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Stourhead Fete Champetre 2008

Fête Champêtre Fireworks Display 2008, National Trust Stourhead, Wiltshire

We were proud and excited when Graham Puxley – who runs the Fête Champêtre at the National Trust’s Stourhead estate – asked us to provide the musical fireworks display for the 2 day event in Wiltshire. For those of you who have never been it is a unique special event – to call it a summer concert or picnic in the park really doesn’t do it justice – but then we’re always suckers for events with a sense of fun, and especially when fancy dress is involved!

Lo and behold, with a few weeks to go before the event, this ghastly new incarnation of the Great British Summer had taken its toll again, and the grounds were very, very wet. Graham had been chewing over the decision for a few days but had ultimately decided that the collateral damage to this precious corner of England isn’t something that he was prepared to let happen on his watch, especially given the conservation responsibilities of the National Trust. Plan B was swiftly drawn up: a free picnic for those who had tickets. No orchestra or stage, but just an opportunity to enjoy the grounds of this Wiltshire estate for a day for free, with a fireworks display in the evening. We were happy to help, and knowing that the onus of the entertainment fell solely on us, we pulled out all the stops to make the display even more special than usual: a thank you to the audience who had turned up, and to Graham for choosing us to provide the fireworks in the first place.

“It has been a real pleasure working with you. We particularly appreciate how you overcame the challenges we presented you and your understanding of the sensitivity of what is arguably the greatest 18th century landscape garden in the world. The care and thoroughness of your planning, your skill and imagination and the selection of material resulted in a simply breathtaking display!” Graham Puxley, Event Organiser, The National Trust, Stourhead

Alchemy Fireworks useful links: National Trust Stourhead

Stockholm

Private Party Fireworks Display, The Grand Hotel, Stockholm, Sweden

So there we were, just chatting with an event company and they dropped the bomb: “we’re organising an event in Stockholm in July. The client really wants a fireworks display but we’ve spoken to a firework company in Sweden and we’ve been told it can’t be done.” “Can’t be done?” I parroted… “I’ll look into it…”

Fast forward five months and there we are, on the balcony of the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, the usual red boiler suit replaced by the penguin suit, ready to fire a beautiful firework display for a private birthday party. Sure, the intervening period had seen a lot of effort and energy expended on getting to this point, but then you gain so much more from doing something new. Deep breath. Visual checks. Barge is in the right position. Barge has the right orientation. Patrol boats are in position. Firing and fallout areas are secure. Guests are assembled. Quick glance to Pippa – are we ready? The thumbs up. Right then. Standby on fireworks in 5,4,3,2,1, go! Ba-boom! There goes the first lift of shells. And by the time the second lift of Yung Feng polyp shells have burst people are stopping their cars in the middle of the street, pouring out of cafes and restaurants to watch the mesmerising fireworks display that is illuminating the skies between Stockholm’s Grand Hotel and National Palace. Oops – we’ve accidentally brought central Stockholm to a standstill! Most of the guests don’t notice all of this until the end – their eyes are fixed firmly on the sky as sequences of Cyca Shells, Zink Blinks (a personal favourite) have them transfixed. When the beautiful brocade finale fades, the cheer is enormous, and the blasting of dozens of boat horns around the harbour brings them back to the here and now. Happy guests, a happy birthday girl, a happy event organiser, and thousands of delighted “collateral spectators”, who just happened to be in the right part of Stockholm at the right time one July night in 2008 to witness a beautiful Alchemy Fireworks display.

“…you did an exceptional job.” Annabel Fielding, Director, Quintessentially Events

Margate Big Event 2008

Margate Big Event Fireworks 2008, Thanet, Kent

Kent’s biggest Air Festival has a history of pulling in big crowds. The 2008 edition of the Big Event – a free festival of land and air organised by Thanet District Council – saw good weather, and over 65,000 spectators turned out to enjoy land and aerial action such as wing-walking by Team Guinot, the Royal Navy’s Black Cat helicopters and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The entertainment carried on after dark with live Motown music on-stage, and we were there to put the icing on the cake of Saturday night’s tribute concert with a spectacular fireworks display over Margate’s Palm Bay.

We worked closely with the Council and re-positioned the launch site for the fireworks display to put the fireworks in the same field of vision as the main stage, rather than twisting the audience through 90 degrees. We created a split-site approach, firing smaller material from the upper promenade behind the stage, whilst aerial fireworks were launched from the lower promenade, some 50’ below at the base of the chalky Kent cliffs. These aerial fireworks were safely angled out to sea, but the shells bursting 50’ lower than normal made for a really high impact display for the clifftop audience, which was perfectly positioned to frame the stage.

