In the world of artists and fans, no one is a stranger to the impact your “fave” can have on your life. When asked, many fans claim that their favorite artists helped save their lives – leading them out of dark places with lyrics of encouragement and letting them dance along to catchy melodies to escape their worries. Music can be a form of escapism, for both the people who write it and those who listen. Naturally, there is an overwhelming urge among fans to show the artists exactly what they mean to them. To make an impact the way they have been impacted. It goes beyond streaming their music to help them top charts – although many fans take this duty extremely seriously – or buying merch to proclaim to the world who they listen to. However, with feelings as strong as many in the fandom possess – love, gratitude, respect, adoration, and much more – it can be hard to know exactly how to convey them across the barrier of fame. Heartfelt messages on Twitter will most likely be swallowed in the storm of notifications the artists receive. It is the lucky few who get the chance to meet them in person and deliver their messages of thanks. So what can we, as fans, do to show these people the meaningful ways in which they touched our lives?
There are many ways, but one answer comes in the form of fan projects. An article on history’s best fan projects, published by With The Band, defines fan projects as, “organized efforts by fans or artist teams that help all fans be seen.” The concept is nearly as old as concerts themselves, even if the way projects are executed has evolved over time. Something as simple as raising your phone flashlight during a slower song and waving it in sync with the rest of the crowd is a type of fan project; even if it did not have a single organizer or if it occurred without communication between fans. While large-scale projects are organized by an individual or team of individuals and require immense amounts of planning, some are smaller and arise more organically. There are infinite types of fan projects, limited only by the creativity of the fans themselves.
The grand finale of the best fan projects article is one that most of us would recognize instantly: the famous project documented in “Where We Are,” One Direction’s concert film shot at San Siro Stadium in Milan, Italy, in 2014. It truly is one of the biggest and most well-known fan projects to have happened, even outside of Directioners! The stadium was filled with signs spelling out, “We Are 1D Family” with a heart on top and the boys’ microphone colors on either side, while the pit flooded with British and Irish flags to celebrate their home countries (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiaWL5S3-9I). Closeups of the boys’ faces during this moment reveal the shock, awe, and adoration they clearly feel for their fan base (https://youtu.be/ZQG_SMaVHNU). The 2014 Milan fan project is one for the history books and “Right Now” will always be a song that encapsulates the love within the One Direction fandom. Liam said it best in “Where We Are” after the song ended: it was a moment that was “absolutely amazing.”
And if fans were that dedicated during the One Direction days, not much has changed since the boys shifted into their solo careers. Both of Harry’s tours to date, Live on Tour (2017-2018) and Love on Tour (2021-2022), have been filled with projects of all sorts. Louis’s first tour, Louis Tomlinson World Tour (2022), is equally familiar with the love fans pour into projects – most recently in the form of a massive banner at his Monterrey, Mexico, show (more information found here: https://nostuntsmagazine.com/en/louis-tomlinson-in-monterrey/).
With The Band’s article details that projects on this scale, “are typically events that are organized prior to the concert and then go into action at the show,” and it sure takes an immense amount of planning to pull off projects like these. I talked with the organizers of two fan projects, the Flower Shower at HSLOT Little Rock and Only The Brave Rainbow Lights at LTWT LA Night 1, who shared their insights into the process of executing large-scale fan projects. Both projects started as small ideas in the minds of a few fans and blossomed into beautiful and memorable moments.
Of course, it isn’t easy to organize something that spans thousands of people all by yourself. Helen, the organizer of Little Rock’s Flower Shower, worked alongside her sister, Mara Wrin, and internet friend Macie Mizer, to accomplish the project. As it unfolded, others began to get involved as well and the project grew far beyond the original intent. The idea was for fans to bring sunflowers, real or fake, to the venue and “shower” Harry with them during “Sunflower Vol. 6.” Initially, only those in the pit would be throwing flowers into the air during the song, but when the concert date came, flowers could be seen all throughout the arena. “I remembered how it felt being in the seats and not being involved,” Helen wrote to me. “So we ended up branching out and involving each section in the project.” Each section of the arena had section leaders who supplied flowers to those sitting in their section and spread the word about the project amongst fans attending the show.
Used with permission from @thetommoway_arg
@DreasHouse28 was at the Little Rock show and recalled participating in the project: “Someone handed me a sunflower and I immediately just knew what to do with it. I have no idea who bought the small, plastic sunflowers or how one ended up in my possession, but it just speaks to the kindness of the [Harry Styles] fandom, and how everyone worked together to show Harry the love that he has given us for so many years.” If fan projects are designed to help each member of the crowd be seen, this arena-sized bouquet accomplished it in a beautifully unique way. It showcased how much Harry is cherished by his fan base. The Flower Shower also brought something very special to a frankly underappreciated song!
LTWT’s LA Night 1 Rainbow Lights project was also pulled off by a team – one that spanned the internet until the project began taking on a life of its own. A, the project’s lead organizer, describes themself as, “merely a catalyst,” saying that it was the “support and help from so many other Louies and the cooperation of the crowd” that made the whole thing “[come] together beautifully.” Although the idea for the rainbow lights came from a singular person, it spread quickly. “I created the [Twitter] account @LT_LA_nite1 as soon as I got the tickets for my LTWT show,” A told me. They began researching the venue the show would be at – Inglewood, CA’s YouTube Theater – and created a map that laid out which colors would correspond to the different sections in order to create the rainbow from Louis’s perspective. The plan was then pinned to the Twitter account to start spreading the word. “After that, I kinda just spread the word about the account through asking Louis update accounts to post about it,” A recounts.
