Zebbug Firework Display

Visit the traditional St Philip’s Feast in the cultural village of Zebbug. This feast is known to be a major attraction with tourists and locals, having crowds flowing to join the fun and traditional factor which is synonymous of the village. This year the feast will be organised between the 7th and 14th of June. On the 13th of June, the St Philip's Band Club of Zebbug, organise “Pyro Rhapsody”, or what is more known as one of the most sought after fireworks display in Malta.  The band club are in the final stages of producing this year’s show which includes more than 4,000 pyrotechnic products, producing a display of approximately 40mins of synchronized music and fireworks. The display starts on Saturday from 9pm till approximately 10:30pm. The show is split into two parts, where an initial 10 minutes is fired with synchronized music, then there is a display of traditional fireworks fired in a traditional fashion and to conclude, the final part of the synchronized music display. Although this is a free show where everyone can join and see this wonderful display, there will be VIP seating as already done last year. Seats will be sold at the price of EUR 2 per seat and guestss will be enclosed in an area where they will view the show in the best and safest of ways. Seats are sold on a first-come-first-served basis so hurry up as they are already being sold. Also during the week, the village is extremely active on activities. The St Philip’s Fireworks Factory is a non-profit making organisation and all the money donated will be given to cover costs for both this year’s and also the upcoming fireworks displays.

The art of fireworks making in Ħaż-Żebbuġ dates back to 1691 at least. In 1851 Banda Di San Filippo was officially establishedi with its own organized society set up in honour of the Patron Saint. This contributed in no small way to make the feast of St Philip more popular. At that time and up to the early years of the 20th century fireworks were only manufactured by unlicensed individuals who worked from their residences or country outlets and sold their ware to the local ecclesiastical authorities.

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Since its set up, St Philip Band Club had shown immediate interest to the manufacture of fireworks. The earliest document dates back to 2nd November 1914. Interest increased and with the collaboration of the parish churchiv, by 1921 the club was running the first licensed fireworks factory in the limits of Tal- Kandlora by the name of St Philip Fireworks Factoryv. A select number of its members  used to  prepare the annual display of aerial and ground fireworks year in year out. The latter was manufactured with great craftsmanship and elaborated to depict the Żebbuġ parish church, local emblems and symbolic towers.

On 9th April 1955, Maundy Thursday, an explosion shook Ħaż-Żebbuġ sending tremors into its neighboring villages. St Philip Fireworks Factory had been shattered by a tremendous blast. Four members lost their lives: John Mary Farrugia, Anthony Debono, Philip Cassar and Philip Xuerebvi. The Feast of St Philip was cancelled and the village sank into a bottomless pit of mourning. Thereafter a new fireworks factory was re-built and pyrotechnic activity restarted in earnest, increasing both in quantity and quality. The manufacturing process continued in this complex up to 1982, since by then the residential neighborhood had extended to its vicinity and the police authorities withheld the required permitvii. For this reason another fireworks factory was constructed in the area of Tal-Qdieri.

On 26th May 1990, in the dead of night and only a few weeks before the feast of St Philip…the factory exploded again! The village was rocked by an unexpected and mysterious blast that devastated the factory from its foundationsviii. Nobody was injured and the factory was rebuilt soon after. Another incident took place on 25th August 1992 in which Gejtu Grima lost his life.

In 1997 the administration of St Philip Fireworks Factory was re-organized and changed drastically and a set of new regulations were defined. For the first time ever, all its pyrotechnicians started manufacturing fireworks on a voluntary basis and exclusively for the feast of St Philip. No commercial sales were allowed any more. In 2002 the complex was enlarged and health and safety measures were made more stringent. On 3rd December 2006 a new statute was approved calling for more preventive measures and refinements in perfecting this pyrotechnic art.  Nowadays the number of licensed personnel working in this factory exceeds fifty, and the displays of aerial and ground fireworks that accompany the feast of St Philip are considered among the major events that highlight the festive calendar of the Maltese Islands.

This feast is celebrated every second Sunday of June, with the climax of fireworks display being on Friday and Saturday. On Friday late-evening, a spectacular mechanized ground fireworks display is produced where huge crowds flow to view this wonderful show. On Saturday then at 9:30pm, the factory is involved in one of the most sought-after air-pyro displays. This show, titled “Pyro Rhapsody”, is a free-to-view show of more than 120 minutes non-stop display of fireworks. More than 30 minutes are dedicated to entertain the huge audience with fireworks digitally synchronized, using electronic equipment for firing, with both modern and also classical anthems.

Up-till today, the St Philip’s Fireworks Factory is still operated on a non-profit making basis and still self- sustainable although the rise in it’s day-to-day expenses are noted. Still, the craftsmen of these traditional pyro-products have managed to produce high-quality and high-volumes whilst still managing to keep health and safety issues at top-notch levels.

Information Provided courtesy of the St Philip's Band Club - Zebbug - Malta.