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British Firework Championships: The Full Story from Fireworks' correspondent

Natasha Webb

August 2003

Welcome again to the Plymouth Experience! Let's get the facts and figures out the way first as always:-

Promoters: TESA; Estimated crowd size 200,000 over 2 nights; Budget £5,800 towards materials; 1st prize £3,000, 2nd prize £1,500, 3rd prize £500; Winner invited to compete in San Sebastian 2004; Maximum weight limit 350kg net explosive mass; All competitors must be in BPA, TESA or CBI Exp group; Judges: Ian Blackhouse (competition co-founder), Alan Qualtrough (Plymouth Herald), John Lileys deputy Sarah Softley (BBC Radio Devon), Cllr Peter Smith (Plymouth City Council), Ron Rapley (Black Cat Fireworks Ltd), Andy Cotton (TAO Productions); Tom Smith adjudicator; Carlton TV were filming on site; Results being announced in the Mount Batten Centre; 12" biggest shell, no full plastic shells/rockets, no aquatics, no parachutes.

Shellscape who were the winners in 2001 and 2002 pulled out of defending their title this year and were replaced by the 1st reserve Festival. Competing on day 1 were Festival Fireworks from Lewes in Sussex, Essex Pyrotechnics Ltd from Saffron Walden in Essex and Spitfire Pyrotechnics Ltd from Nuneaton in Warwickshire. On day 2 we had Anytime Fireworks from Weymouth in Dorset, The London Fireworks Company (LFX) from London and Jubilee Fireworks from Kingswinford in the West Midlands.

According to the weather report, Tuesday 12th August 2003 was due to be sunny with temperatures reaching 24 C/75 F and southwesterly winds up to wind speed 3. When I arrived on site at 3.15pm, it was nice and warm, with a light breeze blowing along the wharf from end to land and a heat haze/mist over the harbour.

Firing first on the first day were Festival Fireworks who used to be Sussex Fireworks. I spoke to Nathan Winter, company show writer and son of the owner Martin Winter. He told me that they'd only had 6 weeks notice that they were taking part this year due to Shellscape pulling out. They had 9 crew, 1 of which was female and had arrived onsite at 7am. Their van had been checked and they'd had spot checks throughout the day. They were due to fire approximately 750/800 shells as well as crown wheels, peacock plumes, 12" brocade crown with purple flowers with 8" midnight snow pagodas, Italian multibreaks, Italian and Spanish shells, but the majority of material was their own brand. Stuart Winter, the other company show writer, was to be pressing the buttons on the Pyrodigital firing system. I was pretty impressed when they told me that they own 12 of these systems and had brought 3 to Plymouth.

The Tuesday evening was perfectly calm with virtually no wind. Conditions were perfect. As 9.30 approached, the tension was mounting on Plymouth Hoe in anticipation of a great night's entertainment.

The show itself was stunning! Perfectly sequenced with amazing chases, waves of single shot candles in curves on a pulse timer and the 12" brocade/purple was incredible. When they fired the gold pre finale everyone cheered, but it wasn't over yet…they did another pre finale and then the real one, which actually wasn't nearly as good as the gold faux finale we'd just seen. But overall, my colleagues and the crowd loved it! Richard Kempton, the firework photographer said, 'the machine gun effect was cracking'.

