Alchemy Fireworks were honoured to be asked to provide the closing ceremony daylight pyrotechnics for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Thames River Pageant. This short and spectacular sequence was fired from the Upper Walkways of Tower Bridge, in the centre of London, which was the focal point for the end of the Pageant.
As you can imagine, this was an extraordinary event in an extraordinary loaction. Although the Bridge was opened with a celebratory volley of cannonfire this was the first time that fireworks have been fired from the bridge itself since it’s Centenary in 1994. The consultation process was long, including dozens of visualiations of what the sequence could look like, effect testing at Alchemy HQ to see which products were most effective in daylight, whether it was a sunny blue-sky day or a grey cloudy one. Of the traditional patriotic colours it was decided that blue was not strong enough in daylight, and that red would offer greatest contrast whether the sky was white or blue, so we majored on red, with a little white for contrast.
Apart from the pyro itself we also had to demonstrate that our planning, equipment, and H&S practices were all up to scratch. When we received the green light it was all systems go to fabricate the rigging, prep the pyro and then install the pyro cradles and test the firing system on site. To achieve this we worked in the early hours of the morning to ensure that we would not impact on the Bridge’s exhibition opening hours, and allowed sufficient time in advance to allow contingency rigging days should the weather make high level work impossible.
As it happened, the conditions for rigging were perfect, but the conditions on the day of the event were anything but… a combination of unseasonably cool temperatures, low cloud, gusting wind and persistent rain that varied from drizzle to downpours: in short, a pyrotechnician’s worst nightmare. With the Pageant drifting behind schedule we had to use our judgement to keep the firing system and pyro waterproofed until the last possible moment, while still giving our rigging team enough time to safely peform this high-level work in horrible conditions. We knew that we had to be ready to deliver safely and on-time as some of the other finale elements of the Pageant – like the Helicopter flypast – were falling by the wayside due to the awful weather. Finally our cue came, and as the National Anthem ended on The Symphony, the sky above Tower Bridge was illuminated with some 288 effects in under 7 seconds. Coloured mines and noise effects rippled back an forth at 1/10th of a second, controlled by our state of the art FireOne UltraFire software, before simultaneous lifts of magnesium mines, screechers ad flash salutes ramped up both the brightness and the volume of the sequence to a thunderous end. As the finale reports were still echoing around the City, the River came alive with the horns of boats up and down the Thames, ringing out their approval for a historic event, of which we were honoured to be a brief, noisy, colourful part.
We are, of course, very grateful to those involved in granting permission to us to work on this unique, iconic, historic and sensitive landmark including Bridge Master Eric Sutherns MBE and all the staff at Tower Bridge, to Paul Monaghan and co at the City of London, to Deputy Harbour Master Steve Rushbrook of the PLA (and team) for all their help, and not least to Pagent Master Adrian Evans and his team including Rosie, Jules, Ben, Maz, Kevin, Tom, Amy, Emile, Di… Alchemy would also like to thank the crew for their tireless work: Paul K and Paul R, Rob, Adam, Rod plus Jason, Daz, Howard, Jim, Ruaridh (with apologies to all the others that made it happen).
PS – Somebody tell Danny Boyle there’s no need to construct artificial clouds… 😉
Here’s the video…