A FORTY foot long model of the Titanic is set to be launched from the Meadows Shopping Centre on Monday, with its destination the city of Belfast which is preparing for a month of festivities to mark the centenary of the loss of the iconic vessel.
This ‘ship’, however, will be made entirely of balloons and will be riding high not on treacherous seas but the stylish interior of Victoria Square shopping centre, where it will be suspended above the heads of the public.
Up to 16,000 balloons, each measuring three inches, will be used to recreate the vessel, and the woman charged with making sure everything is ship-shape is award-winning balloon artist Fiona Fisher.
Fiona, who formerly owned Burning Desires party shop in Bridge Street, Portadown, but now runs Worldwide Balloon Decor, has won numerous international awards for her balloon creations.
Aided by a team of five people, she will be attaching the red, black and white balloons to a specially prepared frame, made by husband Rodney, all the time being watched by what is expected to be crowds of intrigued shoppers.
“It’s one of the most exciting projects I have ever done” said Fiona. “I am really looking forward to getting to work on it in Belfast. We know of people coming from Cork and Dublin to watch it.”
At the moment, the ship is still a work-in-progress. Its 40ft long by 9ft high frame has been constructed of aluminium, with material attached to the lower part of the boat.
Balloons have been wrapped around most sections of the frame corresponding to the colours of the ship while the funnels, masts and propellers are also in place.
Said Fiona, “The lifeboats still have to go on top as do the guy ropes, marconi radio lines and some stick people, as well as two flags - the White Star Line flag and the Blue Ensign.”
Fiona and Rodney will be working at the Meadows Centre up until Saturday, March 31, and members of the public are welcome to watch them through the windows.
Then, on Sunday, April 1 it’s anchors away as the frame is hoisted carefully onto a flatbed lorry and driven down to Victoria Square. The team of six will start putting the balloons on the following day and the aim is to have the ship finished and hoisted aloft by Good Friday.
Said Fiona, “The frame will be attached to hoists so we can raise it up or down by remote control as we need to when we work. The hoists have been supplied by W H Scott Lifting, which originally supplied Harland and Wolff with the original lifting gear for the Titanic.”
The balloon ship will take pride of place in the shopping centre for at least a fortnight, and possibly three weeks. Said Rodney, “It’s such an iconic ship. The project is really a tribute to all the men who built it and all the souls who lost their lives on it.”
The couple, who are based in Italy but still have a house in Portadown, work all over the world, although their next job is closer to home, as Fiona will be decorating the Ards Shopping Centre for Easter.
Anyone interested in seeing the step-by-step process of the Titanic balloon project, including the construction of the frame, should log on to www.buildingtitanic.com. The company’s website address is www.worldwideballoondecor.com.