Just last night, Mark Radcliffe was on the radio waxing lyrical about Pulp’s headlining performance on the Main Stage in Glastonbury in 1995. Even now, nearly 15 years after the event, his comments were so effusive – something along the lines that he has never seen one man hold an audience of so many in the palm of his hand – that there’s no wonder it’s widely held to be the defining moment (and peak )of Britpop, with Common People as the jewel in the crown of a sparkling set. It must have been some performance.
What does that have to do with fireworks? Not much, directly. (Ok, probably nothing at all, directly). But I personally think that fireworks displays have so much more value when they have a human story, like Andy and Anna’s wedding fireworks display. Like many wedding couples considering a fireworks display for their special day, Andy and Anna got in touch via email. We mentioned the option of a custom musical display and they decide to go away and think about music that means something to them, but that would also work well with fireworks. The tentative suggestion came back: how about Common People by Pulp? Would that work with fireworks? The reason was, that Andy and Anna had witnessed that incredible Pulp performance somewhere, somewhere in a field in Somerset (alright!), and the experience had given that track a special place in their hearts, and in their relationship. On the happiness-ometer it’s a pretty special combination: a great anthemic track, with memories of a great shared experience, choreographed to dazzling display of fireworks. And it’s your wedding day. Tell the folk at Cadbury’s that Phil Collins and the drumming gorilla have competition: Andy, Anna and Alchemy are here, with Jarvis turned up to 11, a sky full of fireworks and an ecstatic wedding party!
“Sorry it’s taken so long to write this but Anna and I both wanted to give you our thanks for the most amazing show you put on at the wedding. It exceeded all my expectations and we’re very happy we chose Alchemy to design and fire the show. We’ve seen a few other wedding firework displays and they didn’t come close to what you delivered, especially being fired to common people! Our guests and most of the village are still talking about it. I have to admit that I was always a little nervous about the cost as it’s difficult to envisage what you’re getting for your money but I think you provide a very high value for money service and would be happy to recommend you.” Andy and Anna
Many work-related conversations this year have, somewhat inevitably, tended to lapse into talk of the recession. On occasion it develops into a “conversation within a conversation”, something like “someone told me that such-and-such are busier than ever, but that’s just rubbish. It’s bleak out there and you’ve got to fight for every bit of business…” Well, leaving the he-said-she-said stuff to one side, the firework industry is always ultra-competitive but we’re also conscious that wedding fireworks displays are very much a product in the Marmite mould… Maximum excitement! Total waste of money! Suffice to say, you can’t convince somebody to have a wedding firework display if they don’t want one, and by the same token you can’t talk a real fireworks fan out of having a display at their wedding, recession or no recession: they either love it, or hate it. (And according to my anecdotal, unscientific research which of those groups you belong to is much more likely to be determined by a good/bad childhood experience of fireworks than any other factor, like gender.)
At this point can I introduce Kal. Our champion. Kal would According to Kal, his wedding firework display was non-negotiable. A cast-iron, inked-in, must-have part of the entertainment for his and Sarah’s wedding at Kilworth House. It doesn’t take much of a brain, (thankfully, for me) to realise that we like people like Kal. The brief for Kal and Sarah’s wedding fireworks display was simple: produce a spectacular show! Music? No. Preferred colours or effects? No. Personal likes and dislikes? Big is good. Noisy is good. (For those of you who may be thinking that Kal and I communicated like some sort of basic Neanderthals with grunts and single syllable words, I’d just like to point out that I have taken some degree of creative license with that summary of our conversation…)
The fireworks lover and the fireworks hater will never see things from the other’s point of view, and the best we can hope to do is amaze the enthusiasts, impress some floating voters to join our ranks, and move a few naysayers to reconsider. We knew Kal and Sarah would love their wedding fireworks display (which they both started with a simultaneous button push) but here’s what they had to say about it anyway.
“That was an outstanding job! From the time you took to come and survey the setting, to arranging for access with the farmer, and sorting a starter button so Sarah and I could get the show on the road. The display was truly amazing, with a great balance of effects and colours; the finale was really memorable and will remain etched on our memories forever! Thanks again!” Kal
Alchemy Fireworks useful links: Kilworth House website
It’s great to be back at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Having fired the Millennium display there (as several others in the early noughties) it will always have a special place in my heart. It’s also a great opportunity for a traditional Greenwich whitebait supper in the Trafalgar Tavern at the site visit!
