Spectacular pyrotechnics to bring Kelpies to life

A spectacular special effects show will officially launch the Kelpies structure this week. Picture: PA
A spectacular special effects show will officially launch the Kelpies structure this week. Picture: PA
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SPECIAL effects including towering flames of fire, huge light and video projections and a soundtrack of real horses will be deployed to bring Scotland’s giant “Kelpies” sculptures to life this week.

French pyrotechnics experts being brought in to officially launch the nation’s biggest works of art to the world have promised to make the 30-metre tall landmarks the stars of a show billed as a cross between a piece of outdoor theatre and a giant art installation.

Around 100 different flames will shoot into the air during a series of dramatic 15-minutes shows, which are being staged on Thursday and Friday evening this week at the home of the Kelpies in Falkirk.

They herald the official launch of Glasgow artist Andy Scott’s acclaimed creations, as well as the start of the first ever festival in Scotland dedicated to the legacy of pioneering conservationist John Muir, who was born in East Lothian and died 100 years ago next week.

Widely-regarded as the founding father of the global conservation movement, thanks to his efforts after emigrating to the United States, Muir is said to relatively unknown in his home country. It is already hoped this year’s £370,000 festival, a centrepiece of the Scottish Government’s Homecoming programme, will become an annual fixture.

Up to 12,000 spectators are expected to descend on the brand new Helix public park which has been built alongside the M9 motorway, close to Falkirk Football Club’s Stadium and the banks of the Forth & Clyde Canal.

It is hoped the effects at the Kelpies, which are being masterminded by the world-renowned company Goupe F, will emulate previous iconic celebrations they have worked on, such as the illumination of Big Ben, in London, the opening of the world’s tallest hotel in Dubai, the Millennium celebrations at the Eiffel Tower and a dispay above the Millennium Bridge linking Newcastle and Gateshead.

Artists from around Scotland are being brought in by the environmental festival’s organisers, Glasgow-based UZ Events, to help stage the two-night celebration at the Kelpies. They will be creating special works of art, developed around the theme of “Home”, which will be located at various points around an hour-long walking circuit.

These include a series of giant lampshades, an installation recreating the sights and smells of a peat fire in the Highlands, and the projection of one of Muir’s own famous phrases - “going to the mountains is going home” - onto the surface of the man-made loch at the heart of the park, which was opened last year.

The all-ticket event kicks off a 10-day programme which will see an expected 40,000 people attend events across the length and breadth of a new John Muir Way, which will be launched by First Minister Alex Salmond at the naturalist’s home town of Dunbar on Monday, before a colourful procession of flag-bearers.

Other celebrations are planned at the Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick, the end of the Glasgow-Edinburgh canal link, at Fountainbridge in Edinburgh, Linlithgow Palace, Kirkintilloch and Glasgow’s botanic gardens.

A two-part finale on 26 April will see a parade staged through the streets of Helensburgh, in Dunbartonshire, before an open-air party in Hermitage Park, while a free fireworks finale and concert is planned for the site of Scotland’s first national park at Loch Lomond.

Neil Butler, artistic director of UZ, who previously brought Groupe F to the Big in Falkirk festival, said: “We have worked with them several times before, including in Falkirk, where they have got a big of a following now. They are really going to bring the Kelpies to life with their show - it will literally show them in a whole new light.

“When we were starting to develop the ideas for a show to open the Kelpies and we saw Andy Scott’s designs for what they would look like, Groupe F came immediately to mind, because of what we’d seen them do elsewhere. They are literally the best in the world at what they do.

“The whole show is perfectly safe and we won’t actually be using any fireworks,.

“People will get the occasional tantalising glimpse of the Kelpies when they start the walk through the park and then they will come along a path lit by these flames, which go right around the two sculptures. All the effects are on a 15-minute cycle and you have time to experience all of them twice as you take the route around the park.

“We will be projecting some of Andy Scott’s original ideas and designs onto the Kelpies and you always be able to hear the sound of horses are you walk past them.”

Nicolas Mousques, Groupe F’s chief project manager, said: “This is the first time we’ve done anything like this around a new work of art or sculpture.

“I hope it will be an emotional experience for everyone. We want people to leave with their eyes wide open like a child.”