Tonight, whether you’ll be watching fireworks in the midst of the crowds expected along Abu Dhabi’s Corniche or somewhere else across the UAE – perhaps along Galleria’s promenade on Al Maryah Island, Sharjah’s Al Majaz Waterfront, from Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah overlooking Burj Al Arab, or near Al Marjan island in Ras Al Khaimah, or simply from the comfort of your balcony – you’ll be one of billions of people across the world craning your neck back to stare upwards in rapt awe at the pyrotechnics lighting up the night sky.
Fireworks are as much a part of New Year’s Eve celebrations as the midnight countdown.Dubai’s New Year’s Eve fireworks extravaganza to herald the start of 2013 became a Guinness World Record when 479,651 firecracker shells were released over the Palm Jumeirah and World Islands in the six-minute show. The spectacle took 10 months of planning and 5,000 man-hours to pull off.
And yet, despite all that, the UAE isn’t even the world’s number one customer when it comes to fireworks. That distinction goes to the Walt Disney Company, which is often touted as the largest consumer and purchaser of fireworks in the world.
Regardless of who is setting off the explosives, it’s a huge production every time, with several months of planning going into pulling off an impressive fireworks display – everything from conception to design to production. Not to mention the simple fact that there’s no dress rehearsal to guarantee the final result.
“There’s no way to rehearse what the final fireworks show will look like,” says Jakub Kencho Skalski, general manager of Flash Art. Skalski’s company, founded in Germany about 20 years ago, provides fireworks worldwide, organising shows from Singapore to Monaco, and from Hong Kong to the Maldives.
The Dubai office is in charge of fireworks for the Middle East, organising about 100 shows a year, and Skalski has been in charge of the office since 2000, providing fireworks for National Day, for the Formula One, and even for Dubai’s Global Village.
This year, Flash Art is behind the elaborate fireworks display that will be lighting up Abu Dhabi’s sky come midnight tonight. The company has spent months producing the show for the Department of Culture and Tourism, which is overseeing the Corniche festivities.
“A rehearsal is impossible because once those fireworks are set off, then that’s it, they’re gone,” says Skalski. “You cannot check to see how the final show will look, as you can with a light or laser show. We cannot see the final effect except for that one time, at show time. So, we have to trust in our designers and producers that they will achieve the effect desired.”
Shows as big as those held on New Year’s Eve incorporate multiple elements and fireworks are just one of those. There’s also the music to be considered, and this year, there’s a flame show near the main stage set up in the shallows off the Corniche.
“Our job is to design the fireworks display, depending on the colours and shapes of the resulting bursts, and designing that into sequences, so that specific colours and shapes launch at specific times along with the music,” says Skalski.
The end result is discussed with the client – in this case, it’s the city of Abu Dhabi – and the fireworks become part of the bigger picture.
This year, three months of preparation went into the New Year’s Eve show along Abu Dhabi’s Corniche, says Farah Al Bakoush, spokeswoman for the DCT.
“The fireworks will last for 10 minutes, synchronised with music, across a 2.2 kilometre stretch over the Corniche and released from the water, from 15 barges,” she says. “The show will be visible from most of the areas across the Corniche.”