Daylight Firework Display for the QE2 on the Tyne, 2007, Tyneside

The QE2’s first visit to the Tyne for 40 years prompted the North East’s Culture 10 organisation to issue a tender for the creation of a unique spectacular daylight welcome for the famous cruise liner. Event International’s winning response included a special commission of Mécanique Vivant’s Sirenes , as well as a high impact daylight fireworks display at the mouth of the River Tyne, a “virtual red carpet” of confetti and pyrotechnics, and a noisy mascleta and fireworks display opposite the QE2’s berth at the new Tyne Commission Quay.

“On a practical and production level we had to consider that this daylight event was likely to attract a huge audience spread over a massive area, so it needed to be as big, bright, loud and high-impact as possible, whilst not impacting on the complicated shipping operations at a really busy time for the Port of Tyne. This was a really big project which involved 15 Alchemy pyrotechnicians working for 5 days on 3 land-based firing sites as well as a boat.”

The weather on the day of the event caused major problems for the Captain of the QE2 and really forced everyone involved in the event to think on our feet. “The boat eventually came in 2 hours late, by which time many of the Tyneside public were drifting away simply because the weather was so bad. As a result, we offered to save the North Pier fireworks for the liner’s departure the following day, when hopefully the weather would be better and more people would again come out to see both the QE” and the daylight fireworks. As it turned out the weather was just as bad the following day and even firing the display on the North Pier was a challenge. “For the last half an hour before the show the waves were crashing over the pier, completely drenching the fireworks and the crew. I’d never experienced anything like it. Even the local pyrotechnicians who live in Tynemouth and South Shields were surprised at how rough it was for September.” Nonetheless, 90% of the fireworks fired – an amazing testament to good waterproofing and rigging practices on site. Everyone, including Cunard, were delighted with the welcome that they received in the North East.

“The event was well received and many thanks to you and your crew for all your hard work and perseverance in challenging conditions” Frank Wilson, Managing Director, Event International.

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Alchemy Fireworks useful links: Event International website

Cath and Rob

Cath and Rob Shrimplin
Wedding Fireworks Display Woldingham, Kent

When groom-to-be Rob Shrimplin called Alchemy Fireworks, he was clear from the start that he wanted as few people as possible to know about what he was planning for his firework-loving bride. We love surprises too – and a firework display is surely one of the most spectacular surprises that anyone can organize for somebody they love – so we were to happy help and keep our side of the deal.

We visited the venue for the wedding reception in Woldingham, Kent, and worked with them to choose a suitable firing location where we could set up the fireworks discreetly, but where the display would still have maximum impact for the Bride and the wedding guests.

By the time the big day came it was still only the Groom, the Best Man and the Bride’s Mother who were in on the secret, and even when the guests were called outside on false pretenses, the Bride still had no idea that a spectacular wedding firework display was about to take place.

Rob Farrow says “When the Best Man told us that everyone was outside we launched the first hit, and the gasps and cheers were amazing – it sounded like there were 1,000 people watching rather than 100.” Even working with a comparatively small budget, the display exceeded all expectations “The fact that that the firework display was a surprise helped” says Rob “but our decision to locate the display on the top level of the gardens – higher than the terrace where the guests were watching from – made the display seem even bigger than it actually was: a monumental wedding firework display in fact.”

“It really was much more than I expected and Cath was simply overwhelmed. We have had many people say how spectacular the display was. Thank you very much for a truly amazing wedding firework display.” Rob Shrimplin

Download this Alchemy Fireworks Case Study as a PDF

Alchemy Fireworks useful links: Woldingham School

Newham Classical Prom Concert 2007

Summer Prom Concert Fireworks Display 2007, Newham, London

Choreographing and firing a fireworks display to live music is one of the most exciting and challenging parts of being a pyrotechnician. Working with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on a major event like the London Borough of Newham’s Under the Stars concert series is a real thrill and honour for any firework display designer.

