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Interview: Misty Buckley on the Paralympics Closing Ceremony

Coldplay set designer and Paralympics Closing Ceremony Designer gives us a sneak preview of Sunday night's show

On Sunday night, Coldplay will perform a set at the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games in the city’s Olympic Stadium. It begins at 7.30pm UK time – click here to find out what time that is where you are. The ceremony will be shown live on Channel 4 in the UK, while the list of broadcasters worldwide is here (then check local listings for exact details). The entire ceremony will also be streamed live worldwide at

We dropped Coldplay set designer and Paralympics Closing Ceremony Designer, Misty Buckley, a line to find out more about her work with the band and Sunday’s ceremony…

Hi Misty, please could you tell us how you first came to work with Coldplay?
My husband and I are the Creative Directors of the Park and various areas at Glastonbury Festival. The organisers Emily and Michael Eavis have a very close relationship with the band as they have played the festival several times and have a strong connection to it. I think they may have had a little chat. I first worked with the band on the Christmas Lights music video

Were you pleased with how that video turned out?
Yes. It was great. We only had a about 10 days to find the location, design and build the set. The set was a fairly complicated travelling theatre with proscenium arch, wings and a full flying rig for all the scenery and props to fly in throughout the song. It was great to work with director Mat Whitecross and we had such a laugh figuring out all the tricks of scenic forests parting to reveal a back-lit Arabian nights scene… rockets and comets shooting past as a trolley of singing Elvises trucked by in burst of newspaper snow. I don’t know what we were thinking. It was -2 degrees and we were filming on the South Bank two days before the massive snow storm in December 2010. I have never been so cold in all my life. I think the crew have only just forgiven Mat and I for putting them through that. But the results were beautiful.

Then the band asked you to work on the stage sets for the festival shows, with Glastonbury obviously being the pinnacle of those. What was the brief?
That was really exciting, because it was like having the home games. I just had a real instinct for what would work at Glastonbury and what would feel right. We wanted to create an environment inspired by the world of Mylo Xyloto, the character behind the album. The concept was a ball of energy from which light and colour emanated. It was important to incorporate neon lights, lasers, fluorescent colours and a painterly feel…. to fuse latest technology with a hand made feel. The band were keen to use graffiti in a new way which offered us all a really exciting challenge. This was the beginning of a great creative collaboration with the band, lighting designer Paul Normandale and Phil Harvey, the band’s creative director.

And you guys were responsible for bringing Paris on board?
We brought in Paris, our favourite graffiti artist who we have worked with for years and he absolutely stepped up to the challenge. We discussed – at great length! – the style of graffiti. We wanted to move away from traditional graffiti and develop our own style of mark making, inspired by the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Picasso. We did some workshops with the band where we all got to explore and experiment with spray cans, acrylics, fluorescents and paint pens. The results were extraordinary. Paris brings great flare and creativity.

How closely have you worked with the band on the stage sets?
We’ve worked really closely with the band on all the different guises and developments of the various set designs. The band’s deep rooted visual creativity, combined with album concept and lyrics provided a rich palette to work with. I always make a scale model of the set, so the band can get a sense of the space. It creates a central focus and we can sit around the model and move various bits of set and screens until we’re happy … I love the process. I find it very inspiring.

Glastonbury must’ve been a highlight for you, with the Pyramid Stage lighting up and the incredible audience response?
Awesome. It was very moving.

How did you go about translating the set to the stadium shows?
Because we started with a narrative from Mylo Xyloto, it meant expanding for the venues was like graffiti-ing a wall. It just got better and richer as we added layers and pushed the boundaries of what we could achieve. I had designed some flowers made of Electroluminescent wire for the festival show which grew and blossomed around the band. This concept was developed and built upon… Expanding them to 5 x giant 13m diameter screen surrounds for the stadium show. Graffiti is all about layering, making your mark but not being too precious about it. You need to keep re-inventing and adding layers, so there is just a suggestion of what was there before.

Have you been able to go to many of the shows?
I have been to as many as possible.. but I had my first baby whilst designing this and Art Directing the Paralympics Closing Ceremony. So it’s been a busy year!!!

Were you responsible for getting Coldplay involved in the Paralympics Closing Ceremony?
We may have had a little chat! Kim Gavin (Artistic Director) and I presented our very early ideas and drawings to the band. I think they said yes before Kim had finished his second sentence.

It sounds like there’s been an awful lot of work put into the ceremony?
Incredible amounts of work. Because of the nature of the show, we decided the best solution was to build everything ourselves, rather then sending it all out to contractors. So we set up a huge workshop next to the Olympic Stadium and created a massive art department of welders, engineers, mechanics, carpenters, painters, set dressers and prop makers. We brought in creatives from Glastonbury including Joe Rush and the mutoid waste co. to realise my designs and make these unusual structures.

Can you give us any idea of what to expect on Sunday night?
I don’t want to jinx anything.. but if all goes well, then you should see a very creative and emotive show. An enormous amount of love has gone into this show.

Finally, we ask all interviewees on, what’s your favourite Coldplay song?
Charlie Brown… It just lifts me up… It makes me think of bursting colour, Glastonbury Festival, my little boy and having the best year of my life…. And we have a cracking moment in the show to this song!