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Bedford Festival of Fire & Light 2009

Bedford Festival of Fire & Light 2009

November 2009 saw us return to the Embankment in Bedford, determined to overcome the firework equivalent of “the difficult second album” syndrome. The previous year’s show had been really well received, and as the first company to return in successive years for this event we faced a new creative pressure: to prove that we could create a new theatrical fire show for the same brief and venue, but that was entirely different from the previous year’s show. We proposed a show based on that most traditional of festive tales, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, modernised and adapted to feature a floating bed for Scrooge, three 30’ tall spirits, and more than a cameo appearance from Father Christmas…

Gavin et al apart we had the same team as the previous year, plus the addition of Rob G, Nick, Jonty and Sally-Ann to bolster both the production and performance elements of the show, all under the technical, logistical and creative guidance of James and Rich from Relevent. Meanwhile Glenn and co worked their magic on the fireworks, including the aerial sequences that powered the entertainment between the more subtle and theatrical sequences.

With half an eye on the wind (autumn gales, lovely) the show started at 7pm bang on, by which time the audience was estimated to have reached somewhere near 20,000. And from the moment Scrooge climbed aboard his bed-boat until the moment that Father Christmas rewarded the changed ex-miser (and the audience) with a magical snow finale, the audience were engrossed. It was, again, a roaring success. And we’ve got a few months to come up with some ideas of what to propose for next year, although I do have a couple of thoughts germinating already…

Stourhead Picnic and Fireworks 2009

Stourhead Picnic & Fireworks 2009

Stourhead’s Fete Champetre used to happen every two years but since the rainy summer of 2008 they have favoured a Picnic and Fireworks style evening rather than bringing in a huge infrastructure which could potentially damage the glorious landscaped gardens. It’s for this reason that we were back a second year in a row. The firing site here is wonderful – if a little cramped! To afford us more space I suggested mooring a boat a little way out on the lake to enable us to use fanned material which would simply not be possible from the island due to overhanging trees and vegetation. I think that Rob still curses me now for designing a show which would fire nearly 300 single shot candles in less than 10 seconds! The candles were mounted on 180 degree fanned racks which in turn were set onto the boat. Rob and Simon began the arduous task of wiring in candle after candle whilst Will and I escaped that and began setting out and loading the rest of the material.

By mid-afternoon the mammoth candle task had been completed and with a huge amount of muscle power we gently pushed the boat out onto the water and set it in position. It looked amazing with row after row of these single shot candles at almost horizontal angles and that was before any had gone off! Show set and everything tested we were ready for firing at 10pm. The candle sequence was approximately half way through the display and all eyes were set on the boat throughout the first five minutes waiting….then off it went! Chases from left to right, right to left, centre out and crossing over, simultaneous lifts with shell bursts over the top – in fact every conceivable firing pattern was used and it looked tremendous filling the entire width of the huge lake with some stunning reflections. It may have taken 2 men 4 hours to rig but boy was it worth it!

Sheffield 2007

Sheffield After Dark Bonfire Night Fireworks Display 2007, Sheffield, Yorkshire

The After Dark fireworks display – or fireworks event, in fact – has everything. It’s a modern, fun, public Bonfire Night event, with all the classic elements that you would hope for: a big crowd, great music, a loud funfair, the smell of food, a big bonfire and of course, an awesome Alchemy Fireworks display. Scott Barton, MD of the Sheffield Events Co has run After Dark for more than 10 years, and knows what people want to experience at a Bonfire Night event. We worked with Scott to produce an upbeat soundtrack that would appeal to all ages, featuring songs that are recognisible but not clichéd firework music. “There’s such a fertile music scene in Sheffield that we also wanted to include some pieces by local artists, such as the Arctic Monkeys and Richard Hawley” says Rob Farrow, “It really helps give the show a sense of place and you can hear that the crowd especially love the tracks by Sheffield artists.”