The Classical night of the Under the Stars series is the final night of a 4 nights of great free music in the Borough’s Central Park, and the choreographed firework display is a hugely popular climax to the whole programme. We liaise closely with the Council, the RPO and the event production team before the event, contributing our thoughts to the music selection for the firework pieces. We also suggested the incorporation of close proximity pyrotechnics, fired from a raised platform immediately behind the stage. This provided highly visible “hit points” to enhance key moments in the music, and one musically trained member of our firing team was responsible for firing these effects, independently of the main show. Glenn Plume: “The cherry picker pyro added a real element of surprise for the audience, and made the choreography between music and fireworks much more precise just at the moments when the music really demanded it.”

The main show itself also requires a good knowledge of firework material and behaviour. We know that it can be windy at this venue, and the prevailing wind is towards the audience,” says Glenn Plume “The firework display takes place in Central Park, which is in a residential area of the London Borough of Newham, with houses and roads fairly close on 3 sides, and the huge stage and backstage area on the fourth side. You have to be sensible and choose your fireworks carefully to make sure that the fireworks are both visible above the stage but not so big that you can’t fire them safely if the wind blows. Add to that the need to choose fireworks that complement each movement in the music, and designing a great display becomes a real 3D puzzle with many factors to consider – it’s a great challenge and keeps us on our toes!”

“A fantastic fireworks display” Newham Cultural Services website.

Download this Alchemy Fireworks Case Study as a PDF

Thorpe Park 2007

Thorpe Park Bonfire Night Firework Displays 2007, Chertsey, Surrey

Until November 2007, the Surrey theme park Thorpe Park hadn’t hosted a firework display for several years. Alchemy Fireworks Director Glenn Plume had fired several shows at the attraction park back in the 20th Century, so he was delighted to renew the relationship and focus his soundtrack and show design talents on the 2007 Thorpe Blast. “It was quite a different challenge to the last time I had worked there”, said Glenn, “Thorpe Park has changed and developed so much over the last 10 years that it was like dealing with a completely new venue. The brief was also very different. Thorpe Park is a major attraction and a major brand, and these days people are more sensitive to their relationship with the local community. It was very clear from the start that Thorpe Park has a strong sense of Corporate Social Responsibility, so we worked with them to make sure that we could put on a fireworks display that would be visually stunning and exciting for a thrill-seeking audience, but which would not negatively impact on Chertsey and Surrey, primarily in terms of noise, so quiet fireworks were the order of the day.”

A demonstration of effects was organized, and a decision was made to avoid the use of “bombettes” which can create a lot of noise, and to limit the firing of aerial shells to the prefinalé and finale of the display. Glenn continues “Obviously noise is an integral part of most traditional firework displays, but more and more people are asking us to create quiet firework displays out of consideration to local residents. My main focus as a show designer is to put on a display that the audience will love, so from a display design point of view I have to be clever about the fireworks that I choose, the way I set them up and the way I fire them. For Thorpe Park’s firework displays we used a wide frontage of modular pontoons on the lake, so we instantly created that panoramic feel. Stretching the display horizontally helps compensate for the lack of aerial fireworks, especially when you see the visual effect doubled by the reflections in the water, and we also used some brand new aqua fireworks which actually burst on the surface of the water. Alchemy also worked closely with Thorpe Park to design a soundtrack for the fireworks that would appeal to their visitors and was high energy, and brought in JAP Sound to run the PA. “JAP did a great job of linking in with Thorpe’s internal Park PA, as well distributing the sound evenly over the viewing area and – crucially – making sure that the additional sound wouldn’t travel beyond the Park’s boundaries.”

