UK National Day: How we encapsulated a nation

As the Union Flag was raised on the Stage of Nations at Expo 2020 Dubai, Nadine Doris, UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport stepped up to the lectern.

“It’s hard to condense thousands of years of literature and innovation, science and creativity into a single space,” she said.

And she was right. It was hard. But that was our brief on UK National Day, 10 February 2022. To help the UK Government’s Department for International Trade bring the best of the UK to Expo 2020 Dubai – a mammoth 182-day international showcase of creativity and human brilliance.

The Expo site is vast, incorporating 192 national pavilions – including the UK’s, click here for a virtual tour – and hundreds of venues and attractions. And for one day, our team in the UK and on the ground in Dubai took over Expo 2020 Dubai to encapsulate the best of our nation. Our sporting prowess, our creativity and innovation, and our culture.

This included a mind-boggling schedule of live events. A classical concert. Theatre productions. Poetry recitals. A military band. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. A full music festival. A keynote address from Secretary of State Nadine Doris. And more. Much more.

Sessions, addresses and meet-and-greets showcased the best of what the UK has to offer the world, and we engaged hundreds of sporting stars, VIP dignitaries – including HRH Prince William, innovators in UK business, and up-and-coming names from across the UK’s thriving arts and music scenes.

Ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, we arranged a special relay around the expo site for the Commonwealth queen’s baton, carried by members of the armed forces and UK athletes like Ed Clancy OBE and Tessa Sanderson CBE, and accompanied on its way by the Coldstream Guards marching band.

And with the PR expertise of our fellow mission group agency Speed, we made sure UK National Day activity was amplified well beyond the limits of the Expo campus, securing 165 pieces of mainstream media coverage around the world.

Interesting behind-the-scenes story: Due to a last-minute illness, a Coldstream Guards trumpet player was able to make his debut on stage at the Expo’s Jubilee Park with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra – thanks and well done to that man!

And so, contending with COVID regulations, last minute changes and a constantly shifting schedule, plus all the complications that come with recruiting and transporting hundreds of people, props, instruments and artists to Dubai – Bray Leino Events brought the best of the UK to Expo 2020 Dubai – 48 separate events. Across 8 different venues. In a single day. Seamlessly.

We made it look easy. It wasn’t.