Fly By Night - 14-18 NOW
14-18 NOW / Programme / Fly By Night
Duke Riley

Fly By Night


Image credit: c.Victor Frankowski

★★★★★ They look like clouds of shooting stars, like swarming constellations, like some sort of strange and wondrous celestial portent.


★★★★ The plumed ballet makes people look up – which Londoners do rarely – and see new things in the sky. It makes them, looking down, see their city in a new perspective.

The Guardian

Taking place at dusk above the River Thames, Fly By Night paid beautiful homage to some of the First World War’s unsung heroes: the military pigeons that played crucial roles delivering messages between distant personnel. This epic outdoor work saw over 1500 LED-lit pigeons soar into the skies above the River Thames in a glorious spectacle of unprecedented scale and beauty. This public artwork was originally presented by Riley and Creative Time at New York City’s Brooklyn Navy Yard in 2016.

More than 100,000 pigeons contributed to the British war effort, carrying messages from ship to shore, from battlefield to command post, and from pilots to forces on the ground. Some 95 per cent of messages arrived safely, changing the course of battles and saving dozens of lives. Illuminating the sky in a transcendent union of public art and nature, Fly By Night commemorated the courageous yet often forgotten role of these urban creatures.

A purpose-built coop in Thamesmead provided the pigeons’ home for 11 weeks before the performances of Fly By Night, which also featured a programme of events and activities exploring the forgotten wartime history of the Woolwich Arsenal munitions factory and Crossness Pumping Station.

Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, LIFT, Greenwich+Docklands International Festival and London Borough of Bexley. Hosted by Peabody. Originally commissioned by Creative Time

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