forgot to take any of the setting up!