Royal Brisbane Show – Ekka

Images by Richard Smith Photography 

The Brief

Brisbane’s iconic “Ekka” was one of many events forced to cancel in 2020. Just the third cancellation in its 143-year history. Previously cancelled in 1919 due to the Spanish Flu epidemic and in 1942 when the grounds were used as World War II staging depot and in 2020 due to Covid-19.

However, in a bid to lift spirits, the fireworks show went ahead, thanks to industry professionals donating their time, expertise and gear. The fireworks show presented by 7NEWS Brisbane was designed for the audience to stay home and watch on TV.


NW Group’s involvement in the event came about when Ray Moss, our General Manager in Queensland, was having a catch up with the head of the entertainment department at Ekka.

Ekka mentioned Skylighter Fireworks had offered to donate a pyro show on the eve of what would have been Ekka 2020, given the event had to cancel due to COVID restrictions, and in passing that 7 NEWS Brisbane were in negotiation to take the show live to air. Ekka has been a loyal NW client for around 16 years, so the decision was really a no-brainer for us to be involved.

Skylighter, like the rest of the entertainment industry, was in full shutdown due to COVID gathering restrictions. It also suffered mass cancellations during the devastating 2019 bushfires. Skylighter saw this as an opportunity to give back to the community and to bring his team together to work on the project.

Mental health and well-being within our industry are so important and something as simple as having a gig to do in times like this cannot be underestimated. Once we drilled into how they were looking to incorporate and deliver the technical backbone, we soon realised they needed some assistance and happily offered our services.

Within 24 hours, what started as a single firework display in the middle of the arena had grown considerably. Given the profile it was fast attracting, it needed to be done properly, so NW Group not only volunteered to provide audio playback, mastering and time-code distribution but also began planning to add a lighting element.

Josh Finlayson, Luke Symons and Cam Walker made up the audio team with NW Group, providing multi-track playback from a dual redundant QLab system keying via MIDI from a Yamaha QL1 console. NW distributed SMPTE time code to lighting and FSK to pyro, as well as the audio track to Ch7 who did a full OB of the 6pm news bulletin from the site.

NW also provided vision monitors and distribution to the operators, taking program splits from the Ch7 OB truck, and provided show comms across operations fully interfaced back to the Ch7 studio and producer, along with two-way radios to keep the onsite team connected.

Given the obvious benefits to wellbeing of having as many people involved as possible, Ray called Chameleon Touring Brisbane and JLX Productions to see if they would like to be involved and both immediately said yes. Their contribution and response was amazing. Having all worked together on so many great projects in the past, everyone jumped back into work mode from our COVID slumber. It was awesome to see our talented teams in full flight, which feels like forever since they had the opportunity.

The theme of the show was centred on the heart shape flares in the middle that Skylighter had designed to tie in with a feeling of love for the Ekka community, and the Ch7 theme of ‘Love You Queensland’. JLX Productions ran with this, adding lighting FX to give added dimension to the heart as well as set the canvas pre-show.

Chameleon prepped the lighting to minimise time onsite with four rolling trusses fully pre-rigged with fixtures and distro to be completely plug and play.

Lighting gear was eight Claypaky Stormy CC, 20 Sharpy Beams, 12 Sharpy Washes, 14 Pixelline 4s, 12 Martin MAC Quantum Washes, 12 Claypaky Scenius Profiles, 24 ShowPRO IP Hex Pars, 40 Martin MAC 101s and 14 ShowPRO LED Duets. Control was MA Lighting grandMA2.


The whole site was activated, with 85 modules over eight launch sites used including rooftops, light towers and the arenas. Over 2000 kgs of fireworks delivered approximately 20,000 individual effects. The fireworks used normally are 50mm, but because the team had the entire RNA showgrounds, they could go up to 150mm. This allowed the fireworks to reach upwards of 270m, giving views all around the city. Specialty shells were used including hearts, smiley faces, butterfly patterns, and more.

The show was built specifically for a broadcast audience, so a full simulation was created first. This allowed JLX to not only see the show but also time the burst of the fireworks to the change of lighting sequences in real-time. The simulation also allowed the Ch7 broadcast directors to change cameras for important moments like the 80m x 70m red heart in the middle of the arena.

Allowing this type of collaboration took the display to the next level, with subtle moments of lights and pyro changing at the same time, with broadcast picking up every moment.

An event we were very proud to be a part of – Check out the highlights