Can trace his firework heritage back to 1986. As a trained surveyor Darryl’s feet are firmly on the ground but he is happiest when he is creating designs on or around iconic structures such as the Olympic Stadium, Big Ben and most recently The London Eye. Few would argue that Darryl continues to be a major influence in firework display design in the UK with a long list of credits to his name, most notably the designer and project manager of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and most recently, the opening ceremony of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Q&A with Darryl Fleming
Favourite career moment to date?
Pushing the button when HM the Queen declared the London 2012 Olympic Games open and the 20 second pyrotechnic sequence chased around the stadium signalling the successful culmination of 10 months of planning and preparation. It just got better and better after that.
What do you most enjoy about your Job?
The events industry is very diverse and fireworks are no different. No show is the same even when firing at the same venue. The best thing about what I do is the many places I have visited and worked at, often giving me unparalleled access that members of the public never normally get to visit. From climbing up the leg of the London Eye and standing on the crow’s nest of the hub, fixing pyrotechnics to Big Ben or Tower Bridge, firing from the monorail in front of the Atlantis Palm in Dubai or getting the best seat in the house stood on the gantry above the royal box for the Olympic and Paralympic Ceremonies. One thing is guaranteed that this job is far from boring or predictable.
What aspect of your job do you least enjoy?
The worst bit for me is the last hour before the show starts, especially on the larger more high profile displays like London’s New Year’s Eve which has a live audience of over 250,000 and a broadcast audience of over 13 million, there is no chance for error, a bad day at the office is not an option. There is so much that can go wrong, that is the nature of live events. The last hour waiting for show time can be excruciating with so many external factors which can affect the display, there was one occasion when I was about to fire a display and my computer suddenly died and the screen went blank, my face dropped and as I turned to see what had happened the client had unplugged my desk top to charge up his phone, his face was hilarious as he realised what he had done. We quickly started up again and no one was the wiser. The responsibility to deliver displays like The Olympics, Commonwealth Games and London’s New Years Eve is very intense, the anxiety and stress levels can be off the scale, but with it comes immense satisfaction and euphoria, as soon as the first thud of the lift from the first shell fires, the fear and anxiety disappear and are replaced with exhilaration and a huge surge of adrenalin.
Favourite Project to have worked on?
It would have to be the London 2012 Olympic Ceremonies; it does not get any bigger than the Olympic Games. The pressure is immense but when you get it right, so is the pay off. The best thing about working on this project was the fact that there were four ceremonies to deliver, with an opening and closing ceremony for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The best ceremony for me was the Olympic Closing, with the opening behind me the pressure was slightly lifted and the ability to relax and enjoy the show was easier. Overall the Olympics offered some amazing and unique opportunities, least of all the privilege to design and choreograph a live show with such names as The Arctic Monkey’s, Queen, The Who and Coldplay. It really was a once in a lifetime experience with some challenges which I have learnt a huge amount from and the memories will live on for many years to come.
Favourite photo from the Titanium Firework Portfolio?
One of my proudest moments was the immense display we fired for the 50th anniversary of the Forth Road Bridge, it is not often you get the chance to show off on such a huge structure, with nearly a 2 kilometre frontage, the display itself was the biggest display fired in the country since the millennium. Apart from the amazing image below which is my favourite, this display was a culmination of a lifetimes work to be given the opportunity and trust to deliver such a prestigious display, and more importantly it was gratifying that it was all our own work.
How would your colleagues describe working with you?
I wish his dictionary included the phrase – “sorry that just isn’t possible”.
What is one thing you absolutely will check off your “bucket” list?
I would like to complete my private pilot’s license. Flying was my first obsession and the experience of flying solo is one that is both liberating and exciting. I have flown solo in a glider many years ago, but I would like to achieve my PPL so that I can renew my early passion.
If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and why?
South Africa, visit Cape Town again and travel the garden route. I have only been to South Africa once for my honeymoon and we only stayed in Cape Town for 3 days, then a Safari and finally a beach holiday. We promised each other that we will go back again and take our two boys to experience table mountain the hard way by climbing up it again!.