Fire Garden: Carabosse Warms Battersea Power Station

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London’s Battersea Power Station, due to be closed for redevelopment, got “bye” with a little help from its friends: French fire alchemists Compagnie Carabosse.

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Known to many from the cover art off Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals, London’s Battersea Power Station no longer burns coal and provides power – the last watt flowed out from Station B on October 31st, 1983. Given the Halloween-y date, it seems perfectly appropriate the power station be lit up in the reflected orange glow of burning flames as it closes to all events pending its redevelopment as a mixed-use commercial and residential center.

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As it would be an ironic shame for the station to actually go up in flames, it behooved organizers of the Fire Garden event on September 5th and 6th, 2014 to enlist the talents of French fire alchemists Carabosse. Having performed previously in London at The Mayor’s Thames Festival 2009, the artistic collective was well-placed to give Battersea Power Station a fitting and reverent sendoff.

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The event was commissioned by the Thames Festival Trust with essential public funding support by the National Lottery through the Arts Council’s Exceptional award programme, funds from the Mayor of London, and sponsorship from Battersea Power Station Development Company.

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You have to admit, the old power station never looked so good – and surprisingly, it really hasn’t been around all that long. Providing electrical power to a fifth of metro London at its peak, Battersea Power Station was built in two stages between 1929 and 1955. Constructed in the now-rare Brick Cathedral style, the former coal-burning station was actually a pioneer of clean power generation when it first opened. Those tall, white chimneys housed water sprayers and scrubbers designed to remove sulfurous emissions from coal smoke.

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The station has been roofless since the late 1980s – plans at the time proposed the site house a theme park but this plan, like many others, came to naught. Exposed to the ravages of English weather for decades, the building is still structurally strong and its walls, facade and of course those mighty chimneys will remain, protected by English Heritage and incorporated into the site’s new incarnation.

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With the redevelopment expected to extend into 2017, the time was right for a memorable sendoff to Battersea Power Station and Carabosse pulled out all the stops in showcasing the structure’s visual eminence. “This is fire alchemy at its very best: the smell of wax, the hiss of steam, and the heat and glow of the multiple fires acknowledging and celebrating this iconic site’s gritty, smoke belching, industrial past,” enthuses Totally Thames. “Globes of fire and thousands of points of flickering flame will illuminate the Power Station as musicians play a mix of old style Parisian music with moody improvised sounds.”

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Kudos and credit to photographer Chris Saxon/ for capturing the essence of the event, and thanks to Mother Nature for restraining the English rain – a crucial consideration for an event centered on open flames and fires! 



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