London welcomed the dawn of 2021 – or perhaps the end of 2020 – with a dazzling light and fireworks show on the Thames, including tributes to the NHS and notable figures from the year of Covid-19.
As the BBC-televised display began, a male voice recited a poem which set the theme: “In the year of 2020 a new virus came our way; We knew what must be done and so to help we hid away.”
Amid the fireworks, several images filled the sky over the O2 Arena formed through the use of 300 drones, one of which showed the NHS logo in a love-heart while a child’s voice said “Thank you NHS heroes”.
A later tribute came for BAME NHS workers – “so many of the nurses and doctors and consultants and cleaners, the helping hands guiding us through this storm”.
There was a special mention for one of the more remarkable identities of 2020, Captain Tom Moore, who raised £33 million pounds by walking in his back garden.
A huge drone-formed outline of the familiar sight of Capt Moore standing at his walking frame and giving a thumbs-up shone over the arena, backed by a chorus of voices calling “Thanks Captain Tom”.
The 10-minute display also featured a humorous nod to one of the “new normals” of 2020 – working from home. The sounds of a video conference call starting up were heard, before the now-familiar and somewhat desperate words rang out – “No, you’re on mute!” – as a mute logo filled the night sky.
As coloured lights shone at various points up the Thames, leading to more fireworks above Wembley Stadium, the Black Lives Matter movement was also recognised. Viewers saw its clenched-fist symbol, which became recognised worldwide amid the protests which followed the death of Minnesota man George Floyd in police custody in May.
Finally, the show ended with a ecological rallying call in the much-loved voice of Sir David Attenborough, reminding all of a reality shown so starkly in the past 12 months – the fragility of life on earth.
“Our planet is unique – a living world of diversity and wonder,” Sir David said. “It’s also fragile.
“With a new year comes the opportunity for change, and if we act in 2021 we can make a world of difference.
“Together we can turn things around. Together we can restore our fragile home, and make it a happy new year for all the inhabitants of planet Earth.”
Later, London mayor Sadiq Khan said although crowds along the river were this year banned due to the Covid restrictions, the display had reflected the resolve of Londoners to endure despite the pandemic.
“I’m proud that the eyes of the world turned to our capital to see a unique drone, lighting and firework show that reflected on the defining moments of this year, paid tribute to our NHS heroes and the way that Londoners continue to stand together, and showed why our city is the greatest in the world,” Mr Khan said in a statement.
“We showed how our capital and the UK have made huge sacrifices to support one another through these difficult times, and how they will continue to do so as the vaccine is rolled out.”
In Edinburgh, small numbers of people turned out on Carlton Hill to view a fireworks display, while Hogmanay organisers worked around stay-at-home recommendations by releasing videos of “drone swarms” forming images above the city’s landmarks.