Malta Diary Fireworks on the ground and fireworks in the air
As you read this, Malta will go to the polls for a General Election in two days’ time as a result of a snap election called by the incumbent Labour Party Government for Saturday, 3rd June. Sufficient details of the fierce electoral campaign were given in last week’s article and since then they have become fiercer and rougher.
As if in anticipation the annual Malta Fireworks Festival took place on Saturday and Sunday 29th and 30th April, hours before the announcement on 1st May of the snap election and therefore oblivious of the development but in hindsight a forerunner of fireworks with spectacular pyrotechnic displays on the ground and in the air!
Malta and Gozo are renowned for their fireworks, particularly during the hot summer months with religious festas and festivities throughout the towns and villages in both islands almost every weekend from mid-May until mid-September.
A number of localities have their own fireworks factories working throughout the year, preparing for their own parish festa and taking sub-contract orders from those localities that do not manufacture their own. Rivalry and pique are fierce and one-upmanship over rival manufacturers definitely tops the agenda both in terms of quality and quantity.
However, don’t run off with the idea that these are in any way sophisticated places with chemical laboratories. Factories are normally managed and run by unpaid volunteers who spend most of their leisure time on site fevering away to meet schedules and although in recent years there have been improvements, sadly to say health and safety have not always been high priorities on their agendas and explosions, deaths and severe injuries occur frequently.
Risks do not in any way act as a deterrent because there is never any shortage of volunteers and those involved explain their involvement as being an addiction. They simply cannot keep away.
The annual festival has become a regular event and takes place on a scale to match any activity with foreign manufacturers invited to participate and all the entrants working and exhibiting in several categories. Different localities are chosen every year but the last night Grand Finale always takes place over Valletta’s Grand Harbour, a truly fitting locality environment.
Ground and aerial displays have their own categories, the ground fireworks being mechanised displays on poles and not just mere Catherine Wheels whooshing around but elaborate and fantastic designs and sometimes depicting scenes and other motions.
The aerial displays are naturally the more spectacular, some of them set to classical and popular music and need perfect synchronisation between music development and aerial display and must therefore be function-perfect to the delight of thousands of spectators.
The first night kicked off on Friday 28th April in the evening in Xaghra in Gozo, a music and pyrotechnic bonanza. On the next evening mechanised ground displays took place on the spacious Floriana Granaries with a simultaneous aerial display over the fishing village at Marsaxlokk. The Grand Harbour event took place on the final Sunday night.
Anybody monitoring the Xaghra event would have seen hundreds of firing mechanisms laid at Nuffara Heights in Xagħra accompanied by trails of wiring attached to computerised systems and in the evening there was a spectacle of fireworks displays provided by companies from Rumania, the Czech Republic and the Madonna taċ-Ċintura Fireworks Factory from Gudja, Malta.
The fireworks combined to synchronised music spectacle continued on Saturday evening in Marsaxlokk with the participation of Qrendi’s Santa Marija Fireworks Factory as well as Italian and Croatian manufacturers. Sunday’s display over the Grand Harbour was the work of the Italian manufacturer Pyroemotions in collaboration with the Santa Marija Fireworks Factory from Għaxaq in Malta.
This year, to cap it all, there was a special final night bonanza because Valletta’s neighbours and rivals Floriana were celebrating their own festa dedicated to St Publius and thus the area reverberated with music, thousands of spectators and illuminated night skies.
As if this was not enough to be getting on with, on the very next day, a Public Holiday on Monday 1st May, the Labour Party held its annual May Day Parade in Valletta and Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced a snap General Election for 3rd June and put the two main political parties under starter’s orders for a solid five weeks of verbal fireworks.