How to make PMB sparkle

2011-01-21 00:00

WATCHING the magnificent midnight pyrotechnics in Auckland, New Zealand, and at the Sydney harbour bridge, Australia, on TV during the afternoon of New Year’s Eve — the pulsating, shooting arcs and rosettes of myriad stunning colours — I was reminded that fireworks do not necessarily deserve the bad press they have earned locally. This started me dreaming of ways to hold a grand, green, animal-friendly New Year’s event in our city, Pietermaritzburg, so desperately in need of rejuvenation — one that might become a blueprint for other South African cities. The big question is how to concentrate and control the festivities, as well as bring together all those who wish to join in a city-wide celebration.

Alexandra Park could be considered an ideal venue, as, unlike the Showgrounds, it is not closely surrounded by too many houses likely to be disturbed by noise.

The cricket pavilion could provide an all-weather venue for a concert-dance-disco event, with relatively simple food and drink on sale, and the grandstand and playing field would be the centre for a spectacular midnight display to welcome in the new year.

Those who wish to enter the fenced-off grandstand area and participate in the party would pay an entrance fee at the gate, whereas others who chose merely to view the fantasia display could congregate outside in the wider area of the park, possibly bringing their own picnics.

The final display starting at the stroke of midnight, which would require expert planning, could incorporate a spectacular, but shortish, firework show of sound and light, fireworks being synchronised with music (rather in the Walt Disney Fantasia style), rendering huge explosions unnecessary. The climax of this could be the releasing of a vast number of biodegradable Chinese lanterns (as were used in Plettenberg Bay, New Year, 2010), which could be purchased at the gate, and to which individuals could attach their own personal messages.

This type of event could serve to show that fireworks can be awesomely beautiful, lifting the spirit, rather than turning much of the city into something resembling a war-zone, terrifying every creature in the vicinity, and causing untold suffering. The Chinese lanterns would allow individual participation, with even those who chose not to pay to go into the party, able to buy lanterns and release them to add to the final spectacle.

Buses could be hired to transport people from, and home to, the further suburbs and areas, in order to curb drunk driving, and the various local pick-up services could be on hand for hire to take others safely home.

If some committee of willing and competent persons would take up the challenge to organise such a public festivity (possibly in consultation with the SPCA), which was recognised as a resounding success, with huge numbers of revellers seeing in the new year in a genuinely enjoyable, safe and responsible way, it might result in the feasibility of imposing a total ban on the uncontrolled use of fireworks throughout the rest of the city.


• Dr Alleyn Diesel is an honorary research fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, specialising in Hinduism in the province.

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