Firing order (courtesy of Gary) 3x3" maroon; 72x20mm coloured comets candles; 38x60mm red mine with coconut comet candles, 1x6" purple chrys with coconut palm; 1x8" red chrys with coconut palm; 1x10" blue chrys with coconut palm, 5x3" silver screamers mines, 5x3" thunder mines; 5x3" green star mine, green chrysanthemum 5x3", 3x4", 2x5", 1x6" green chrysanthemum with gold palm core; 5x3" red star mines, red chrysanthemum 5x3", 3x4", 2x5", 2x6" red spiders; 5x3" silver star mines, 5x3" silver palm tree, silver palm tree with tail 3x4", 2x5", 1x6" 5x3" blue star mines, blue chrysanthemums 5x3", 3x4", 2x5", 2x6" blue glitter; 5x3" multi-coloured stars mines, 5x3" full bloom in garden, multi-coloured 3x4" , 3x5", 2x6" full bloom in garden, 1x8" blue to silver; seq 1 - 5x18mm 56 shot crackling comet candles; 10x28mm 8 shot crackling tails to crackling rain bombettes; 15x3" crackling effect; 4x3" crackling effect, 3x4" glittering coconut with crackling tail, 2x5" titanium salute with crackling flowers, 3x4" glittering coconut with crackling tail, 3x5" brocade crown with crackling heart, 4x3" crackling effect, 3x4" glittering coconut with crackling tail, 3x5" brocade crown with crackling heart, 2x6" glitter crossettes; seq 2 - 8x30mm 8 shot mine candles, 2x6" typhoon crackling palm with red stars24x11mm red/green rockets; 2x6" silver crossette, 24x11mm silver rockets; 2x6" titanium butterflies with blue stars, 24x11mm blue/white rockets; 2x6" stained glass, 24x11mm multi coloured rockets; 2x6" purple plume, 24x11mm purple rockets; 2x6" saturn ring, 24x11mm white strobe rockets; 13x60mm red mine with silver coconut single shot candles, 2x6" 6 timed brocade polyp; 2x8" midnight snow to midnight snow pagoda, 1x12" brocade crown with purple flowers; seq 3 - 8x14mm 6 pack 10 shot red tails candles, 8x14mm 6 pack 8 shot green bombettes candles; 12x 2.5" red and green chrysanthemums, 10x3" red to green peony; 1x6" red and green bee's with screamers, 1x6" red and green crossette ring, 1x6" red and green ring in ring; 7x30mm green crossette candles, 10x20mm red star candles; 10x3" red to green peony, 4x4" red to green crossettes, 4x4" red/green hummers; 3x4" red and green mixed colour chrysanthemum, 2x4" red bee's, 1x4" green falling leaves, 2x4" red falling leaves, 1x4" green bee's, 3x4" green falling leaves, 2x5" red and green falling leaves with rains, 3x4" red falling leaves, 2x5" red and green falling leaves with rains; 2x5" red and green falling leaves with rains, 2x6" red and green bee's with titanium whistles, 3x5" red and green falling leaves with rains, 2x6" red and green bee's with titanium whistles, 2x6" red ring with green flashes; seq 4 - 50x20mm single shot blue and green star; 18x14mm green and blue tail candles; 10x3" blue to green peony, 4x4" blue/green chrysanthemums; 3x4" green bee's, 3x4" blue bee's, 2x5" green chrysanthemum; 10x3"blue to green peony; 2x4" green chrysanthemum, 1x5" blue chrysanthemum, 2x5" blue chrysanthemum, 1x6" green plume, 4x3" green star thunder, 3x4" blue bee's, 4x3" green star thunder, 2x4" blue bee's, 1x5" green chrysanthemum, 2x6" blue glitter; seq 5 - 3x double rise crown wheels; 11x40mm single shot aqua with gold willow mine; 3x double rise crown wheels; 3x double rise crown wheels; 11x40mm single shot aqua with gold willow mine, 2x6" 6 successive platinum polyp 9 simultaneous flashes; seq 6 - 8x30mm white strobing bengals, 8x4" white whirl mines; 4x4" white whirl, 4x4" butterflies with red centre mines, 7x40mm 6 shot twilight glitter with blue candles; twilight glitter with purple 12x2.5", 3x4", 3x4", 3x4", 2x5", 5x3" twilight glitter, twilight glitter with purple 3x4", 3x5", 8x4" white whirl with blue stars mines; 4x4" white whirl with blue stars mines, 4x4" lemon hummers; 1x20mm 120 shot black watch barrage; 9x14mm 6 pack blue tails candles; 12x2.5" silver/blue chrysanthemum, 4x4" blue/silver crossette; 8x4" blue with coconut palm core, 6x5" blue ring with coconut centre; 2x6" silver ring with blue centre; 5x3" all whistle mines, 15x3" silver palm tree, silver palm tree with silver tail 8x4", 3x5", 3x6", 3x4", 3x5", 2x6" seq 7 - 2x25mm 20 shot fanned flying silver swallows barrage, 12x65mm rains with ring , 8x4" rain in purple and green ring; 2x6" stained glass, 2x6" butterfly shape, 2x5" red burst with white conoli, 2x6" red ring with white strobe centre and salute, 2x6" titanium butterflies with blue centre, 2x8" five rings5x2.5" rains with ring; seq 8 - 26x40mm brocade comet pulse fired from outside to centre candles; weeping willow with large willow tail 1x4", 2x4", 3x4", 4x4", 6x4", 6x4", 6x4", 4x5", 6x4", 6x5", 4x6" 13x40mm brocade comets (peacocks plume); finale - 4x50mm red diamond screamer mine candles, 4x50mm silver tailed salute candles, 12x2.5" silver rains, 5x3" all whistle/cracker mines, 4x4" all whistle; 60x2.5" purple/green chrysanthemum, 40x3" blue/silver peony, 32x4" red/yellow chrysanthemum; 42x2.5" red/silver chrysanthemum, 40x3" purple/green chrysanthemums, 24x4" blue/yellow chrysanthemums, 8x4" diamond screamers; 3x4" red diamond screamers; 2x5" red/green chrysanthemum; 5x3" full bloom in garden, 3x4" variegated with gold palm core; 5x3" full bloom in garden, 3x4" variegated with gold palm core, 3x5" full bloom in garden, 2x6" green chrysanthemum with coconut palm core, 1x8" blue to silver chrys; 5x3" full bloom in garden, 6x4" variegated with gold palm core; 3x5" full bloom in garden, 2x6" green chrysanthemum with coconut palm core, 1x8" red chrysanthemum with coconut palm core, 72x60mm violet mines with gold rain comets mines; 54x60mm colour/screamers and thunders mines, 3x6" thunders with silver tails; 2.5" salute x3

