They came down so thick the air was white with them - like a warm East Coast blizzard. Millions of feathers floated down from the night sky on a joyful crowd as “angels” darted around on zipwires overhead.
Around 10,000 people packed into Queens Gardens in Hull on Saturday night for the uplifting show, performed by French company Gratte Ciel, as the finale for the Yorkshire Festival.
It saw the city centre park transformed into an open air circus with multiple zipwires crisscrossing over people’s heads from buildings all around.
As night fell angels started appearing on rooftops. One drew gasps as he did a handstand on a lofty perch on the roof of Hull College. Children were reassured: ‘Don’t worry, angels can fly’, as they climbed over the edge of the belltower of the Guildhall - one in spiky heels.
Mischievious in top hats, crinoline skirts and high heels, twirling in groups of two and three, they released flurries of feathers from suitcases, bags and an umbrella.
These angels seemed to prefer flying upside down, breaking all norms of angelic behaviour, streaking past trailing banners, taking part in surreal pillow fights.
Later a vast, inflatable jellybean-like angel, added to the spectacle, floating up and down above the crowds. And just when they thought it was all over a giant drum stuffed full of feathers appeared with angels chucking them out as fast as they could.
The statue of William Wilberforce disappeared in a blizzard of feathers, an amazing two tonnes in total. They caught in hair and clothes, falling inches deep on the ground, turning the trees white.
And as the angels disappeared, people stayed behind to play, making angel shapes in their wake. Delightful, magical fun. And organisers are promising it is a taste of things when Hull celebrates City of Culture next year.
Londoner Rachel Kenyon who saw the show performed in Piccadilly Circus in 2012, travelled to Hull specially to see a repeat: “I was thinking of going anywhere in Europe to see it, as it was so moving and I wanted to share it with my loved ones. It’s been such an emotional week and it helped mend some of my feelings (after Brexit) seeing everyone in the street, being happy and playful.”
Her daughter Charlotte, 8, who came home with a bag full of feathers, said: “I loved the net when it came down the zipline and angels were throwing feathers. And they were really good when they were walking upside down. It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen.”
John Horseman, who drove into Hull from Holderness to see the event, said: “Hull must be one of the greatest places in the country for open air spectaculars. It never fails to impress. I am really looking forward to City of Culture - I know it will be great.”
Ed Walters, another out-of-town visitor, said: “It was a beautiful and uplifting experience. It was good to see adults displaying a sense of childhood wonder.”