Stage One

Galway 2020 Opening Ceremony

The Best Laid Plans

Sometimes, it just doesn’t go our way. And this is the story of one such episode.

Galway European Capital of Culture 2020, or ‘Galeway’ as it came to be known, was one of our more frustrating ventures. The premise was classic Stage One material:

We needed to build a 250 KG steel Phoenix. Suspend it 34 metres up in the air. Then set it alight and send it flaming 260 metres across the sky.

Projects where we laser cut steel and set things on fire, are our bread and butter. So for us, creating the phoenix was relatively straightforward. From there we had to find two crane towers we could re-purpose as start and end points, between them we’d install catenary wires to guide our phoenix on a safe flight.

However, as the story leaves the workshops, the difficulties arose. Starting with the location, if you didn’t know, Galway is just off the Atlantic coast of Ireland. And the event was in February. Which combined a time and place, that is not traditionally known for its balmy weather.

But we’re no strangers to adversity, we could make it happen.

The event was scheduled for the 9th of February, and as the date came closer, the weather forecast suggested the job could become a bit tricky.

But still, there was a job to do, so we packed our big coats and got ourselves to Galway. As you’ll see from our site reports, things started well…

Jan 26th: “Sunny and cold. Better than forecast.”

At this stage, it seemed like all was on course. Installation was going well and the weather had held up. Until very suddenly, it turned:

Feb 2nd: “Gales, average wind 17m/s up to 24m/s. Heavy rain. Miserable.”

On to:

Feb 8th: “Force 10 storm, wind gusting to 32.5m/s, heavy rain. Conditions challenging.”

And finally:

Feb 9th:
“Weather warning. Event cancelled. Gale force winds, blowing from the North much colder than before; sleet, hail, snow, mud. Quite unpleasant really.”

And that was it. Show’s over. Storm Ciara would go onto cause £1.6 billion in damages, although our installation withstood the entire thing just fine.

Frustratingly, we’d flown the phoenix in rehearsal. So we knew everything worked and could be performed at a moment’s notice. The moment just never came. But that’s life in our industry, every now and again, fate intervenes.

Author: Michael Hayes