“All 3 nights couldn’t have gone any better!” Laura Sinclair, Entertainments Manger, Thorpe Park

Download this Alchemy Fireworks Case Study as a PDF

Alchemy Fireworks useful links: Thorpe Park

Leeds Castle 2007

Leeds Castle Bonfire Night Mythical Fireworks Display, 2007, Kent

The Leeds Castle Mythical Fireworks Displays had it all: a specially commissioned story and soundtrack for the display; fireworks fired from several different sites, including fireworks on water; the necessary considerations for working with fireworks at a historic and sensitive venue; plus the incorporation of lighting and lasers into the firework display.

Added to that, there was a serious need for the display to be a success after there were a few problems with the 2006 firework display (produced by another display, we hasten to add). Glenn: “We knew before we accepted the display that Leeds Castle were under serious pressure to put on great firework displays this year. Naturally, as the firework contractor we knew that most of that pressure would be on us to make it happen safely, spectacularly, on time and on budget. There’s always that pressure for a fireworks company though, whether it’s expressed so clearly or not – you have to deliver the goods, and there are no second chances.”

“We wanted to make sure we gave the Leeds Castle events extra attention in the planning stages, to really make sure the management there were confident and happy after what they had been through last year. The joy of looking after every show personally is that we know that everything is being prepared and planned to the standards that venues like Leeds Castle expect and deserve – from the soundtrack production and show design to simply having the best kit and people to do the displays.” Both firework displays were sell-outs and the feedback from the Kent audience and the Leeds Castle management makes it all worthwhile. Glenn “Leeds Castle is such a fantastic and beautiful venue for fireworks, and we get on really well with the team. We’re already looking forward to our next display at the lovely Kent venue!”

“Thank you so very much for exceeding our wildest expectations and securing the future of Leeds castle fireworks. You know how important it was for us – and boy, did you deliver.” Victoria Wallace, Managing Director, Leeds Castle.

Download this Alchemy Fireworks Case Study as a PDF

Alchemy Fireworks useful links: Leeds Castle


Birthday Party Fireworks, Belgravia 2009

“Now … the venue is quite small…, well it’s a big back garden actually… big for London, well, big for Belgravia anyway… and the show’s next week…” Ok, so maybe I can’t remember the precise conversation but it was something along those lines. I really don’t know what it is that makes us prick up our ears when we sense that a display is going to be challenging, time-consuming, unique and hard work, but we seem to slip seamlessly into Challenge Anneka mode…

So the garden was about 12m x 10m, with lots of flowerbeds, overhanging trees, and of course we needed to leave space for the audience on the steps. A bit more exploration revealed a mews block offering rooftop firing potential for the BIG stuff (60mm mines!), and we agreed the details of a close proximity pyrotechnic show with the client, digitally fired and choreographed to music (Carnaval de Venice, seeing as you ask). A huge piece of custom lancework was constructed, we scoured the land for material suitable to fulfill the client’s wish for violets, lilacs, purples and blues. Glenn designed and programmed the hundreds of cues for the pyro and gas flames and before we knew it we were on site. The rig came together fairly quickly – there wasn’t a long way to walk between positions! – and by sunset we were enjoying tea and ginger nuts in the garden courtesy of the client – thanks Mrs R!

When show time came the garden sprang into pyrotechnic life to the delight of the audience. Silvers set off the violet and blue palette, wheels turned, lancework appeared and flames danced, all perfectly in time to the jolly accordion soundtrack. Thanks to Pippa Davies for inviting us along to show what we could do for her client’s event.

“Wonderful, thank you so much!” Mrs R, the Client!

Bedford River Festival Fireworks 2008

Bedford River Festival Fireworks 2008; Bedford Festival of Fire & Light Fireshow 2008

Bedford Borough Council is the local authority to Alchemy Fireworks’ Bedfordshire HQ, so we were especially keen to show them that they have a world class firework company right on their doorstep. It’s also a town that has several festivals with fireworks, including the River Festival and the Festival of Fire and Light. 2008 was the 30th Anniversary River Festival, so Andy Pidgen was eager for the display to be bigger and better than ever, and when the cue came the skies above Bedford were lit up with a series of well-defined sequences that featured classic material as well as rare effects. Glenn, “Sometimes even when you’re in the thick of cueing a show, and the adrenaline is flowing, a sequence just works so perfectly, that you have a moment of total amazement and happiness. For me the glittering tiger tail sequence with sparkling red and orange shells over the top genuinely did send a shiver down my spine!”

