People have marvelled at pyrotechnic displays for centuries. This summer, our nights will once again be lit up by fireworks. In this sector, French pyrotechnists have developed specific expertise, which is sought after throughout the world.
The fireworks market is worth a considerable amount. Each year, €4 billion is spent on firecrackers and fireworks worldwide. China remains not only the primary producer and exporter but also the greatest consumer of pyrotechnic products, accounting for 50% of global demand. That is why the market’s European leader, the French firm Lacroix-Ruggieri, has opened an office in Shanghai. The French are particularly renowned for designing and executing highly complex firework displays.
Such events are a well-established popular tradition and local councillors remain strongly committed to putting on displays of this type and scale. "We estimate that the national market is worth €80 million, not counting expenditure on sound, lighting, electrical equipment, and so on," says Henri Miermont, secretary general of SFEPA, the French union for manufacturers of explosives, pyrotechnics and fireworks.
Large firework displays usually cost between €50,000 and €100,000, but the budget for a display such as the one organized for Bastille Day in Paris can be as much as €600,000. In 35 minutes, the pyrotechnists get through almost 30 tons of powder. This year, the display was produced by Groupe F, which is the company behind the Fountains Night Show at the Château de Versailles and the New Year celebrations in Dubai. This company also exports its services to places including Taipei, Kuwait City, Istanbul, London, Rio de Janeiro, Doha and Abu Dhabi.
There is great demand for the “French touch” abroad, where it is not uncommon for over €1 million to be spent on displays. “The French compose a sort of opera that combines fireworks, music, lights, and so on”, explains Jean-Eric Ougier, one of the most popular master pyrotechnists, founder of the company Fêtes et Feux, which has already provided the display for Bastille Day in Paris on five occasions, attracted a crowd of 500,000 spectators in Geneva and puts on more than 80 displays each summer. Jean-Eric Ougier is also the producer of the Grand Feu de Saint-Cloud, the longest firework display in Europe, which is scheduled for 13 September this year.
France is home to a dozen companies specializing in this field. The sales figures for the largest of these, such as Lacroix-Ruggieri, Groupe F and Fêtes et Feux, are considerable. Among these prestigious brands, Henri Miermont distinguishes between “those who assemble existing items and those who make their own blends by mixing powders to achieve particular effects, like ATPM, a small business in Villeneuve-sur-Lot that hand-crafts small batches of special high-quality products, which are very popular”.
The leading European firm, Ruggieri, was founded in 1739, when the Ruggieri brothers became pyrotechnists for King Louis XV of France. In 1997, the company went into partnership with the pyrotechnist Etienne Lacroix, who had been established in the south of France for 150 years. Since then, the company’s shows, which combine fireworks, music and theatre, have been unfailingly successful. They have been admired in a range of locations, including the Stade de France stadium, the Eiffel Tower, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Madagascar and Qatar. They have provided unforgettable experiences, such as the Statue of Liberty centenary celebrations in New York and the concert by Jean-Michel Jarre at the Giza pyramids.
The family business Brézac Artifices is also very popular internationally. It can be credited, in particular, with the spectacular show put on for the 50th anniversary of Indonesian independence in Jakarta, in front of over a million people, and the Europe Day celebrations at the Palace of the Romanian Parliament in Bucharest. Another noteworthy firm is Pyragric, whose creations have been witnessed in China, Portugal, the Seychelles, Africa, Georgia, Switzerland and England, as well as during the Tour de France.
All of these experts in firework displays owe their long-standing success above all to their continual quest for new effects and their optimal use of cutting-edge technologies. For an opportunity to admire the latest innovations, make sure not to miss out on the next International Symposium on Fireworks, which will be held in Bordeaux in 2015. The event will be attended by 40-50 exhibitors from around the world and there will be three firework displays every evening!