This is an experience shared by Helen and a testament to the interconnectedness of fandoms. “The most challenging part was definitely communication with the fans. Thanks to help from big fan accounts, almost everyone at the show knew about the project and were all very excited to be a part of it,” Helen said when asked what the most difficult part of organizing a fan project was. With the internet and especially social media sites such as Twitter, information can travel quickly. News of fan projects will spread throughout fandoms: reposted by update accounts or bigger fan accounts, shared in group chats, retweeted, and liked.
After a while, another account was created for the LTWT LA Night 1 project. The fans behind this one contacted A, saying they liked the rainbow lights idea, and a group chat was made with anyone who wanted to help. “And then it kind of just took off from there.”
In order to create the rainbow, each fan would have a piece of colored paper to hold over their phone flashlight. The color would depend on which section they were in. Each piece contained instructions reading “put this over your flashlight during otb.” The pit would have regular white lights and wave the pride flags that became staples at Louis’s shows. With a venue capacity of 6,000, having enough pieces of colored paper for everyone was a daunting task. Each section had multiple volunteers who made the papers to give to the rest of the fans sitting around them. The final product was truly stunning (https://i0.wp.com/thehoneypop.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Lights4.png?resize=1024%2C683&ssl=1).
But beyond the projects themselves, the most beautiful parts of these stories – at least for me while I conducted the interviews – were listening to the organizers talk about why they created the projects and the emotions they experienced seeing them fully realized. Taking part in fan projects is always fun and rewarding, but leading them is another thing entirely. I, for one, wouldn’t even know where to begin! The motivation to take on such a large task must be very special. For A, it certainly was:
“I’ve seen rainbow lights projects before at concerts and due to how important [“Only The Brave”] has become to queer Louies… I felt that having a rainbow lights project at my show was something to show Louis how much the song means, almost like a thank you. [To demonstrate] the feeling of love, support, and just overall sense of safety and feeling heard due to Louis and the song… But to be honest, nothing could really express how much I am thankful for Louis and his music.”
Used with permission from A
“I was in section 102, so the lower section of blue, and I almost cried because of how beautiful it looked. And then when I saw a picture [of] what it looked like from pit I was at a loss for words. And to see people’s reactions all over Louie Twitter and Tiktok was truly amazing.”
Used with permission from @DreasHouse28
The impact of “Only The Brave” on Louis’s massive queer fanbase has been well documented throughout his tour. The venues are filled with pride flags for nearly every identity, even when venue rules prohibit flags. During that song especially, they fly into the air in an overwhelming sense of community and acceptance. Queer Louies find themselves in the lyrics of “Only The Brave” and find endless support with Louis and each other. The “Only The Brave” pride flags have, in a way, become a fan project themselves. One that occurs without organization or leadership, started as a simple way to share with Louis the true meaning his song has for fans. The rainbow lights – which were not limited to only Los Angeles during LTWT – were a larger-scale method for sharing this same message.
Photos taken by Freedomrry
And as tours continue for both Harry and Louis, more fan projects arise thanks to the tireless efforts of devoted fans. If you are attending an upcoming HSLOT show and want to be involved with one, No Stunts Magazine endorses a new project for “As It Was.” Fans will change the second verse’s lyric to “Harry you’re not alone” and hold up signs bearing the same message. Sign print-outs for this project can be obtained from Twitter users @Cliffordmebf and @Teaandfrozenpea. The project needs volunteers to help print and pass out signs at shows. It also needs word to be spread around the fandom. Fan projects like this can only take off if as many people as possible know about them and get involved.
This project will create a very special moment for Harry on his upcoming tour legs. With the help of everyone attending shows, we can encapsulate the feeling of safety and family this fandom has given so many people.
Fan projects are as much for the fans as they are for the artists. They are a creative, large-scale way to communicate emotions and gratitude, but they are also a way to bond with other fans. As special and surreal as I am sure it must be for artists to witness the projects fans put together, it is equally so for fans to be a part of something so much larger than themselves and something that means so much to so many.
“Seeing everyone come together and bond over this project was so beautiful,” Helen wrote. “It was crazy to me how kind everyone was during the process, and seeing Harry appreciate it and throw flowers back to us was so rewarding!”
Drea agreed, saying, “It was such a heart-warming thing to see the fans band together like this to show Harry so much support… I brought my sunflower home, some 1,000 miles away, and put it on display in my office next to my Harry Styles mini-shrine.”
“I’m so thankful for everyone who helped and put in the effort [to allow] the project to come alive,” A told me. “And for everyone in the venue for their cooperation.”
Fans are not alone in saying thank you. Like every artist, Harry and Louis both express gratitude to their fans during every show, and it is clear in their voices how much they mean every word. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have changed my life, I love you so much. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” Harry said near the end of a performance at The Kia Forum in Inglewood, CA on July 14, 2018. Playing London, ENG’s Wembley Arena on April 22, 2022, Louis told fans “This would not be possible without every single one of you, so thank you!”
But perhaps the words that best encompass the truth of our relationships with Harry and Louis as fans, and the depth of the emotions poured into loving fan projects, are the words Louis spoke at his show at Austin, TX’s ACL Live at The Moody Theater on February 2, 2022: “I need you, you need me. How f***ing nice is that?”
Alday, Savannah. “The Best Fan Projects: One Direction, Jonas Brothers, BTS.” withtheband.co. 22 Nov, 2021. https://www.withtheband.co/post/best-fan-projects#:~:text=Fan%20projects%20are%20organized%20efforts,the%20types%20of%20projects%20vary.
Altersaside. “Louis Tomlinson in Monterry.” nostuntsmagazine.com. 15 Jun, 2022. https://nostuntsmagazine.com/en/louis-tomlinson-in-monterrey/