A self-propelled vertical firework wheel 25.95 metres in diameter was designed by the Newick Bonfire Society Ltd and fired for at least one revolution on October 30, 1999 at the Village Green, Newick, East Sussex, UK. This was a world record for the time.
On June 19, 2010 an attempt to set a new Guinness world record for the largest pyrotechnic Catherine wheel had to be called off because strong winds caused severe damage to the structure.
Less than a year later, on June 18, 2011, this attempt was broken successfully when the Our Lady of the Lilies fireworks factory lit the world’s biggest Catherine wheel with a diameter of 32 metres.
Perseverance is the result of hard work and careful planning, meticulous organisation and attention to detail. One has to firmly believe in his ideas and his goals. The goal of beating a record shows the strong motivation which the fireworks enthusiasts have. This motivation was based on perfection. Not only was there perfection in the pyrotechnic show but also in the way the wheel was rigged up with blue light-emitting diodes which were lit up in various patterns before the show.
Ironically the Catherine wheel, also known as the breaking wheel or simply the wheel, was a torture device used for capital punishment in the Middle Ages and early modern times for public execution. It was still in use into the 19th century.
It appears that the Mqabba wheel was designed to allow only the force of the fireworks to make it rotate. The structure was slender for its size and elegantly designed. The Catherine wheel was much more elegantly designed than many other similar wheels which are used in other countries. The six-pointed star stole the show of the firework display on the eve of the feast of Our Lady of the Lilies at Mqabba. The challenge in the display was twofold. Firstly the design of the structure and then the design of the fireworks to make the structure rotate. It was this combination that made the Catherine wheel fireworks display a special event.
There is a saying which goes, “Behind every successful man there is a great woman”. I am sure that in this case, behind the world record there is a successful team. The persons who dreamt it up, the persons who designed the pyrotechnics, the civil engineer who designed the structure, the people who collaborated in its erection, the people who built the dream and finally the person who persevered for its success without any problems.
Thirty years ago, together with 250,000 people I went to see a fireworks show at an airfield in Berlin. The logistics for this show were incredibly bad. The queues were long, the crowds were never ending. My hopes were high – being one of such a large crowd made me have higher expectations for the show – but I was very disappointed at the level of the display and the excessive crowds.
The show was much less than what Malta offered in the field at the time. We should take advantage of our capabilities to the benefit of our country.
The feast at Mqabba was well organised. The fireworks were let off from one location whereas the ground display was set in another street. The setting was quite unique, the band stand in front of the church was a work of art in itself and the church was open till late allowing all visitors to have a nice evening in this small village.
Through this achievement in the Guinness Book of Records Mqabba has set itself on the world map. Should this event be repeated, and the programme of events properly advertised, it will definitely attract a larger crowd on all the days leading to the feast.
The way forward is for such shows to be publicised by the Malta Tourism Authority. One should encourage the Our Lady of the Lilies fireworks factory to repeat and finetune such events. They can be easily advertised as one of the reasons to visit Malta. It is events like these which make Malta unique.
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