Brunel was born 200 years ago on 9 April 1806. To celebrate his birthday weekend and kick-off a year of Brunel-related activity, Brunel 200 organised an action-packed programme, culminating in the switching on of the Clifton Suspension Bridge new lighting scheme and a spectacular firework show on Saturday 8 April.
"This is probably a once-in-a-lifetime event – certainly a unique opportunity and worth the investment of time and effort to be able to get the satisfaction back in spades and to say, to myself, I was there helping to celebrate something/someone special.”
"I am a Professional Engineer and a member of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, Brunel is an engineering hero who inspired me to take up engineering as a profession. To celebrate his 200th birthday seemed natural… it was going to be a wonderful experience – one that I am going to treasure."
"It was a wonderful, memorable event to be involved in – a huge sense of collective enjoyment. Andy Sheppard was an excellent Director of Music and his piece was superb for the occasion. Thanks for the opportunity to participate in this great event."
"The best reason – when am I ever going to play with, let alone meet, Andy Sheppard again?! Just [insert major swear word] brilliant! He came across as a remarkably warm individual, passionate about his music with a real human touch to his leadership of our event."
‘The Living Bridge’ was performed to coincide with Adam Hart-Davis and the three young winners of the ‘Send Brunel a Birthday Card’ competition link to Send Brunel a Birthday Card page switching on the new lighting scheme on the Suspension Bridge. As the last few chords of Andy Sheppard’s ‘Happy Birthday to you’ tribute resonated around Observatory Hill, a spectacular fireworks display exploded over the Avon Gorge to the cheers of the crowds.
The evening created an enormous sense of well-being and good humour out on the streets, with crowds filling the Cumberland Basin and Clifton village.
"It looked fantastic, and in the crowd where I was people were even actually *singing* 'Happy Birthday' to Brunel. Most un-British".
"Many congratulations to you and the team for the Brunel 200 celebration weekend. I was at the Cumberland Basin for the lighting of the bridge and the fireworks and it was a splendid occasion, which I shall always remember. The whole celebrations have given Bristol back its pride in itself and reminded us what a splendid city we live in".
"A HUGE THANKYOU TO ALL YOUR TEAM for organising such a wonderful day out on Saturday!! Our day commenced with an organised tour of the new restored Temple Meads building at 10 am – very informative guide and tour – then a tour of the photographs in the "loo" in Park Row with Nick Hand – excellent!! Then a general walking tour of Bristol until the evening activities. We positioned ourselves near the swing bridge for a fantastic view of the bridge but unfortunately were not able to be in two places at once – so had to forego seeing Andy and his team of saxophonists – a real shame, but watched the TV programme last night and thought it was amazing. Once again thank you all so much for all your efforts – indeed we felt proud to be Bristolians!!"
"Just wanted to congratulate you all and send you my warmest wishes for the spectacular evening you provided on Saturday. It was breathtaking. We travelled down especially from the Thames Valley and stayed at the Avon Gorge Hotel, so had a wonderful view. Brunel has long been a hero to my husband and I… Totally brilliant, thank you all so very much".
"What an amazing night – there were queues out of the door and round the corner past the pedestrian crossing. Can we have this every Saturday night please?"
"Fantastic – we took £1000 more than we would on a normal Saturday night. And there was a great buzz all night – a really good vibe".
Many of the projects took part in the launch weekend activities and several exhibitions opened for the launch weekend:
Ashlee Taylor’s ‘Brunel Exposed’ was
open at the British Empire and Commonwealth
Museum (tying in with the large number of visitors enjoying guided
tours run over the launch weekend).
The Brunel 200 launch was sponsored by Discovery Channel, Bond Pearce and First Great Western.