Each year in the 2nd week of August pretty much everyone in the UK Fireworks Industry travels down to Plymouth to watch this competition. It is held over two nights (Tuesday & Wednesday) with three fireworks displays each evening. If you want to visit I advise you to get there early. With 100,000 people watching each night, the city soon becomes gridlocked. The six teams are drawn from a selection of Fireworks companies from all over the UK.
The competition for 2015 was between these six companies (in firing order).
- Tuesday 18th August
- Phoenix Fireworks
- Essex Pyrotechnics
- Wednesday 19th August
- Fantastic Fireworks
- Gala Fireworks
- 1st Galaxy Fireworks
I’ve been visiting the competition for twelve years and been lucky to help rig for several companies at the competiton over those years. This year I helped to rig for Lee at 1st Galaxy who happens to be not only my fireworks supplier but the person who gave me loads of advice when I started our company “Cotswold Fireworks“. I’ve known Lee and his wife Sam over twenty years now and a good memory of our friendship was firing the display for his own wedding.
The competition has some rules, mostly on the safe use of product such as maximum angles from vertical which affects the motar shells. There is one rule that does affect how you build your display and what you will use. This is the NEQ “Net Explosive Quota”. You are limited to 530kg of explosive in your ten minute display. At 1st Galaxy the NEQ turned out to be 508kg so well within the limit imposed.
Each team presents in advance to the judges a firing order for their display. There are points to be lost if your display deviates from this firing order. Judges are raomign around the firing site all day. There are points to be gained by showing how well your team works, how tidy you are and generally how your team comes across to the judges should any of them be asked questions.
The display duration is 10 minutes and starts and ends with three maroons (salutes). Again points can be lost if these do not fire and also if your display is under ten minutes or even overruns. Never use a cake to finish with.
So what happened in 2015?
Phoenix fired first and from our vantage point there were a couple of holes in the display with some sections firing from only one side. Unknown to us at the time, we eventually find out that of the 3,800 cues, almost half failed to fire due to a configuration error with the firing system.
Spyrotechnics went next and I have to say their display was amazing. The finale which used strobe and blinker peonies was unlike the norm where most finish on brocade and willow effects. The audience reaction was a good loud applause and definately voted the best display of the night.
Essex Pyro fired last and it became noticeable that the sky was not as busy as the other two displays. I’m afraid to say that there was not much memorable about this display and my daughters voted the positions as Spyrotechnics in 1st, Phoenix in 2nd and Essex in 3rd.
Tomorrow we shall see about the wet setup for day 2.