Essex Pyrotechnics were second to fire on the first night. Tom Archer was to be pressing the buttons but he was a little busy so I spoke to Dave Mitchell to get the low down on things. There were 7 crew including 1 female, who had arrived on site at 7.45am. They had metal shell ladders like mini scaffolding, tubes tied on with canvas cord, approximately 700 shells and a 12ft sq lancework smiley face. The Pyromate firing system was controlled from a laptop and this was to be its first proper use. They told me to look out for their 2 stage composite rockets, which fired to 1500/2000ft and 3 shells with fireball centres that were to fire two thirds of the way through the show.

The show included some incredibly loud maroons and started well. The smiley face was cute but it was too far away and unfortunately it started as a frown which went to a straight line then burnt out in the middle so that someone behind me started singing 'all I want for Christmas are my 2 front teeth'. There were a few too many small gaps and no real tempo so it didn't seem to flow continuously. My non-firework friend Claire said 'not as impressive or as much variety as the first show', but she did like all the noise. When I asked everyone in general what they'd thought, the response I got was 'what finale?' and an 'Errm' followed by a long pause. This was not the sort of show that I would have expected from Tom and I wondered if maybe they'd had technical problems with the new firing system and whether maybe they should have test-driven it somewhere less important first. On a positive note, as Steve Britton said, 'The 2 stage rockets were special!'

