City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

4 Tonnes of Fireworks Being Readied For Festival Finale

By edg - Posted on 27 August 2014

EIF Fireworks Concert waterfall

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra will be playing classic favourites such as Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture at this Sunday's Festival Fireworks Concert, the grand finale of the Edinburgh International Festival. For their choreographed display firework artists Pyrovision will set off four tonnes of explosives and 400,000 fireworks in the course of the 45-minute display.

Around 250,000 people are expected to watch the spectacle, gathered in official viewing areas in Princes Street Gardens, and the family viewing area at Inverleith Park, Calton Hill, along Princes Street, as well as other vantage points around Edinburgh, Fife and the Lothians.

This is the 32nd annual end of Festival Fireworks Concert; the first was held in 1982. It was the brain-child of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and then Edinburgh International Festival Director Sir John Drummond, the idea being to widen the appeal of the Festival to local audiences and increase the festive atmosphere in the city.

The display is designed, built and coordinated by fireworks experts Pyrovision, lead by head designer Keith Webb. Webb has worked on every Festival Fireworks display in some capacity since 1984, this being his 30th year. It takes a team of 15 pyrotechnicians 7 days to lay out the fireworks on 17 different levels of Edinburgh Castle, from the ramparts to along the top of the Castle rock. In the course, of designing the firey spectacle, Pyrovision will be handling 12 tonnes of non-explosive kit including cables, mortar racks and plywood frames.

The Waterfall

One of the highlights of the fireworks display each year is the "Waterfall", a shimmering display of white light that cascades 131 feet (40 metres) over the course of a minute down the castle rock. It is so popular that it has become a mainstay of the annual fireworks concert program. The Waterfall, however, is a huge undertaking.

The elements of the Waterfall take two days to make in the manufacturers factory, 2 days additional work at Pyrovision’s headquarters in Lincolnshire, and half a day to layout at the Castle. The cabling for the Waterfall takes a further half a day to set at Edinburgh Castle. The Waterfall consists of 70 firing units laid out for 118 feet (36 metres) across the Castle.

Coarse aluminium flakes cause the fireworks to descend, fine aluminium flakes gives the display its vivid silvery whiteness. In 2013, the display featured two Waterfalls for the first time, a longer secondary waterfall outlining the edge of the Castle ramparts alongside the traditional one.


This year, 55 musicians from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra will perform in the Fireworks Concert, with Gary Walker conducting Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, Mendelssohn’s War March of the Priests from Athalie, Debussy’s Marche Écossaise and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

The orchestra features 55 players on stage, including 14 violins, 5 horns, 4 cellos, 3 flutes, 2 bassoons, and 1 harp. Each year Keith Webb and his team carefully choreograph the fireworks to work with the chosen music. Keith uses the music as direct inspiration for the effects created, and the ‘images’ it conjures up for him.

The Virgin Money Fireworks Concert is on Sunday 31 August at 9pm