We also took advantage of keeping the audience close to the stage – and within earshot of the PA system – to choreograph the fireworks display to music, featuring tracks by artists who had been covered in the preceding tribute concert. To choreograph the fireworks to music was a first for this event, and both our client and the audience were delighted with the display.

“…thank you and all of the team at Alchemy for a fantastic display which was so well received by the crowd…” Gill Shepherd, Public Affairs Manager, Thanet District Council

Sheffield 2008

After Dark Bonfire Night Fireworks Display 2008, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

I know we says this about all our shows, but we really love the Sheffield After Dark fireworks display. Seriously. Maybe I’ll get a badge made to that effect. From a fireworks perspective it just gets better every year. Although I’m sure Event Organiser Scott Barton from the Sheffield Events Company will tell you that the 2008 After Dark fireworks display was hard work, seeing as he had to pretty much carpet the entire Don Valley Bowl in hay to stop it turning into a mudbath… Nevertheless, a delighted young competition winner used our wireless firing system to light the bonfire (which needed plenty of combustible “help” to get going), and an hour later I was standing stage-side ready to cue Yorkshire’s biggest and best Bonfire Night fireworks display.

Soundtrack selection is always a big feature of the display, and as we love designing fireworks to music that might explain why we enjoy it so much. The 2008 soundtrack featured some classic firework tracks: Bjork’s “Oh so quiet”, and Coldplay’s “Fix You”, as well as the now essential presence of Richard Hawley (gotta have that Sheffiled musical connection somewhere in the display) in the form of his collaboration with Mercury Music Winners Elbow on “The Fix”. Franz Ferdinand and The Futureheads added some punchiness early on and we closed with Take That’s “Rule the World” (which I think must have been written with fireworks displays in mind – it’s perfect for choreography). And although it wasn’t in the style of Sheffield’s rock music tradition, it’s the ultimate feelgood track to lift everyone’s spirits on a cold damp winter’s evening when the rest of the world seems to be taking a turn for the worse. Judging by the cheers at the end of the display it certainly did the trick at the Don Valley Bowl. You can be pretty sure you’ve fired a great show when the most experienced pyrotechnicians on the crew are already asking you how you can top that next year… but I know we will, and even now a few ideas are forming… see you there!

“Marvelous!” Scott Barton, Managing Director, Sheffield Events Company

Alchemy Fireworks useful links: Sheffield Event Co.

Big Splash 2008

Brighton Festival Fireworks: Big Splash 2008, Sussex

Another typical British Bank Holiday… we were on the M23 at 8am on the way to Sussex for the Brighton Festival fireworks display Radio 4 issued a severe weather warning for the South of England, and we could hardly see with the wipers on full. I was pleased with my decision to pack two pairs of wellies, and trying to forget about the previous year when fire performers and the theatrical pyrotechnic element of the show had been abandoned because of torrential rain… but more of that later

For this year’s Big Splash finale to the Brighton Festival we collaborated with local fire performers and general high-octane nutcases Flaming Fun. The show was based on their acclaimed Dragon Eye show but adapted to the scale and duration required for a big audience and a Marina environment. We threw our creativity into the mix, creating pyrotechnic interludes which allowed the FF performers to break and change between routines whilst the focus shifted to the fireworks display on the breakwater behind. Thus the display was built on the interaction of the two layers of choreographed performance: Flaming Fun in the foreground and Alchemy’s fireworks in the background. The simultaneous fire performance and fireworks were choreographed to music, and what a pumping fireworks soundtrack it was – Pendulum; Laurent Garnier; DJ Krust; Prodigy – just the sort of big beats to whip the audience into a frenzy befitting a festival fireworks finale…

And the weather? We were miraculously blessed with blue skies – a small Brighton-sized gap in the storm clouds – so as the rest of the Sussex and the South East got very wet, we got sunburnt. That’s not a complaint, just a note to self to pack wellies and sun cream next time.

“Thank you SO much! ” Kirsty Harris, Marketing & Events Manager, X-Leisure, Brighton Marina

Alchemy Fireworks useful links: Brighton Marina website

Thorpe Park 2008

Thorpe Park Fireworks Displays 2008, Chertsey, Surrey

In 2007 we premiered a range of Aqua Cakes at Thorpe Park’s Thorpe Blast firework displays in Surrey, and it’s fair to say that they went down a storm. So, we decided to push the boat out and back in January we commissioned a factory to come up with some more exciting aquatic effects specifically for the Thorpe Blast shows. We brought in a greater range of effects, and a larger calibre for a bigger effect, and these new toys didn’t disappoint. Brocade mines created a wall of gold. The “fish” effect was a manic spread of electric blue, and the tourbillions were thick and fluffy.