Firing order (courtesy of Tom Archer) 3x5" Ti maroons; 45mm Single shot candles - 1x Red comet, Silver comet, repeated x3, 6x4" Red and spinners mine, 12x30mm Composite rocket with flash report, 6x4" Silver coconut with silver tails, 4x5" Red to silver strobe; 6x3" Blue star mines, 6x3" crackle mines, 12x4" Gold spider web, 4x5" Willow to blue, 1x8" Kamuro to blue; 20x3" Green and reports mines, 1x5" Silver saturn with green ring x8, 1x6" Green - dark - silver ring with green strobe tail x2; 18x45mm Silver comets Single shot candle, 3x6" Silver coconut palm with silver tails, 4x5" Blue to red fish, 4x5" Red to silver fish, 6x4" Silver spinners to crackle chaser, 4x5" Silver brocade w. silver strobe tail, 2x6" Silver falling leaves, 1x6" Silver falling leaves; 24x30mm Single shot Gold crossette comets, 20x3" Gold brocade, 12x4" Red to red strobe, 3x6" Red - dark - gold ring with red strobe tail, 4x5" Red strobe, 24x30mm Single shot Silver crossette comets; 20x3" Red peony, 12x4" White peony, 8x5" Blue peony, 3x6" Blue to red with silver pistil, 1x8" Blue chrys. with red pistil, 1x8" Red chrys with blue pistil, 1x10" Red to blue and silver; 6x4" Crackle comet, 12x30mm Composite rocket with flash report, 2x8" Kamuro to blue, 1x10" Kamuro to red; 6x4" Green crossette mines, 12x4" Dragon eggs, 4x5" Purple meteor, 4x5" Orange meteor, 3x6" Winter, 3x6" Crackle crossette; 18x45mm Single shot Gold comets, 20x3" Red peony, 12x4" White peony, 3x6" Green shooting stars, 3x6" Gold crossette, 3x6" Red shooting stars; 12x45mm Single shot Green comets, 6x75mm Red comets, 3x8" Fire flowers; 20x3" Gold peony with gold tail, 4x5" Red meteor, 3x6" Golden willow x2, 3x6" Battle in clouds, 1x10" Golden willow; 30x20mm silver Flight rockets, 30x20mm red Flight rockets, 4x5" Sea blue - dark - red, 4x5" Red - dark - sea blue; 10x3" Blue stars and reports mines, 20x3" Red peony, 12x4" Silver to silver strobe, 3x6" Red butterfly, 3x6" Red chrys. with silver strobe pistil; 6x4" Silver spinners to gold chaser Shell and Mine, 3x6" Gold crossette with rising gold tail, 3x6" Gold crossette with rising gold tail, 2x10" Gold crossette with rising gold tail; 20x3" Purple stars and whistles mines, 6x4" Sea blue with red strobe tail, 6x4" Blue peony, 6x4" Silver crossette with silver tail, 4x5" Red - dark - sea blue, 4x5" Sea blue - dark - red, 2x8" Red - dark - gold brocade with gold tail; 6x45mm Single shot Gold comets, 4x5" Gold saturn with green ring, 1x12" Gold brocade to green w. green pistil; 6x100mm Crackle comets, 6x4" Brocade x2, 4x5" Brocade x2, 3x6" Brocade x2, 3x6" Battle in clouds, 2x8" Brocade; 24x36 x 20mm Howling wolves Cake, 2x4" White tourbillions, 2x4" Silver crossette, 2x4" White tourbillions, 2x5" Silver crossette, 2x5" Red silver serpents, 2x5" Red tourbillions and reports; 6x45mm Single shot candle - Silver comets/Gold comets/Silver comets/Gold comets, 12x45mm Green comets, 18x45mm Red comets; 12x30mm Composite rocket with flash report, 12x4" Coconut with rising tails, 2x5" Silver saturn with green ring, 2x5" Green saturn with silver ring; 30x20mm green Flight rockets, 30x20mm gold Flight rockets, 6x4" Whistle to silver chaser Shell and Mine, 2x5" Red and silver crossing rings, 2x5" Red and silver crossing rings, 3x6" Silver falling leaves, 3x6" Silver falling leaves, 6x100mm White lightning comets; 8mm x 200 "Smiley face" lancework, 3x6" Silver to red butterfly, 3x6" Evening star, 3x6" Gremlins, 1x12" Silver brocade to red w. red pistil; 12x4" Red peony x2, 4x5" White chrys x4, 1x6" Blue chrys x5, 120 x2.5" flashing salute; 3x5" Ti maroons

Loads of people started migrating away after this show, which surprised me, but I guess they wanted to get a head start on the mass exodus that occurs on both nights after the shows finish. This is why I always book into a hotel these days, rather than spending 3 hours in the car trying to get out of the city. So don't say you haven't been warned!

