Darryl Fleming is director of Titanium Fireworks, the British company that has become the industry go-to for the world’s biggest pyrotechnic projects, including the Mayor of London’s New Year's Eve fireworks display, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. In the second part of his exclusive interview with APM’s, Daryl talks about the most challenging aspect of planning and delivering projects on a global scale, to global audiences.
What is the most challenging aspect of the projects you manage in your job?
The job is very multi-faceted; delivering a spectacular display from a structure like the London Eye requires not only a creative skill combined with an engineering appreciation but also a mathematical and scientific approach, added to a technical understanding of attaching fireworks to a structure using a bespoke rigging technique. Additionally, the organisation and delivery of an event requires detailed production skills to complete the logistics of crew, equipment and pyrotechnics.
Do you plan differently for different events?
Yes, the planning is always different for each event, in fact even firing the same event annually can provide different challenges. Every display is different, each site is different, as is the budget, the client, duration and scale of display. There can be many different types of displays involving specialist skills and equipment, firing from barges on water, to rigging pyrotechnics to the outside façade of a building or from the roof.
We have a wide range of fireworks and effects each with differing hazards and debris patterns. Within reason, it is possible to fire a display from almost any location, it is all about making sure that the site and location is properly risk assessed and that only suitable effects are used for the prevailing conditions.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
The ability to access buildings and structures that I otherwise would never be able to visit - from climbing the steps to Big Ben and looking out across the river from the parapet, to crawling the tunnels of Tower Bridge to access the lower road deck, I have had had some very unique opportunities. Secondly, being involved and sometimes at the centre of major national and international celebrations, from sitting opposite the London Eye for New Year’s Eve watching my design unfold, to being at the heart of the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics, or on the roof of Twickenham Stadium firing the finale sequence to the Rugby World Cup.
The most enjoyable aspect of my job is the instant feedback you get at the end of a show when you hear the applause from a large audience as the finale fades away.
What advice would give to someone looking to get into the pyrotechnics industry?
It’s important to have an open mind, and a hard work ethic. Many people can perceive our industry to be glamorous and a ‘dream job’, but the reality is very different. Often you are cold, wet and sitting in the dark working in other people’s leisure time waiting to fire a show. Then, after the show, following the applause, the audience return to their drinks and entertainment, while we face hours of de-rigging and clearing away. It is both physically and mentally demanding, so you need to be resilient and hardworking.
On the positive side, the job is very rewarding and, providing you have done a good job, you do get instant gratification from the audience applause. One of the first large scale displays I fired was for the 50th anniversary of VJ day, when we fired from five barges along the Thames from Westminster to Tower Bridge. After the show when we were being towed back, we passed under each bridge, and thousands of people who were still on the bridges recognised us and applauded and shouted words of appreciation; it was a moment that stuck with me and helps motivate me each time.