Saturday, 23 June 2012

Watching the Titanic Belfast Light Show

On a cold Saturday evening back in April, we headed into Belfast with some bright yellow wristbands. After some food and drink we joined the huge queue for the shuttle buses that were to take us down to Titanic Belfast to watch the Titanic Belfast Light Show.

Titanic Belfast, Harland and Wolff Drawing Office and Crane

There were plenty of buses ferrying passengers to the show and the large queue moved at almost walking pace which was good. Once the bus was full we were all delivered to the Titanic Quarter. When we arrived we made a quick detour to the portable toilets for the pre-show wee so that we wouldn't need to fight our way through the crowds later on which was a wise move as there were lots of people there.

Once relieved, we had a wander around the market (which to be honest was pretty much identical to every other continental market hosted in Belfast in the last 5 years - many of the goods on offer you'll also find at St Georges market on a Saturday morning). The beer tent had closed at 8pm which was a shame but we were expecting no alcohol there anyway so it was no surprise.

This was the first time we'd been down to the slipways since it's regeneration really took hold, the last time we were there, the place was a derelict bit of old tarmac with weeds around the edges.

Titanic Slipway and Titanic Belfast Building

And it was now looking rather good. The lighting of the slipways was pretty cool.

Titanic Belfast Light

With more and more people arriving we decided to head towards where ever we were going to stand for the light show. On the way we passed people doing card tricks, costumed performers on stilts, people twirling and juggling things that were on fire and a unicyclist.

Fire performer in front of H&W crane

We found ourselves a spot front and central, had a look around at our surroundings...

Titanic Belfast Lit Up

And chatted whilst we waited for the show to begin.

Around 15 minutes later than scheduled, things got going. Well, I say they got going - the lights of the slipway and the market went out, some music that was different to the music we had just been listening to was played and 2 spotlights appeared on the sides of the Titanic Belfast building.

Titanic Belfast Light Show 01

They moved around the building, sometimes disappearing off the sides and top. Then, lower down when the lights passed over, silhouettes appeared; the Harland and Wolff Cranes were the easy ones to identify, I think some others were ship funnels, maybe the roof of a mill was in there at some point too? Eventually the silhouettes turned into wind-farms. This went on for a good 5 minutes. There was then a pause in the music before the same thing happened again.

Underwhelmed would have been an overwhelming understatement at this point.

Things did then pick up; the random spotlights went away and Titanic Belfast lit up. The lighting began to show steel girders and rivets. The fireworks were launched from the top of the building and the first of them appeared in time to some pistons thrusting up and down.

Titanic Belfast Light Show 02

Titanic Belfast Light Show 04

Titanic Belfast Light Show 03

Titanic Belfast Light Show 05

The scenes went from the industry and boat building - at one point turning into something like a furnace of an engine room which was pretty spectacular, this wasn't that bit but the red lighting and smoke was similar.

Titanic Belfast Light Show 06

And then it progressed into the construction of the White Star Line ships. From the construction on the site to the unavailing of the boats and their launch.

Titanic Belfast Light Show 07

The launch being to massive display of bright lights, fanfare music and fireworks. It was really good.

Titanic Belfast Light Show 08

Then once it launched and the sailing, it all got a bit random. There appeared to be a bit that would signify an ice berg where the building went silvery and jagged.

Titanic Belfast Light Show 09

After that, it turned into some sort of pre-loaded Windows screensaver.

Titanic Belfast Light Show 10

Titanic Belfast Light Show 11

Swirly things all over the place. All seemingly nautically themed. Randomly there was also the sound of a sonar... something which wasn't patented until a month after the Titanic disaster - though maybe they were trying to hint at lessons being learnt or the finding of the titanic years later? That was the problem, it got very random I couldn't follow what was being represented. It was hard to tell what was going on. The scenes of seaweed didn't help, other than being related to the sea, quite where seaweed fitted into it all I don't know, the thing being this was seemingly the underwater world the Titanic now found itself but Seaweed doesn't grows at such depths. Anyway, I might be mistaken but if I recall correctly, it was followed by a sea creature or two who clung onto the sides of Titanic Belfast swaying in the current.

Titanic Belfast Light Show 12

Titanic Belfast Light Show Frieworks

All this built up to a rather positive but random ending. I think they'd given up on the visuals on the building by this point but the huge display of fireworks made up for it and it all looked pretty impressive.

Titanic Belfast Fireworks

Once the show had finished there was a mass exodus over the uneven rocky stuff and onto the road.

Crowds Leaving

The queue for the free shuttle buses back into the city centre were even longer than earlier and it took us an hour to be on a titanic shuttle and passing the Odyssey. Apparently all the people leaving the show as well as exiting the JLS concert that was going on in the Odyssey Arena had caused traffic chaos for the buses. D'oh!

Overall, I thought the whole event was ok and I can't complain at being able to take advantage of a free event. I usually complain about there being a lack of non-corporate big events in Belfast and this was a nice idea. Saying that, I don't know how much it cost and I'm no expert on outdoor light shows, lasers or pyrotechnics, but just going on the content and experience I had, I do think it could have been executed a little better.

The delayed and underwhelming start combined with some of the visuals being a little random towards the end, slightly tainted what in places was really excellent. The fireworks were the best part and very impressive!

Here are the highlights on Youtube from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board:

The Light Show's lit up building part was nowhere as sleek as the launch of Virgin Money - but it was a lot better than that show at the times the visuals did work well - such as the scenes with the inferno (my picture really doesn't do it justice), the part where the Titanic was launched and the general use of fireworks throughout. The main issue was that those were a few minutes scattered between a couple of hours standing out in the cold.

Maybe I'm a being a bit too critical but that's just what I thought of the show. On the BBC site they seemed to have got 3 people who adamantly thought it was the best thing since sliced bread if you'd like to hear their opinions.

I very much doubt it's an event that people will be talking about in 10 years time... which perhaps it had the potential to be but it was still worth heading along to on the night.

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