Last to fire on day one was Spitfire, who have been trading on and off for 20 years, formerly as Meridan Pyrotechnics. 'Mac', one of the company directors was to be firing; he was also the person who got conned into talking to me! Their all male crew of 9 had arrived on site at 7am and, to use a quote from one of the crew, they were going to be 'chucking a bit of sperm about tonight'. Mac said they were going for symmetry including some nice fans, only 350 shells and a "spaced out waterfall creation".

The show had a very effective wide start and I was glad of the wide-angle lens on the video camera. The chaser fans were great, it was nice and symmetrical, really filled the sky with a variety of noise and height. I loved the Catherine wheel and there were no gaps. The only minor problems were that a trident of candles had 2 silver and 1 red and there was one stray gold willow after the finale. It was possibly a tiny bit slow on the waterfall but I take back everything I've said about waterfalls in the past because this worked splendidly - it was meant to look like the bow of a ship and it really did. 'All round very aesthetically pleasing' said Claire.

Firing Order (courtesy of Mac) Line 1: 3'' Maroon, 3'' Maroon, 3'' Maroon; Gold Cros Lidu UandO + Strobe, 3"4"6" Strobe shells Match to 4x Silv Casc Imp Mines, Red Crack Cros Cake Fan Mle; Inbound Silv 50mm Lidu Crack, Lidu Fan Silv + Crack BZ ; Y/F Twinkling Golden Willow, VLC Silv Cros Shell Fan 4"+ 6" Time Rain Cake + Col Mine, Lidu Gold Glitter + 10 S Dly; Mines + Shells Fan, 4" Silv Cross Mines + Y/F 6", Red Saturn W Crown Circle; Crackling 3'' + 4''+ 6'', Crackling 3'' + 4''+ 6'' , Crackling 3'' + 4''+ Broc Cros , Purp Coco Tri Fan 1/2 Time; Thunders Arc, 14 mm Flashing Thunders, Salute Cakes , 6'' Salute mines Delayed; Waterfall + Crown Fan of lidu, 25mm Silver Comets to Red Dly; Fan Cake 36 Shot BBts + Fan L, 3'' + 4'' + 5''+ 6'' Shells Timed Fan; 1.5'' Lidu Silver Cross UandIn, Wheel Special 3+3; Vlc Glitter Comets In, Vlc Glitter Comets In; Y/ F Red Cycas 6'', Tri Willow Cake + Match; 6'' Y/ F Coconut Crossette; 5'' Y/ F Shell , 8'' Y/ F Eight Hearts shell; 50mm Coco Mine candle Out, Z firing Silver comet cake D/F; 50mmSpinner Mine candle Out, Mine 3'' to 4'' to 6''to 8'' Ctr, Tri Fan Blue Peony; Dragon phoenix Fans +Parrot; 5 Off Shells Delayed Vulcan 4", Sequenced Silv Lidu; Crackle Shell Fan Crate 6x3'' + 4x4'' + 2x 6'' X 1x8''; 4'' Glittering silver to flash Shells 5 Fan; Crown candle fan on Tower, Blue Lidu 25mm; Sunflower Shells Y/ F; Multi Peony Panda Fan + green Strobe cake ctr, Y/ F Shells 4'' Golden Wave to blue; Fan crate Brocade Mines + Saturn Shells 3+5; Fan crate 3'' green Mines; Red 4'' Mines; Silver 6" Mines; 25mm Lidu Fan Gold. Line 2: Blue Fan Line on piss, 2'' Shells Fan x 12 Blue; 3'' shells Fan Sandling, Tri Cake Blue Peony; 4'' Shells Fan Y/ F; 6'' Shells Fan Y/ F; Red Lidu 50mm Crackle; Assorted Lidu Crossettes; Fan crate 4'' + 6'' Spangle Chrys + Crack Balls; 4'' CrateY/ F out Red G / Blue, 6'' Crate U Reddish gamboges; 8'' Fan Glittering Silver to Grn, Silver Crack Lidu F 50mm; 6'' Fan Pillar Shells; 6'' Fan Pillar Shells; Silv Lidu Fan 45mm UandO; 4'' Shells + Mines Serp Rep Y/ F Glittering Silv/ Flash; Alternating, Blue Candles Sequenced; 6'' F Red Eddy In Chrys; 6'' F 1/2 Red + 1/2 Circ; 6'' F Red / Blue peony; Fan 8'' + 6'' Crack Nishiki + Red Gam Crack, 6'' Thunder Mines F; Finale Shells - 3'' x 20 Brocade MLE, 4'' x 20 Brocade MLE, 6''x5 C Nishiki Crack Kamuro, 8''x2 Nishiki Crack Kamuro, 12x1 all hanging Nishiki Crack Kamuro; Maroon; Maroon; Maroon.

