8 November 2021

10 Glow Wild secrets

Delve behind the scenes of Wakehurst’s enchanting winter lantern trail.

By Katie Avis-Riordan and Ellen Reid

Moon and stars and lights in the trees at Glow Wild

1. How many artists?

There are 9 artists creating the installations for this year’s Glow Wild, including award-winning OGE Group, Brighton-based community arts group SameSky, a willow weaver and collaborations.

2. How many lanterns?

You will see over 1,000 lanterns of different shapes and sizes, from those that line the route to ones in trees, as well as the large-scale feature lanterns.

Colourful handheld lanterns at Glow Wild
Handheld lanterns at Glow Wild © RBG Kew

3. How many bulbs?

Each lantern has its own bulb or ‘loom’, which is placed by hand inside each lantern.

The bulbs range in size from a small button light which needs changing throughout the event, to battery-powered bulbs linked together in sequences.

Needless to say, we keep plenty of spares!

4. Months of planning

Glow Wild is a big event and takes a lot of planning – 18 months before each one!

Planning pretty much starts as soon as the lanterns are taken out of the landscape to be dried and refreshed for the following year.

There are a lot of factors to consider here, from operational matters to sourcing materials for the lanterns.

Lanterns laid out indoors, made by volunteers for Glow Wild 2021
Volunteer-made lanterns, Katherine Morton © RBG Kew

5. Making the lanterns

Each small lantern may only take a few hours to make, but as there are so many it takes a team of volunteers several months to complete them all.  

Larger installations can take numerous weeks to make – or in the case of AndNow’s fiery tendrils and window art at the Mansion, several months. 

Although the infrastructure for Glow Wild is set up about a month before the event, the lanterns are only put in two and a half weeks beforehand, and each one can take a number of days to install. 

6. The biggest lantern

Our iconic moon is the largest, tallest and heaviest lantern, at a whopping 2.5 metres high and 2 metres wide.

Despite its great size, the moon weighs just 25 kilograms, as like our other lanterns it is made of willow and paper.

It takes a small team of arborists to hoist it into place to watch over the Glow Wild landscape.

Moon lantern and star lanterns at Glow Wild
Glow Wild moon and stars © RBG Kew

7. Other big contenders

This year there is also a herd of deer, with each lantern just shy of 2.5 metres, and we have commissioned a whisper of moths for the Mansion Pond which are close to the same size.

Frame for large moth lantern
Large moth lantern frame © Michelle Dufaur

8. Record-breaking installations

We are proud to be record breakers!

Glow Wild is home to the tallest living Christmas tree — a giant 37-metre-high redwood, which is adorned with 1,800 lights. The tree itself is 122 years old!

This year we will also have the UK’s largest living screen, with an animation being projected onto natural screens among the trees.

Staff member decking the Wakehurst Christmas tree with lights
Decking the Wakehurst Christmas tree, Jim Holden © RBG Kew

9. Natural inspiration

This year Glow Wild reflects on the beauty and magic of nature that has blossomed during the lockdowns in the past year. It reminds us to continue to tread lightly on the Earth. This is evident in the different artists’ work.

OGE Group, who this year are making giant illuminated seed heads to suspend over Black Pond, said '...nature spreading new life through the act of flying around...is just a wonderful inspiration. It’s like a dance before life even begins.'

10. Festive feasts

There are two new dining experiences at Glow Wild this year.

Family-friendly dishes will be available at Seeds Café, or why not indulge in a luxurious experience at the Winter Lodge in our Elizabethan Mansion?

Treat yourself to a festive fizz on arrival at our Winter Lodge and an unlimited selection of winter warmers, canapés and sweet petits-fours.

Explore the magic...

Glow Wild at Wakehurst

Glow Wild

Join us at Wakehurst for a spellbinding winter lantern trail for all ages.

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