Fire ship gives Viking festival that extra sparkle

Posted on March 4, 2013

Jorvik Viking Festival 2013 fireworks videoFireworks in Yorkshire need to impress audiences used to seeing nothing but the best.  Our job is to give them something extra. This was the case when we were asked to come up with some ideas to celebrate the climax of York’s annual Jorvik Viking Festival. As the premier UK and London fireworks display company we pride ourselves on problem-solving. The ‘problem’ in this case was a 10-centuries old listed building in central York surrounded by a car park, museum, roads, shops and houses. How could we stage a safe but exciting spectacle to be enjoyed by thousands in such a confined space? The Festival storyboard included a mock battle between Viking invaders and the city’s Anglo-Saxon inhabitants, the death of the Viking leader and his ceremonial burial. First of all we proposed creating a replica Viking longboat using fire-rope. This consists of setting fire to paraffin-impregnated rope in the outline of the boat attached to a scaffold rig. Using our own team of technicians we designed the ship from a drawing, created a steel frame for mounting it on and transported this and the rope, soaked in paraffin and safely stored in large plastic bins, to the site. Here the steel frame was erected and the rope uncoiled and attached to it using specially positioned markers to create the shape. Opposite the longboat across the courtyard stood historic Clifford’s Tower, dating back to Norman times and a city landmark. This was to be the focal point of the burial.  Here we brought in lighting projectors, flame effects and fireworks. Not any fireworks but fireworks especially selected for their safety qualities. With the audience surrounding the tower there was no sterile zone in which firework debris could fall safely. So there could be no firework debris. What went up mustn’t come down. After a bloody battle set to an epic soundtrack the victorious English archers raised their bows and a volley of flaming arrows struck the longboat. To applause from the audience the ship burst into flames revealing its fiery outline.

Clifford's Tower, surrounded by houses, spectators, a car park and a museumWith the Viking chieftain killed in battle it was time for his burial. As his funeral procession reached the steps up to the Tower it was bathed in the swirling blues and greens of our lightng effects while all around the Tower giant flames erupted. At the moment of his departure to Valhalla fireworks exploded from the top of the tower in thrilling waves of reds and silvers. At ground level the pyrotechnic wizardry continued with lifts of golden rain and silver fountains until the show reached its spectacular climax. You can watch the highlights of the Jorvik Viking Festival fireworks by clicking on the link.

‘We were not at all sure you could make this work,’ the organisers told us afterwards, ‘but you pulled off the best show the Festival has ever seen. Congratulations. We will definitely be seeing you again next year.’

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