The crowd definitely preferred the Spitfire display, but the guys from Jubilee Fireworks and John Pitcher of Airburst Pyrotechnics thought the Festival show was best. But I knew, in typical Plymouth fashion, it was still all to play for! At 7.50am on day 2, there was a short sharp shower, which must have been irritating for the guys out on the wharf because they would have been in the throws of unloading their vans. The weather forecast at 8.30am was 22 C with northwesterly winds. Later that day I caught the ferry over to Mount Batten and bumped into some of the crew from Spitfire. They told me that they'd lost a fan, which was meant to go during the waterfall, and had to fire the next sequence early. They also said that Essex had lost a lot of stuff, including the finale but they didn't know why. This was only speculation at this point but it would explain the missing finale.

Day 2 also coincided with the annual Firework Conference, which Chris Pearce of Jubilee was chairing. I had chosen not to attend the entire conference this year, but I gate crashed around 1pm to chat with people and then stayed for a slide show by Richard Kempton. Weather wise it had been a pretty good day so far, but at around 3pm, as I headed out to the wharf, what happened? It started to rain and got decidedly nippy, which must have been really annoying for the day's competitors.

Whilst doing my roving reporter bit I bumped into some of the crew from Festival who said they had lost their finale shells, which incidentally was the only material fused on Vulcan quick match. I also got a chance to talk to Essex who clarified that they'd lost 200 finale shells due to a maroon blowing a box during the smiley face.

Anytime Fireworks were first to fire on Wednesday and I spoke to the owner Allan Vincent who said that the all male crew of 8 had arrived on site at 8am, so luckily had missed the rain. They were using a firing system that they leased from Pyrovision and were firing between 700 to 800 shells. The 'specials' to look out for were single shot candles, loads of crown brocade, crossover red comet to red/blue, red one side then switching. They had racks tied to the wharf railings and there was a huge 135s fan cake with a gross weight of 22kg.

At 5pm when I left the wharf, it was cool and dry, but, by 9.20pm, it had chilled and there were spots of rain, which luckily stopped by 9.30 when the show started. There were definitely more spectators on this night and we settled down for another night of fun and fireworks.

The show itself was great; it had perfect chases, great rings and pattern shells including a smiley face that was unfortunately upside down and an amazing amount of glitter which a nearby child called 'fairy dust'. It was bang on 10 minutes but there was a large shell burst that went very low in a penultimate sequence, which caused a little concern. 'It was fab' said the crowd, and 'we liked that one'.