Like many other sensitive venues, we keep the noise down for displays at the National Maritime Museum in order to minimize inconvenience to the local community, while still allowing wedding parties to celebrate with a firework or two…
On this occasion the happy couple were Karen and Julian, and it was another custom soundtrack for the Alchemy collection, featuring some serious trance anthems, which took me back to my days of neon body paint, white gloves and whistles. Despite the snow, which was bonnet deep on the road leading to our unit, we dug ourselves out and gingerly set off through icy lanes, before finally reaching some more major roads that had been gritted. After that it was plain sailing. A cold day for a fireworks display in London, and plenty of huddling in the van to keep warm, but the cold disappears after the adrenaline of the display and the cheer of the audience!
“Fireworks were fantastic! Thanks!” Karen & Julian
Alchemy Fireworks useful links: History Queens House
For Karl and Jo’s Wedding Fireworks in Somerset, the music featured an eclectic mix of artists including Pavarotti, Evanescence, Bryan Adams and Take That – all chosen by the bride and groom and mixed in-house at the Alchemy Lab. Karl is a fireworks fan and interested in the show design side of things, so we programmed a digital preview of the display to help him visualise the firework display that we were planning to produce for his wedding. This process really helps cut through the jargon and allows us to present the proposed show in terms that everyone can understand – which is perfect if you don’t know your artillery cannonade from your midnight snow, but you want to know what your wedding firework display will look like. The preview also helped Karl understand the level of noise restrictions at the venue, and see exactly what was possible within the parameters of a quiet wedding firework display, and see just how high impact they could be (without cracking windows or bursting eardrums).
That said, the ability to see a show several times beforehand does take away some of the element of the surprise (!) and magic of a fireworks display, so a visual preview isn’t something that everyone likes idea of.
“One final quick thank you to Rob and his team from Alchemy fireworks – They were absolutely fantastic and made a special day a very special day!” Karl & Jo
I don’t know what it is about Essex, but fireworks seem to be very popular there, especially for private parties and weddings. Perhaps it’s just because much of the county is fairly rural, so there are more properties and venues with the space to put on a firework display. Perhaps people there just like a good party, and enjoy some dazzling entertainment. Whatever the reason, we produce a number of wedding firework displays and party firework displays in Essex every year. One such wedding firework display was for Camilla and Andrew’s reception at Hylands House, a beautiful Grade II listed stately home and estate set in 574 acres of historic landscaped parkland near Chelmsford, and managed by Chelmsford Borough Council.
Camilla had been given our contact details by the events team at Hylands– we are a preferred supplier for fireworks displays there – and asked us to create a spectacular firework display for her and Andrew’s wedding reception. So along went Glenn – Alchemy Display Director, Senior Designer, Senior Firer, Firework Geek Geezer, Display Design Legend and Essex Boy extraordinaire – in his turbo Fiesta with blacked out windows to meet Camilla at the venue and talk through the options for a spectacular wedding firework display. The wedding was to take place on a Thursday, which was great for us as summer weekends get booked very early, and meant that we didn’t have to wait until the weekend to get our own personal firework fix. (We briefly imagined a world where events took place evenly on all days of the week, throughout the year, where every day is “show day” with an audience of thousands cheering and applauding our displays and generally tickling our egos every evening…)
Back to reality, and show day for Camilla and Andrew and things were very straightforward – no FireOne, no chases of thousands of single-shots, no time-code link to a soundtrack – just a short, simple, pretty, exciting and value-for-money display. And when I say value-for-money, I mean VALUE-FOR-MONEY: I suppose that one advantage of a Thursday wedding is that prices are negotiable!
“Us and all of our guests were completely wowed by the firework display, and the finale was fantastic! I would recommend Alchemy without a doubt.” Camilla
Alchemy Fireworks useful links: Hylands House
Hedsor House is a magnificent Manor House in Taplow, Bucks and a fantastic place for both a wedding and a firework display. We met Anouska at Hedsor to take the brief, introduce ourselves to the venue, and check the lie of the land. The firing site was agreed, and the music was chosen as Viva la Vida by Coldplay – a very contemporary choice, and one which is great music for a wedding fireworks display in both style and sentiment.