As well as getting the right soundtrack, we have worked with Scott to develop the way that fireworks are fired at the venue. Axing big shells from a distant firing site, using a wider frontage for cakes and candles, and launching fireworks from the Cupola have all been successful measures to make the display more exciting and create a bigger impact. In addition, we rig a “VIP Bonfire Start”, so that the lighting of the huge Don Valley Bowl bonfire is a bigger and more dramatic part of the evening, erupting into life with crackers, flares, fountains and waterfalls. We’re proud to be involved in Yorkshire’s biggest and best bonfire night fireworks display.

“U R booked for next year!” Text message straight after the show from Scott Barton, Managing Director, Sheffield Events Company

Trafalgar

Trafalgar Dinner Fireworks Display 2009

We love a bit of history at Alchemy, and this is one for the patriots and historians! The 1805 Club are a group dedicated to preserving the memorials of the Georgian sailing Navy, as well as promoting research in this field, and especially in Lord Nelson. One of their many fundraising events is a Trafalgar Dinner, held at the beautiful New House, Redlynch in Hampshire. It’s a unique piece of British architecture, a three-winged Jacobean delight with set in front of a sloping lawn… the perfect place for a fireworks display!

Now, this isn’t just any old firework display. There are certain traditions to uphold, especially when the man at the reins is 1805 Club Chairman Peter Warwick. Resplendent in an esoteric Black-Tie-and-Tin-Hat outfit Peter announces each of Nelson’s four major naval victories – St Vincent, Copenhagen, Aboukir, and Trafalgar- and each is accompanied by a hurrah and a salutary rocket! It’s a brilliant tradition, and a great prelude to the display proper.

“Amazingly, each year the Trafalgar display surpasses that of the year before. The guests love it. Not only is Alchemy creative and flexible with its display ideas, but the people are super to work with.” Peter Warwick, Chairman, 1805 Club

Alchemy Fireworks useful links: The 1805 Club

York Maze 2009

York Maze Fireworks 2009

2 years ago York, the birthplace of a certain Mr Guy Fawkes, lacked a November 5th display. Noticing this, we put a call into the City Council who in turn approached local businesses with a hope of finding someone willing to organise such an event. Step up to the mark Mr Tom Pearcy and York Maze! York Maze is a maze created out of maize!

A sell out last year, Tom increased his capacity and sold out again this year – still receiving calls during the week leading up to the event asking if any tickets were left. Local radio station Minster FM organised an on air competition for their listeners and came up with a theme for the show (80’s!) and a selection of tracks from which we could create our fireworks soundtrack. These included Eye of the Tiger by Survivor, Fame by Irene Cara, Two Tribes by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and We Close Our Eyes by Go West. Programmed and fired using our digital FireOne system I could create some stunning on-the-beat hits of pyro and effects kept perfectly in time by running the whole show on time code. We got the evening off to a roaring start by providing effects to accompany the lighting of the bonfire. On the press of a button a lift of single shot comets erupted from around the base of the fire followed by red flares, Chinese cracker strings, a waterfall draped around the fire and a fountain to top it all off.

30 minutes later and it was show time. The CD started, the firing system began receiving time code and we were off! Even from the firing site I could hear the oohs and aaahs from the audience as the display worked its magic culminating in a huge lift of titanium willow shells. And the feedback from the client? ‘Book us in for November 5th 2010’! It’ll be a pleasure Tom!

Alchemy Fireworks useful links: York Maze

Darlington 2009

Darlington Fireworks 2009

Darlington’s annual Firework Display is the Borough Council’s biggest event, with an estimated 40,000+ attending the free display in South Park. That’s a lot of people to entertain. 2009 was our first year working with Jeff, Marion, Phil, Mike and team at Darlington Borough Council, and it was an exciting and fun journey from pitching for the show to delivering the display.

