Thursday, August 13, 2009

Plymouth's fireworks


Plymouth's great for audiences. Folk head out for the evening determined to give themselves a great time. Give them a duff tragedy in the theatre and they'll still find something to laugh at and rally for a cheer at the end.
The last two nights have seen thousands gather in the natural arena of the Hoe as it surrounds Plymouth Sound, watching the British Fireworks Championships burst out from the pier across the water on the Mountbatten peninsula. Three displays each evening, the close of each was greeted with applause and whoops of cheering.
I wonder about the rules of scoring such things. They seem to play out at three heights, a sustained development building to a vast closing crescendo, some votes for colour and variety and sound maybe. My favourite was a high burst as of a yellow chrysanthemum that kept growing into wilder and wilder blossom; quite moving.
Fireworks can still render me childlike, as with the closing finale of the Abbey Park Show in Leicester when I was truly a kid. In 1984 I stood in a grandstand in Tienanmen Square in Beijing, half a million people below me and Deng Xiao Peng over to my right, as the sky filled to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the founding of the republic. The Chinese run with poetic names for their fireworks, like 'a thousand nightingales kiss the stars', the whole sky ablaze with wonder. I stood and stared up like the kid in ET, taking the occasional break to wipe embers from my eyes.
It's good to be small and human in a crowd in such a way, all caught in wonder for a moment.

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