Again the fireworks were choroegraphed to music, and the soundtrack was developed in close consultation with Thorpe Park, combining a few iconic dance anthems (Fat Boy Slim, Prodigy) with some fresh chart hits from the last 12 months, including Alphabeat, Sonny J and Kylie. We must also say “hats off” to Laura at Thorpe Park for picking out Leona Lewis’ version of Snow Patrol’s Run – a fabulous spine-tingler of a fireworks track, which lit up the Thorpe Blast displays over a month before it became the biggest selling download of all time.

I think it’s fair to say that the weather in Chertsey for the Thorpe Park fireworks was a bit … grim. Friday wasn’t too bad, but Saturday was very very wet and Sunday very very windy. Despite this our fireworks, rigging, firing systems (and crew) took everything that the Surrey weather could throw at them. Although we would have preferred blue skies and a light breeze, it justified our approach to planning the displays, especially considering safety distances and material selection. The show must go on, and our fireworks lit up the skies over Surrey in grand style, but this was a great example of safety first – sensible planning creating spectacular results.

“It was great working with you guys again this year. I only have positive feedback: many said it was better than last year.” Laura Sinclair, Entertainments Manager, Thorpe Park

Alchemy Fireworks useful links: Thorpe Park

Leeds Castle 2008

Leeds Castle Mythical Fireworks Displays 2008, Kent

We love producing fireworks displays at Leeds Castle! It’s one of, if not the most beautiful place to fire a display, and the people of Kent seem to enjoy fireworks displays, especially ones that are choreographed to music, combined with an amazing light show and take place in a wonderful setting – all in all it makes for a magical show! This year a Friday night had been added to the show weekend, and we had ‘carte blanche’ to create a spectacle and boy, what a show it was! We used a wide array of genres and tempos to create a spellbinding show. Bjork’s ‘Oh So Quiet’ with the ‘Shhhh’ part accentuated with a row of short duration silver jets along the Castle’s island wall, the piano notes of Robert Miles’ children highlighted using a brand new ‘photoflash’ effect copying the keys along the site, and a stunning silver, gold, red and green strobe shell finale to Darude’s Sandstorm: cue the “best fireworks display EVER” comments and comparisons with Disney fireworks!

Saturday and Sunday’s firework shows were themed around The Legend of King Arthur. The fireworks were choreographed to music and interlaced with narrative, bringing the Arthurian legend to life. The Leeds Castle team had rigged a huge Excalibur sword underneath the surface of the moat, which was raised as the story reached the given moment. The display was crying out for some aqua fireworks, so our newly designed water cakes sent dozens of projectiles onto the moats surface which in turn fired silver comets, flying fish and red strobing flares. With wet and windy weather forecast (and for once they were right!) we adjusted angles accordingly and double waterproofed to ensure that the display could still happen safely, and that the fireworks still performed as expected. Glenn: “We worked hard to ensure that even in the very wet and windy that ensued the show could happen in the spectacular fashion that Leeds Castle expect”. Here’s to next year!

“Glenn, the show was awesome! Thank you for turning our vision into an amazing reality, surpassing all our expectations and making this once again, the place to see fireworks in the South East.” Victoria Wallace, Managing Director, Leeds Castle

Durham Brass Festival 2007

Durham International Brass Festival Fireworks 2007

Firework displays are like life – the more you put in, the more you get out. And, there’s always a way of making it better. Oh yes, it’s harder work, but it really is worth it. Rooftop firework displays definitely fall into the “hard work but rewarding” category.

Alchemy’s firework display for the finalé of Durham’s 2007 International Brass Festival sums up our commitment to doing whatever it takes to put as much as possible into an event. Despite a parkland location at Aykely Heads, with options for a ground-based firing site, we knew straight away that the most effective use of the budget and the most spectacular results would be achieved by launching the firework display from the rooftop of Durham County Hall. Not only that, but under the direction of Frank Wilson from Event International, we animated County Hall with lighting, making it a striking visual foreground for the fireworks on the rooftops, and the aerial fireworks launched from the parkland behind to frame the whole tableau.

