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350 years since the Dutch and British navies met at Chatham
One of 2017’s largest UK fireworks displays thrilled crowds in Chatham as Medway Council commemorated the Dutch invasion of Chatham 350 years ago.
Medway in Flames was the finale to a festival of cultural, sporting and educational events and the display featured fireworks and lighting effects that saw the river appear engulfed in fire.
Working in collaboration with Medway Council, Fully Fused Fireworks created the display and FTF Worldwide Event Management created the technical infrastructure for the spectacular event, including creating a video depicting the Battle of Medway, shown on two 100 m2 screens on barges and a giant water screen, plus communications and links to make it all work.
Event Co-ordinator Tracey de Vere White said: “The team here at FTF Worldwide Event Management has spent more than three years working through the logistics of an evening’s entertainment. We then brought in our partners at Fully Fused Fireworks to produce a jaw-dropping firework display.
“It ended up being one of the hottest weeks of the year so far and one of our biggest tasks was ensuring the team setting fireworks out on the river had plenty of water and food to keep them going. We also laid on screens for the audience who couldn’t get close to the river itself to enjoy the spectacle around Chatham Maritime.”
A state of the art, wireless control system still takes 8km of cabling when the display base is 500m wide. There were 86 people on the FTF/Fully Fused team, with 18 dedicated to the fireworks. There were three barges and eight pontoons to present Fire to Friendship, which included colour and music as references to the Anglo-Dutch relationship.
Event discussions first took place three years ago. In mid-January, the firework design began to take shape, although the concept and the music were selected six months earlier. “We visited factories in both China and Italy, to ensure the fireworks we needed were ready to be effective, both in the sky and – for some of them –on the water,”said Fully Fused’s Chief Designer Clifford Stonestreet. “A marine environment presents its own challenges in setting up the show as everything has to be moved to the barges and pontoons up to three days in advance and protected from the weather – usually rain of course but this time heat!”
The Battle of Medway film was shown first, telling the story of the events of 1667. During the video, special cannon effects were fired from the barges to enhance the spectacle and as the video ended the ‘Fire to Friendship’ firework display began. To help those who couldn’t be close to the river there was an FM broadcast of the show soundtrack and firework music as well as a live YouTube and Facebook feed for those more distant. Numerous images have already been posted on the FTF Worldwide Event Management and Fully Fused Fireworks social media sites and an edited video of the firework display will shortly be available.
“Long days and nights for the team were endured on site before the spectacular itself, with 10 days in the factory, five days on site preparing barges, pontoons, screens and everything else required to keep the team of 85 going. It all took around 11,000 man hours to bring to life one of the largest UK shows of the year,” said Cliff.
“We use digital firing technology for the fireworks and timecode to ensure synchronisation between the video, special effects and soundtrack. It allows us to fire many effects wirelessly from different locations, even 500m apart, simultaneously – something that was impossible just a few years ago.”
Cliff and the Fully Fused team pride themselves on technical accuracy behind the scenes that gives a spectacular display for the audience. “We have to balance the aesthetics of the display – from all the angles that people will be enjoying it – with budget, safety and the client’s requirements. It’s a constant balancing act but for this display it was also important that the show was visible from almost 1km of river front.”