Legend has it that a little over 2,000 years ago in a remote village in central China, a chef decided to mix three new ingredients in his wok. The saltpetre, charcoal and sulphur he chose for his recipe wouldn't inspire most gourmets, and it was probably his sudden lack of eyebrows and the searing pain he felt rather than the taste of his dish that made him realise that what he had stumbled upon was more than just a flash in the pan. Indeed, the gunpowder he had invented would change the course of history. Empires would rise and fall on the back of it, and those nations that were able to harness its power the most effectively would soon dominate. But along with the power and destruction that gunpowder has brought, it has also given us something magical - fireworks. Whether it be at Guy Fawkes night in Britain on November5, July4 celebrations in the US, or Lunar New Year celebrations in China, fireworks have for centuries awed crowds around the world with their sparkling magic, and some of the biggest and best firework displays can be seen at the annual Macau International Fireworks Display contest, which this year ends on October 1. This year marks the 19th edition of the event and has become known as one of the most spectacular. Taking place over two weeks from the end of September, teams from 10 nations including, China, Japan, the Philippines and Australia will attempt to be judged as the best in the world. According to the Macau Government Tourism Office, the event was started to attract tourists to Macau during the traditionally quiet season. Every year the event has seen a growth in participants and visitor numbers. But what is it that makes fireworks so appealing and what does it take to put on a winning display? Darryl Fleming is the design director for Kimbolton Fireworks, the company representing Great Britain at this year's festival. The company, which started out 46 years ago, puts on more than 250 displays a year. It was also responsible for the enormous display in Hong Kong to mark the handover in 1997, and the company is making its debut in Macau. 'Fireworks appeal to people from all over the world,' Mr Fleming said. 'I think it is to do with the combined elements of bright lights and loud sounds that really bring a certain power and majesty to firework displays. The sheer power of the show can also give a slight impression of danger, which is great for audiences. 'Firework displays are unrivalled. You can't compare any other outdoor shows like laser displays or water fountains with them. They are unique in terms of size and scale, and fireworks can seem to be alive.' Mr Fleming believes Macau offers a great veune for such an event as the fireworks are launched from a barge in the sea. However, for a company based in England, the logistics of getting their equipment to Macau is one of the toughest challenges. 'We need to ship over four tons of fireworks and over 15 tons of additional firing equipment. We design the show from here [Britain] and put together the firing shelves before shipping it all out. We will send out two staff members first to make initial plans, but at the display itself we will need about 12 members of staff. We get additional support from local engineers as well.' The Kimbolton display has taken more than four months to prepare, but will last about 20 minutes. In 2005 the tourism office introduced a new feature to the event - the displays will be set to music with each based on a theme. The music has added another dimension to the displays, further enthralling audiences. Kimbolton's theme this year will be 'Celestial Fire'. 'We use computers to co-ordinate the fireworks with the music, so the timing should be perfect. We will be using classical and contemporary music and will take the audience on a journey of light and fire in the sky,' Mr Fleming says. The tourism office said the judges will consider criteria such as the general composition of the fireworks, selection and variety of colours, originality of the display and how the display fits in with the chosen music. Last year, the French team Brezac-Artifices won. Mr Fleming says displays have developed over the years: 'Traditionally, successful displays in Asia have involved creating as big a picture and as much noise as possible. The French team that won last year showed that judges are now finding more subtle affects appealing. It could be the small touches that win this year, not just the loudest and brightest bangs.' For the best viewing, the tourism office recommends three spots. On Taipa Island, most locals watch from the coastline pavement located between the Sai Van and Macau-Taipa bridges. On Macau Island itself, the best spot is on the coastline close to the famous Kun Iam Statue, across from the Macau Cultural Centre. The ultimate viewing spot is from the top of the Macau tower. Fireworks over the Macau Tower at the 2006 fireworks festival (left) and scene from the 2006 Macau International Fireworks Display Contest (below).