As was so often the case during the 2007 summer season, the weather was not great. In fact it was awful. Heavy rain. All day. Again, the waterproofing of the fireworks both in preparation at Alchemy’s lab, and again on site, meant that we were able to carry on and fire even though the brass concert itself was unable to carry on outside, and had to be relocated inside Durham County Hall on the evening itself. Nonetheless, the weather cleared later in the evening, and the audience – and performers – ventured back outside to close the festival in front of the spectacular backdrop of an illuminated County Hall and a fantastic rooftop firework display.

Download this Alchemy Fireworks Case Study as a PDF

Alchemy Fireworks useful links: Event International

John Lewis Summer Concert

Corporate Event Fireworks Display for John Lewis OdFest Summer Concert 2007, Odney, Berkshire

OdFest was a mini-festival organized in Odney, Berkshire by event production company Relevent Ltd on behalf of the John Lewis Partnership. The weekend culminated in a spectacular “picnic in the park” style summer concert with a programme of live music performed by the Partnership’s own orchestra. Event Organisers Relevent Ltd asked Alchemy to design and fire a suitably spectacular firework display to the concert finale – Elgar’s Pomp & Circumstance.

On the actual day of the event the concert programme was changed, and it was decided that the 1812 Overture would be added to the programme just prior to the Pomp & Circumstance fireworks sequence. Event organizer Richard Millward from Relevent asked if we could add the finishing touch to Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece by playing the cannon score using pyrotechnic maroons. The Alchemy rapid-response team kicked into action and, despite the constant heavy rain in Berkshire, rigged both the main fireworks display and also the 20+ ground maroons necessary to play the cannon score of the 1812 Overture – and both were spectacular successes in their own very different ways.

“I just thought I would take the opportunity to thank you both, not only personally but also on behalf of our client, the John Lewis Partnership, for the spectacular fireworks display you fired last Sunday in accompaniment to Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, and additionally the maroons that you fired (at such short notice) to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. On this occasion, I was not able to give you a huge budget to play with, but what you did with the limited funds available was very impressive, filled with a wide variety of effects, colours and noises and all perfectly choreographed. Even to one who has seen as many displays as I have, there is a visible difference to a show choreographed by you and that is the reason I will always come back to you first. Both James and I wish you good luck with “Alchemy Fireworks”. We look forward to working with you again.” Richard Millward, Director, Relevent Ltd.

Download this Alchemy Fireworks Case Study as a PDF

Alchemy Fireworks useful links: Relevent Ltd.

Gibraltar Straits Games 2007

Straits Games Fireworks Display 2007, Gibraltar

At short notice, Alchemy Fireworks were asked to create a spectacular firework display for the Closing Ceremony of the tenth Straits Games (Juegos del Estrecho) in Gibraltar. Thankfully, Alchemy’s Directors have lots of experience of working abroad, and have produced firework displays for festivals in France, competitions in Spain, and private parties in Sweden, Russia and the Maldives, and our team quickly kicked into action.

The display had to be safe to fire from a small firing position sandwiched between new artificial playing surfaces at the Victoria Stadium and the runway for Gibraltar Airport. It was already too late to organize the necessary permissions to ship the fireworks from the UK, so we visited our suppliers in Spain to choose suitable material, design the show and arrange the logistics. Spanish-speaker Rob Farrow led the operation: “It was important to go and visit our supplier because the fireworks had to be just so.

The firing site was close to new artificial playing surfaces so we had to be 100% confident that nothing would come down hot, although we did take extra precautions just to be sure. We organized the sprinklers to be switched on to damp down the pitches and built a compound around the firing site to contain any sparks from the launch site.” Added to this, the Gibraltar International Airport runway was only a short distance behind the firing site.

“The proximity to the Airport was an important issue for everybody involved in the production of the event, so we made sure we had time to sit down with the Air Traffic Control team and talk through exactly what was going to happen and when. They had a flight arriving from Madrid 15 minutes after the end of the display, so we had to be sure that the fireworks display would leave no debris on the runway that could get sucked up into the engines and potentially cause a problem. When we called after to advise them that everything had been fired they congratulated us on an impressive display – they had a great view of it from the top of the ATC Tower!”
“A rather belated note of thanks for another magnificent job! Your organisational skills to get the material through the border and your liaison with the City Fire Brigade and Air Traffic Control is an important factor to us being awarded the tender. Alchemy Fireworks delivered the goods in style!” Odette Benatar, Director, Film Exhibitors Ltd.

Download this Alchemy Fireworks Case Study as a PDF