Andy must have liked it too, because later in the year Alchemy were invited to pitch for the contract to produce an innovative large-scale Christmas fireshow for Bedford’s Festival of Fire & Light. So, the smoke signals were sent out and all the chiefs came together: lantern-makers, fire sculptors, LD’s and pyrotechnicians. At 7pm the giant boat-mounted Santa-lantern flickered into life – 12 feet tall, illuminated with bengals and gerbs. From there, Santa became the ringmaster of his own musical pyrotechnic spectacular, orchestrating a series of beautiful illuminations: firework Christmas trees, beautiful blue star-shaped fire sculptures, intelligent lights, scenes of pyrotechnic snow and fire, all culminating with a panoramic firework finale fired from 10 positions and choreographed to music.

“As usual your company was extremely easy to work with … I have had a number of fantastic comments about the show from both colleagues and members of the public, and for myself have to say that was the best, most well-balanced show I have seen for the festival.” Andy Pidgen, Events & Marketing Manager, Bedford Borough Council

Alchemy Fireworks useful links: Bedford Events

Mouth of the Tyne Festival Fireworks 2007

Mouth of the Tyne Festival Fireworks 2007, South Shields, Northumberland

Frank Wilson of Event International needed a professional UK firework company to collaborate with acclaimed French street theatre company Transe Express. He called Alchemy Fireworks, invited Rob Farrow to meet with the Festival Team and discuss a theatrical pyrotechnic approach with Artistic Director of Transe Express. “Although several of the Transe Express team spoke English, communication was definitely easier, more productive and more fun being able to speak to them in French as well”, explains Rob. “It’s a clichéd sentiment but people do appreciate it when you make an effort to speak their language, and that’s especially true on international collaborations – and this production was a World Premiere. Being able to speak franglais together definitely brought us closer, which makes the whole collaborative process smoother and gives everyone a stronger feeling of working together as a team. It helped to quickly develop trust, and so Transe Express were happy for me to edit and re-arrange a mix of several of their percussion pieces into a soundtrack suitable for the firework finale, and for the first time they allowed the firework display to be fired whilst performers were still suspended from their “Mobile”. On the event itself in South Shields there was great team spirit, friendship and respect between the Transe Express team and the Alchemy Fireworks crew. Vive l’Entente Cordiale!” And what did the client think of the Alchemy firework display?

“I just wanted to congratulate you on the brilliant job you did on the fireworks accompanying the performance of Transe Express at the Mouth of the Tyne Festival last weekend. I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard pyrotechnics better synchronised to a music score and the choice and sequencing of material was excellent. Our clients at South Tyneside Council were delighted, as you may have gathered from their immediate enquiry about November 5th! Alchemy couldn’t be faulted on this event for professionalism, cooperative attitude or value for money, and it reflects great credit on you and your team.” Frank Wilson, Managing Director, Event International.

Download this Alchemy Fireworks Case Study as a PDF

Alchemy Fireworks useful links: Event International

The World’s Biggest Can Can

We’ve used fireworks and pyrotechnics at all sorts of weird and wonderful occasions, and when the phone rings at Alchemy HQ you really don’t know what you’re going to be asked to help with. This was one of those! We were contacted by Scottish event management company Leith’s to produce stage pyrotechnics effects to mark – wait for it – the successful world record attempt for a mass participation Can Can! The event took place in Glasgow and was sponsored by Irn Bru, with Alchemy providing a touch of pyrotechnic razzle dazzle to celebrate the on-stage announcement that a new world record had been officially created.