We agreed early on to theme the firework display around the idea of Space, in part inspired by the 40th anniversary of the moon landings, but by chance the week of the display coincided with (the development of the American Aries Space program) so the Space concept was very much in the public consciousness (and the press) in the few days running up to the event.

The soundtrack duly evolved over a period of a couple of months, with input and comment from all parties until we settled on a definitive final version, featuring music as varied as The Prodigy, Audrey Hepburn, David Bowie, Lemon Jelly, Gustav Holst and John Williams – as well as a few familiar soundbites from Neil Armstrong and the crew of Apollo 13. Local schools rallied round under the direction of the Council, and atop the bonfire was a space-suited guy complete with his own space shuttle!

On the day we used a combination of manual electronic firing systems and FireOne to add the split second moments of perfect synchronisation. The end result was, almost unanimously, the best firework display Darlington has ever seen, featuring glittering strobe shells, a lovely crackling sequence, and a full-on titanium willow and brocade crown finale.

“All the pre-planning that went into our event was realised with a display that was hailed by everyone as the best one ever seen in Darlington. It was fantastic to see Alchemy’s vision come to life on the night.” Jeff Dawson, Events Manager, Darlington Borough Council

Salisbury Christmas Lights 2008

Christmas Lights Firework Display 2008, Salisbury City Centre, Wiltshire

After a break in 2007, Salisbury’s Christmas Light’s Event was back with a bang – and a spectacular firework display – in 2008. Home-town boy Christopher Biggins – fresh from jungle victory – was back in his old stomping ground to perform the switch-on and promote the local panto. In previous years the firework display has been fired from the Salisbury Guildhall rooftop, which is very limited in terms of the range of material that can safely be fired there, so Glenn worked with City Centre Management to find an additional firing site for larger fireworks on Debenhams’ rooftop. “The idea was to create a display on two sides of the audience, so that they seemed more involved and central to the show”, says Glenn, “and it also allowed us to fire bigger material than we can fire from the Guldhall and create a more impressive show.”

Access issues meant an early start to crane the kit up onto both rooftops before rush hour, but the show came together very quickly and the crew had some well-earned Christmas shopping time in the afternoon. Meanwhile, photographer David scouted out locations where he would be able to get both rooftops in the same field of vision, and after a chat with the helpful verger of St Thomas’s church he made his way up the church tower before the display took place and was rewarded with stunning views over Wiltshire before the firework display, although he hadn’t banked on bell-ringing practice in the tower below: well done for keeping your tripod steady David!

The fireworks were choreographed to music, with a Christmas soundrack mixed by Midas ProSound, featuring Andrea Bocelli, and both the display and the entire event were hailed as the best ever by both the client and the public.

“A huge thank you to Glenn and team for bringing the city’s skies to life with colour, formation and style” Lindsey Brown, City Centre Manager, Salisbury City Centre

Beefeater 24 Product Launch

Beefeater 24 Product Launch Fireworks Display, Syon Park, London

Lost Vagueness are masters of the decadent party, (as hundreds of thousands of Glastonbury revellers over the years will tell you), so we were delighted when founder Roy Gurvitz asked us to create a choreographed firework display – complete with a huge lancework logo – to music for a corporate event in London to mark the UK launch of Beefeater’s new 24 gin brand. The venue was Syon Park in West London, a lovely place for a corporate event but one that for several reasons doesn’t normally allow firework displays. And it would take more than a nice smile after the last “exception to the rule” firework display at the venue was described as “armageddon” by staff who witnessed it. However, our personal attention to the job, and the quality of our paperwork convinced them that we weren’t going to play fast and loose with their reputation.

