The future is bright, the future is Orange Island!

Posted on October 24, 2013

Intricate geometric patterns are the new art of Chinese fireworks. As firework companies in the UK prepare for Bonfire Night, 5000 miles away in China something on an altogether different scale has been taking place.

The International Fireworks Festival showcases the best of Chinese fireworks. And how! Here you can see the biggest, brightest and loudest fireworks in a series of displays of epic proportions. What’s happening here now will set the trend for what we will be seeing in Europe next year. This annual event takes place on a strip of land called Orange Island in the industrial city of Changsha in Hunan Province.

Changsha is not blessed with much sunshine. For days on end the sky is a gloomy grey, the sun blotted out by a semi-permanent smog, but it’s warm enough to grow oranges and hence the name.

Orange Island is the official fireworks launch platform for the weekly shows which entertain tens of thousands of spectators. Whereas in the UK most launch sites are only a matter of metres in width, here they can play with nearly 600 metres of frontage.

One 15-minute display will contain as many as 5,000 fireworks all individually detonated for split-second precision. The sheer scale is almost too much for the human eye to take in at one go. Among the very  latest effects are a firework which explodes in the shape of an arc in the colours of a rainbow. Another eye-catcher is the windmill, a firework which bursts in the shape of the colourful toy children play with on holiday.

Geometry is also playing a greater role.  Fireworks which go straight up, cross over or sweep backwards and forwards are no longer flavour of the month. The new wave of designers are a mixture of CAD wizards and precision engineers, creating three-dimensional effects which involve aligning fireworks at all sorts of improbable angles in order to achieve a spectacular spiral of stars.

Our photo of the display by DP Fireworks, one of China’s leading manufacturers, shows the intricacy of the design – watch the full show here.

Firework manufacture in China is gradually being automated. The time-consuming practice of coating fireworks in layers of paper by hand will soon be replaced by machines which can do it in a fraction of the time. This is just as well. China’s rural fireworks manufacturers are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit staff at a time when jobs in the cities pay more and are safer. Mechanisation is, paradoxically, a way of countering the declining labour market.