Edinburgh Fireworks to mark end to Festival

Picture: Ian Rutherford
Picture: Ian Rutherford
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FOUR tonnes of fireworks, five miles of cabling, a 52-person orchestra, seven months of planning – and one man crossing his fingers.

He is Keith Webb, director of Pyrovision, who, together with his 14-strong team, has designed, built and coordinated the 31st annual Festival Fireworks Concert, which will mark the official end of this year’s Edinburgh Festival tomorrow night.

As the 14,000-strong crowd take their seats and tens of thousands more flock to vantage points across the city, Keith will be hoping all his hard work goes up in smoke in 45 minutes.

Keith, from London, has worked in the pyro display industry since 1977 and this year will mark his 29th year of being involved in the Capital’s festival fireworks.

And this year’s programme will once again see Garry Walker conduct musicians from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, playing music from Russian composer, Modest Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Keith says: “Once Edinburgh International Festival chose the music, I spent about a month listening to it whenever I could, when I was driving in my car for instance, just to see in my head what types of fireworks would work to which pieces of music. Then I left it for about a month before going back to it and listening to it intensively second by second before I designed the show in July.

“I’m trying to recreate the music and tell a story through fireworks. And so as the music portrays different emotions, so are the fireworks – it’s full of drama, excitement and it can be traumatic. I’m particularly excited about one section which is about fire and death, so we basically turn Edinburgh Castle into a sort of visual hell on earth.”

The display will include some 200 aerial star shells, 900 roman candles, multi-shot batteries, crackles as well as a whole host of other fireworks from China, Spain and Italy. And, of course, the crowd pleaser of the Waterfall will also make an appearance. Aluminium flakes are what gives it the silver glow as it descends 131 feet in one minute.

Made up of 70 firing units, it takes two days for the manufacturer to make the Waterfall and an additional two days’ work at Pyrovision’s headquarters in Lincolnshire. Once it arrives at the Castle, the team spend a day laying it out and installing the cabling to go with it.

Over the 45-minute show the fireworks will be fired from 200 positions on 17 different levels.

“If everything goes to plan then it isn’t too stressful for me,” says Keith.

“We have done it so many times and the team has been working together for a long time. But that just inspires us to make each show better than the last. Although I do still get nervous, so it’s always fantastic to hear the applause from the audience.”

The team has been setting up since Monday and will be finished the bulk of the work by Sunday lunchtime. But they have to wait until the Castle is closed to set up the last remaining items and will likely be working up until 8.30pm on Sunday evening.

Last year over a quarter of a million people were estimated to have watched the show, which featured music such as Greensleeves and Prokofiev’s ballet score from Romeo and Juliet marked by red love hearts in the sky.

Police are planning for the usual large crowds on Princes Street, The Mound, Calton Hill and Inverleith Park. There will also be the inevitable road closures and disruptions to buses with all the information available at the city council website, www.edinburgh.gov.uk.

The Virgin Money Fireworks Concert is on Sunday at 9pm. Tickets are still available via Hub Tickets, in person at the Hub, by phone on 0131 473 2000, or online at www.eif.co.uk.