16 August 2012: Going out with a Bang!
We are very sad to announce that The World Famous will be closing at the end of 2012.
Despite a very busy summer, these are difficult times and we have taken the decision to go out with a bang.
The World Famous is a company of creative pyrotechnicians set up in 1999, by Mandy
Dike, Mike Roberts & Greg Woods, to explore new artistic and contextual ways of
using fire and fireworks. Over the past 13 years, it has become one of the UK’s leading
Outdoor Arts companies, creating large-scale shows which blend fire & fireworks with
performance, large images, music, sound design and projection.
Driven by a desire to inspire, make magic, comment, connect and celebrate, we have
striven to combine the intimate with the spectacular, form with content, fireworks with
theatre, whether touring shows (Sticky, – with Improbable – Blast!, Crackers?, Frost &
Fire, Full Circle and All Hands), or creating site-specific commissions (most recently Song
for Dover celebrating the Olympic Torch relay and Fire Garden at the National Theatre).
Fire crosses language and cultural barriers, and with our unique use of pyrotechnics, The
World Famous has delighted, surprised, excited and provoked audiences from Belfast to
Sydney, Toronto to Singapore.
Although 2012 has seen an extraordinary flowering of outdoor and celebratory arts
around the Lympics, this has masked an underlying decline – and a shift in emphasis and
influence – of this artform.
There have always been challenges inherent in making shows for large audiences
with public money, but in this changing political and financial climate, it is becoming
increasingly difficult to create free and accessible shows at large scale and retain our
artistic integrity. The majority of our work has been presented free to the public –
funded by Festivals, Arts Council England, local authorities and other agencies – but
as overall Arts subsidy decreases there is also a cultural shift away from support for
accessible large-scale work towards more elitist ‘high’ art. In many cases this year’s
increased spending will add to the dearth of resources in 2013 and beyond.
Over the years, The World Famous has built up the infrastructure needed to create and
deliver our shows, but to continue to survive as a company, we would need to lose staff,
reduce the professional level and scale we operate at, and lower our creative aspirations – chasing more of a different sort of work: corporate events & launches, private parties,
smaller shows and hollow spectacles.
We believe it is better to leave the stage with heads held high at the end of one of the
company’s busiest years than to struggle to keep afloat while losing the essence of what
The World Famous has always been about – pushing the boundaries, taking creative
risks and thinking big.
The major strengths of The World Famous have been its collaborative process and its
team of hard working, passionate artists and crew. As well as 4 full-time staff (Mike
Roberts – director, Mat Ort – production manager, Ben Stephen – general manager and
Liz O’Byrne – administrator), upwards of 50 freelance artists and technicians, with a
diverse range of skills and expertise have been involved in the company over the past 13
At its core, 4 Associate Directors have helped steer the company, conceive and create
the shows: Mandy Dike, designer and pyrotechnician, whose unique vision and
extraordinary skill for large scale design shaped many of our shows; Maria Hingerty,
pyrotechnician and designer – formerly of Theatre of Fire – whose attention to detail
and knowledge of fireworks has filled skies and hearts with colour and light; Pippa
Bailey, who has supported the strategic development of the company, directed
performances and interrogated the meaning of our work; and Tim Carter, who has
watched obliquely from the side lines and proffered invaluable guidance.
We end this particular adventure proud of our achievements, humbled by our mistakes,
surprised by our experiments, and gladdened that we have provoked thought, taken
breath away, delighted, awed, scared, surprised, elicited laughter, tears & puzzlement,
and defied gravity. We have been constantly amazed by our tireless and talented crew,
who determinedly attack every job – on castles, carparks, ships, roof tops, bridges or
bogs – working long into ridiculous hours of the night, always taking their task seriously
whilst filling the hours with humour and new ideas.
Although the ending is sad and difficult, it is in the spirit of all we do and celebrate –
impermanence and change – and will inevitably pave the way for other opportunities,
collaborations and creations. The company’s artists and technicians will continue to
create extraordinary things in their own many different ways.
But it is not quite over yet. The World Famous will be helping to celebrate the
Paralympic Torch relay in Aylesbury (28th August), with other shows in the pipeline, and
we are still taking bookings until the end of the year. We are also collecting memories
of the past 13 years; if you have a story, anecdote or image of the company or our
work, please share it with us.
Focal Point – Fuse Medway Festival 2010 – Photograph: Rikard Osterlund
Full Circle So Skegness 2009 – Photograph: John Byford
Trinity Stockton International Riverside Festival 2009 – Photograph: Gilmar Ribeiro
Birthday Blaze Newcastle Theatre Royal 2012 – Photograph Richard Kenworthy
Concrete Inferno The fire Garden National Theatre 2012 – Photograph: Ludo Des Cognets
Song for Dover 2012 – Photograph: Rikard Osterlund