Anouska also asked us to commemorate the special occasion with a custom piece of lancework, featuring the initials of the couple either side of a heart, with the date (of the wedding, not the meeting) below. No problem!
As well as the fireworks, the lancework, the music, and the PA system, we also helped fulfill the couple’s request for help finding a specialist firework photographer who could take photos of their wedding firework display. We knew just the man. The man who has taken the majority of photos on this website, including those on this page, and who is long overdue a link and a glowing reference at the very least. The man is David Chang, and you can see his work on his Flickr page at ErhuDave’s photostream. We first found David when we saw the photos he had taken of our 2007 Sheffield After Dark display on Flickr, and since then we’ve commissioned him to take photos at many of our displays, and on at least 2 occasions he’s been known to take photos of two Alchemy Fireworks displays in the same day: you can’t photoshop commitment like that! Thanks for all your great work David – we’ll miss you when/if you go back to China, but we may see you when we go firework shopping!
Unusually for a New Year’s Eve display, Leeds Council’s city centre fireworks display s fired at 5.30pm so that it can be a genuine family event, and children who would be in bed before midnight still get to join in the celebrations and watch the biggest New Year’s Eve fireworks display in Yorkshire. For 2008 the display was fired from in front of Quarry House: the perfect firing position for the prime fireworks viewing area along the Headrow and Eastgate in the centre of the city.
Although the firework display was not set to music it still had a theme, and had been designed to depict the passage of the four seasons. Spring consisted of a carpet of green candles with brightly coloured pastel bursts above, summer was based on a palette of hot colours and palm shells. Autumn was a cacophony of crackle candles and shells along with red and orange falling leaves with the winter display culminating in an awesome Christmas scene of red, green silver and gold strobe.
Despite our meticulous planning when it comes to every fireworks display, the weather is one factor over which we have no control, and the Yorkshire elements were not kind to us. The fog had hung around from the moment we arrived on site in the morning and you could clearly see it surrounding the tops of the tallest buildings in the City centre. The show was always intended to be an aerial fireworks display designed to be viewed from across Leeds city centre, and with most of the material reaching heights in excess of 300ft it was disappointing that after so much hard work a lot of the display was lost in the mist. One effect that the mist did actually enhance though was our red and green lightning fireworks. The scattered flashes from these shells illuminated the mist, and in turn the entire Leeds skyline was brought alive.
Ian Cairns from Leeds City Council loves his fireworks just as much as we do. Ian, if you’re reading this, let’s do it again for New Year’s Eve 2009 – but next time we’ll bring the industrial fog-shifting fan with us!
Walking through the deserted streets of Birmingham, at 8am on 1st January 2009 – what seemed like only a few hours after we had finished clearing up after the Birmingham New Year’s Eve fireworks display – the Alchemy Fireworks team seemed like the sole survivors in England’s second city. We felt tired, yes, but slightly cheered by the though that we felt a lot better than most of the people who had been partying in Birmingham city centre before and after the fireworks display at midnight.
That said, for much of the previous 2 days we would have happily exchanged below-zero temperatures and freezing fog for a comfortable armchair in the pub by the fire, and maybe a small beer…
Sadly the murky weather – which had lifted during the afternoon of the 31st – didn’t stay gone for long, and by the time midnight arrived (don’t forget the extra second Tinkerbell) the rooftop of the Hyatt Hotel was once again shrouded in thick fog – a cold white oasis of calm 25 storeys above the crowds in Centenary Square and along Broad Street, and the stunning views across the West Midlands that we had enjoyed whilst setting up the fireworks earlier in the day had disappeared. The aerial fireworks firing site on the top deck of the old Holliday Street Car Park was like a skating rink, and the fog meant that you couldn’t see what was happening on the other rooftop, even though there is only 100 metres between them. Still, the fog glowed, some moments were more visible than others, the noisy sequences were still effective and the crowd cheered – people in Birmingham do seem to love fireworks displays, and they had turned out in force despite the bad weather. Our decision to create a continuous firework display off the roof of the Hyatt (just in case strong wind meant we had to pull shells from the car park) proved to be a good call, if not for exactly the right reasons. Bring on 2009 – but with better visibility for a rootop fireworks display please Birmingham!
“Thanks for the show on Wednesday, I thought it was very good… it was a shame about the fog but we can’t control the weather and we still had 7,000 people out to watch.” Joan Durose, Head of Events, Birmingham City Council