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British Firework Championships, Plymouth, August 2004

August 2004

It doesn't get much odder than this. Six firework display companies vie to prove to six judges that they can blow things up in the most entertaining and creative way. Ten minutes of pyrotechnic mayhem three times a night for two nights.

The Standard Fireworks British Firework Championships 2004, held for the eighth time in Plymouth was a two day event of contrasts in terms of weather. Day one saw Jubilee Fireworks, Skyburst The Firework Co. and Sandling Fireworks setting out their equipment and monster fireworks under a very hot sun from before breakfast to dusk. The evening conditions for firing were warm with a gentle breeze - perfect firework weather. Day two was cooler with frequent light showers and so for Alan Hillary Pyrotechnics, Westcoast Firework Company and Selstar Fireworks the weather was less friendly.

During the evening the tail end of Hurricane Alex, the same storm that trashed the boat of the four men rowing the Atlantic, decided to visit Plymouth Sound. God's own pyrotechnic display of thunder and lightening heralded the start of a downpour that was relentless for over two hours. The displays, for the many thousands of stalwart spectators, were commendably accurate and entertaining considering the monsoon conditions.

The event has built over eight years under the management of TESA (The Event Services Association) and Plymouth City Council, working together in partnership. Main sponsorship came from Standard Fireworks, part of the Black Cat group. With the event being free to watch estimates vary over spectator numbers but there is general agreement that over 200,000 people enjoy the mammoth spectacle over two nights from vantage points around historic Plymouth Sound and from Plymouth Hoe.

There are both expert and lay judges and they allocate points for both measurable technical performance and a more subjective artistic merit. After the six displays the judges squeezed out their drenched clothes and announced the winner as Alan Hillary Pyrotechnics, achieving success by just 0.2 of a point, from second place Sandling Fireworks who, in turn achieved their success by 0.3 of a point from Jubilee Fireworks, the 2003 defending champions! The business is run by Alan Hillary with his son Adam as the company's Display Director, with core business coming from their North East base. The win represents a boost to their growth towards nationwide recognition and deservedly proves they can produce display standards of international class.

The firework industry is consistently under legislative attack, and thrilling 200,000 Plymouth spectators is a timely reminder that fireworks have their place in the outdoor entertainment calendar. Maybe the last word goes to Laura Peters, Marketing Manager of sponsors Standard Fireworks, 'Our seasonal over-the-counter sales of the Standard brand remains strong, but our support for this event recognises the importance and growth of the professional display sector of the industry.'

Report courtesy of the The Event Suppliers' Association - TESA

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