The next challenge was the firing site itself. We are used to producing firework displays in built up areas, but this London venue was as tight as any we have worked on. After 2 site visits and many emails and reassurances that we could create a safe and spectacular display in that location, Syon’s management and the Duke’s agent agreed that the fireworks could go ahead, but the spotlight was well and truly on us to do a perfect job in challenging conditions. Here’s what Syon’s Facilities Manager Brian McMillan said: “I thought I would drop you a line to formally place on record my thanks for the excellent job your team did on Thursday night with regard to firing of the display at the Lost Vagueness event… your firing and fallout projections were extremely accurate. We all agreed from the outset that this was a very tight site with many potential problems associated with it. I do not think any of us could have wished for a better result with regards to the actual display.” And what did the client think about the display?

“What a great firework display!! Everyone looked on in awe, it really was the icing on the cake!!” Roy Gurvitz, Founder, Lost Vagueness

Mouth of the Tyne Festival 2010

Alchemy Fireworks Display for Mouth of the Tyne Festival 2010, South Shields

It was a proper melting pot at South Shields this year, or should that be a creuset? Nutkhut from London, Korbo from Lyon, and us from little old Shefford… but all with a strong Indian spice. Frank Wilson from Event International united us all in a colourful, busy bollywood-esque Fête de Mariage, and the good people of Tyneside (and beyond) came out in their thousands to help celebrate…

We gave it the full, all-singing all-dancing digital firing system treatment this year, which meant for once I could actually watch the show while FireOne took the strain and called the shots: Now I know why everyone loves fireworks! And why we get so many repeat bookings! It was actually pretty good! Most of the time I only get to see my clipboard or the firing panel… even Frank commented that it looked like the display had almost been choreographed to the music… 😉 And with the wind very light and in the right direction for once it meant that everyone had a great view, the smoke was helped on its way, and that the fallout obediently landed in the area that I’d allocated on the risk assessment a few months prior. Now that’s what I call proper planning…

Time for the thanks: Frank and team; Karri and team; Hi-Lights; and of course Ajay and the whole Nutkhut crew from dancers to producers; plus Amar & l’equipe super sympa de Korbo, including the Elephant; as always special thanks to the Alchemy team, and one special mention to welcome Dave Mannion to the Alchemy Fireworks fold – a great addition to the team!

Heritage Special Events Summer Concerts 2010, Leeds Castle

Heritage Special Events – Leeds Castle Summer Concerts, 2010

It’d been 2 years since the last classical summer concerts were held at Leeds Castle. In its heyday the concert attracted 16,000 people to spend a summers evening in the glorious setting of the castle grounds to enjoy an evening’s worth of musical entertainment, live cannons and a grand fireworks finale. So it was with joy that I got the news that the concert was back for 2010 and was going to be bigger and better than ever. The event organisers, Heritage Special Events, had seen and loved our previous work at the castle and we’d been recommended to them so Alchemy Fireworks were the natural choice to provide the pyrotechnic entertainment. The original conversation went something along the lines of; “ Can you fire a maroon at 4pm to announce the gates are open?”. “Sure we can” “Oh, and we want a daylight display, ideally to include red, white and blue smoke as the concert starts”. “Not a problem”. “And of course, a spectacular choreographed display to the 1812, Dambusters and God Save The Queen”. “Naturally!”

We ordered in fanned daylight barrages and mines specifically for the event to create a wall of patriotic red, white and blue smoke. We fired it using our digital firing system FireOne and as the display progressed, the fireworks and noise got progressively faster and louder culminating in lifts of smoke & effect mines across the grounds. Daylight fireworks aren’t often seen in the UK but they prove that fireworks can be fun any time of day!

Firing to live music is most probably the biggest challenge to any pyrotechnician. Following the tempo and feel of the music as the orchestra play is very different to firing to pre-recorded music. But drawing on his wealth of experience, using his expert judgement and finely tuned ear, we put together an extremely well designed and executed display and the huge crowds went wild. It was fantastic to see so many people holding their union jacks aloft and singing along to the Last Night of the Proms favourites – the heyday has returned, and long may it stay!

“Fabulous show on Saturday, well done as usual!”
Darlene Cavill, Events Manager, Leeds Castle