Together with artist Simon Armstrong we made the Williamson Square Christmas tree interactive, to let the Liverpool public #PlayTheTree over the festive season until the 2nd January 2017.

The ten-metre tall tree in one of the city’s main shopping squares was decorated with forty geometric neopixel baubles, which are activated by the six touch-panels fastened to the fencing round the base of the tree.

Williamson Square Christmas Tree #PlayTheTree from MCQN Ltd on Vimeo.

Passers-by can tap or press the touch-panels to trigger colour changes and animated patterns across the baubles.

Demonstrating the touch sensor from MCQN Ltd on Vimeo.

Combinations of different touch-panels unlock more animations up the tree, letting people team up around the tree to work out how to control each one.

If your arms are long enough, you can—just—unlock some of the other baubles on your own…

Demonstrating multi-touch from MCQN Ltd on Vimeo.

The project was commissioned by Open Culture for the Liverpool BID Company, who represent the businesses in the city centre. They were great to work with and it’s lovely to see the city’s appetite for such prominent interactive public art. That’s testament to the artistic community in Liverpool and the groundwork that Open Culture have laid over previous years.

Manufacturing all of the parts—there are over 110 metres of WS2811b RGB LED strip, hand-cut, -soldered, -heatshrunk and -affixed to the bespoke frames; power and data wiring and distribution boxes; custom touch-sensing panels…—took the majority of the time for the project, and we’re indebted to the help of a number of our wider network of makers and techies in the DoES Liverpool community on whom we called to bring it in on time. In particular the sterling work of Jackie Pease, Chris Thompson and Julian Todd.

It’s been an awesome project to deliver and it’s lovely to drop by the square to see the public playing with it and taking selfies. The more time we spend with the lights and the more we see how the public engage with it, the more ideas we have for things to add or try. We’d love to do more projects like this.

Finally, a special shout out to the late-night reveller passing through the square as we finished the install. She was so pleased with it she left the square ringing with her cries of “hashtag natural Christmas trees for ever!”