15,000 shoppers turned out to see David perform a most astonishing feat in the middle of Belfast’s busy Victoria Square mall. Levitating 60 feet from the solid concrete floor below, his record breaking and world beating stunt caused mayhem, and as the story spread through the city every media outlet scrambled to cover the event. Within three hours David’s website had nearly 10,000 hits, over 2000 images had been posted to twitter, and in 24 hours one single image (above) reached 1.1 million views on Reddit and other social media sites. He’s received media requests from almost 20 countries, and is considering taking the stunt internationally.
The stunt coincided with the launch of David’s live theatre tour, and comes alongside his smash hit series David Meade: Make Believe. If you missed the stunt, check out this video for a recap of what went on.
In this blog post, David answers your question on the stunt in his own words. If you have anything you’d like to know, then post your questions in the comments below and he’ll update the blog post regularly.
Ha! You’re funny. Next question.
Making my new series (Wednesdays, 10.45pm) has been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. This is, in truth, the show that I’ve always wanted to make. When I set out to make it, I did so with a lofty wish list; Live audience, secret location, cinematic camera’s, international filming, celebrities, and overall the atmosphere should feel intimate and ‘special’. The BBC got behind the idea, and before we knew it the show was ‘in the can’ and receiving our largest figures on record.
I’ve been blown away by the landslide success of the show, and the response of the audience, and to respond I wanted to do something really special. I wanted to give the busy pedestrians of the city something that would stick with them; something they’d never see in their lifetime again. It had to be visually arresting, apparently impossible, and beyond reasonable explanation. Most importantly, it needed to create excitement, wonder, and astonishment. The most magical think I could think of? Levitation.
I think it’d be a real shame to just fixate on the method behind the stunt, but I do think it’s worth some clarification. The new series is called Make Believe for a few very important reasons. First, my genius executive producer and creative partner Kieran Doherty thought it up, and he pays the bills. Over and above that – our original premise for the show was that of an entertaining programme that was driven by critical thinking.
Not wanting to insult anyones intelligence, we both felt strongly that we wanted to make a show where the audience were encouraged to question everything I did, and wonder if I could really do as claimed – or if I was utilising a particular set of skills to make the audience believe that I could. (and yes, I too heard Liam Neeson in my head saying ‘particular set of skills’ as I read that).
The levitation was conceived with the same goal in mind. I wanted onlookers and passersby to question and wonder “Is he really levitating – suspended in mid air with no wires or safety net – or is it all just make believe?”
I have a long standing affection for this location. Most won’t know that my original pilot for my TV show was shot in this beautiful venue, and I’ve loved shooting there ever since. When I decided I wanted to do a stunt that would capture the imagination of my favourite city, it seemed like the perfect place. Especially given the terrifying heights that the mall features.
We decided to release some teaser details into the media just 24 hours before the stunt. This was a huge risk – releasing info at such short notice can cause problems as the press departments don’t have much time to react and cover it. Similarly, if they feel like they’re being “pr’d” then they can at times switch off. Kieran and I took the decision to film and release a video to hint at what we might be doing. That video is below, and within just a few hours it had received 1000 views. An interesting side benefit of the video, over and above the anticipation created, was being able to watch and enjoy the speculation. One tweeter declared “I work at Victoria square and know for a fact that David Meade is planning to jump off the third floor and land safely on the lowest level”. Another joked “He says it’s dangerous, so my money is on him going into Hollister and turning the lights on”.
On top of this, I had the expert support of Joris Minne from JPR Belfast. Over and above being one of the best PR men in the business, Joris is a revered journalist, an effortless communicator, and a properly lovely man. Releasing the briefest of briefs five days before the stunt, he coordinated media communications and drove interest like a ‘buzz shepherd’. Without his help, we’d never have gained the coverage that we did.
In total, almost 7 hours – which astounded us all given we had only hoped for 2.
Given the secrecy surrounding the stunt, it was impossible to rehearse it fully. To do so would compromise it’s integrity, and risk details being leaked too early. For this reason we had no idea how long the stunt would actually last, but we hoped it would go on for up to a couple of hours. There were three major factors that had a significant bearing on the length of the stunt: weather, hunger, and….well…..the loo.
Since the weather was out of our control we just stocked up on thermals and hoped for the best. As for hunger, I had one banana before I went up, and got passed a second one which was duct taped to a stick (this second one was photographed by Elaine Hill and has become my favourite image of anything I’ve ever done). So from 5am to 5pm, all I had to eat was two bananas.
Finally, the biggest risk as I saw it was needing to use the bathroom. To try and ensure my urges were reduced, I did something I’d never recommend to anyone. I didn’t drink any liquids for 24 hours prior to the stunt, and had only a couple of small sips of water just before ascending. So 33 isn hours with no liquids. This was very silly behaviour and very unhealthy, so needless to say I don’t recommend it – but it did mean that I had no WC urges.
I think adrenaline was the most significant factor that lead to the levitation lasting as long as it did. Hundreds of people were filtering through the mall, tweeting, cheering, and taking photographs. This is like catnip to a performer, and I just couldn’t bear to end the experience earlier than I absolutely needed to.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I smashed the world record for levitation – that last longest one being 3.5 hours.
Immediately after? no.
Day after? a little.
Two days after? Sweet baby cheeses yes.
In a different country or city? Definitely, in a heartbeat. But I don’t think I’d do it in Belfast again, I’ve got something much more unusual in mind next time.
Seeing my 3 year old daughter Tilly’s tiny pink puffa coat walking towards me from the cornmarket sculpture, holding my wife’s hand. Watching her come towards me from that vantage point, I could see her nearly half a mile away, and seeing her slowly realise that the human figure floating in the air was her dad. She shouted from 400 metres away when she first realised it was me. It resonated around the building and came clear as day. “Daddy – how the nuts did you get up there – can you magic me up there daddy?”
I will never, ever, forget that.