Firing order (courtesy of Steph) 3x3" Titanium maroons; 3x4" Mines with flash, 4x60mm Flash serpent candles; 10x29mm single crackling comet crossettes; 3x45mm chip comets yellow glitter and green mag stars Panzera; 3x4" mines silver torbillion with flash, 6x4" red crackling crossette; 3x5" crackling crossette; 3x6" red crackling crossette; 1x100shot sparkler tree barrage; 6x4" red crackling crossette; 6x5" red crackle crossette shells; 12x38mm silver crossette candles; 3x4" silver torbillion mines, 6x4" red crackle crossette; 6x5" red crackle crossette; 1x8" red crackle crossette; 10x30mm glitter to blue candles; 10x30mm glitter to red candles; 1+2x4" gold crackling comet mine with blue peony with coconut pistil; 1+2x4" gold crackling comet mine with blue peony with coconut pistil; 1+2x4" gold crackling comet mine with blue peony with coconut pistil; 1+2x4" gold crackling comet mine with blue peony with coconut pistil; 1+2x4" gold crackling comet mine with blue peony with coconut pistil; 4x4" gold comets to titanium flash mines; 3x6" thousand crackling palms tails; 3x59mm gold glitter comets; 3x59mm gold glitter comets; 6x4" blue peony, 3x5" brocade crown to blue; 6" blue peony with palm core; fanned barrage blue brocade with thunder rain; 6x4" and 3x5" blue peony, 6" blue peony with palm core; 6x4" and 3x5" blue peony, 6" blue peony with palm core; 8" golden palm tree shell; 10" gold brocade; 100shot 3 whistles barrage, 5x4" whistle mines/hummer mines/silver torbillion with reports, 5x5" silver whistling spinners mines; 1x160shot thunderstorm barrage; 20x3" titanium flash maroons; 5x4" mine yellow illuminating comet; 3x45mm candles citron and lilac bombettes; 4x4" glitter to red mines; 4x4" glitter to blue mines; 6x4" purple peony with coconut tree pistil; 3x5" purple chrys; 6x4" purple peony with coconut pistil; 3x5" purple chrysanthemum; 2x6" purple crossette; 8" purple chrys; 100 shot purple and green crackling scape barrage; 3x4" green to purple; 3x5" green diadem to purple; 3x4" green to crackling; 3x5" purple chrys; 1x5" green and purple crossette; 3x4" purple peony with coconut tree pistil; 3x4" purple peony with coconut tree; 3x5" silver dahlia; 2x6" purple chrys; 6x5" silver dahlia; 3x6" purple chrys; 1x8" silver Kamuro; 3x4" half red half green; 3x4" half red half white; 3x5" half purple half white; 3x5" half red half green; 1x6" half blue half silver; 1x300 shot red crackling crossette fan barrage; 3x5" crackling flowers; 6x5" crackling flowers; 6x6" crackling flowers; 300 shot silver whirl barrage; 3x5" red bees; 3x5" yellow bees; 3x6" yellow bees; 3x4" strobe willow; 3x5" strobe willow; 1x6" silver strobe willow; 6x4" silver strobe willow; 6x5" silver strobe willow; 3x6" silver strobe with willow; 8" silver strobe willow; 1x10" silver willow; 20x28mm crossette candles in red and blue; 10x4" silver crossette mines, 10x4" red crossette mines, 10" red coconut tree shell; 6x5" silvery gold Kamuro; 3x4" gold crackling crossette; 3x5" gold crossette; 6x4" gold crackling crossette; 6x5" gold crackling crossette; 3x6" gold crackling crossette; 1x8" gold crackling crossette, 100 shot Royal salute barrage; 3x4" red peony; 3x4" silver peony; 3x4" blue peony; 6" red white and blue willow; 3x4" red ring; 3x4" blue ring; 3x4" silver ring; 3x5" double ring; 3x5" triple ring; 6" spiral ring; 6" atomic rings; 8" five rings; 6" butterfly; 6" smiling face; 6" green snail; 6" straw hat; 6" triangle in circle; 100 shot wonderful sight barrage; 3x4" silver spinners to crackle; 3x4" green to crackle; 3x4" silver spinners to crackle; 3x4" silver spinners to crackle; 3x5" green chrys; 3x4" silver spinners to crackle; 3x4" green to crackle; 3x4" silver spinners to crackle; 3x5" green chrys; 6" green crossette; 8" green to crackle; 3x45mm multicolour magnesium bombettes Panzera; 18 + 9 4"and5"shells with colour changes matched in pairs of the same colour; 18 + 9 5"and6" matched in pairs of the same colour; 3x45mm gold to blink candles; 8" gold palm; FINALE: 3x100shot multicolour triple break fan barrages; 5x4" gold crackling spider; 5x4" gold crackling spider; 5x4" time rain; 5x4" gold Kamuro; 5x4" time rain; 5x4" gold Kamuro; 30x4" assorted multi effect; 18x5" Assorted colour effect; 3x6" multicolour chrys; 3x6" gold Kamuro; 3x6" thousand crackling; 6" silvery gold Kamuro/crackling flowers/silver crossette; 6" blue to gold to purple peony/silver peony with red pistil/blue peony with yellow pistil/green peony with blue pistil/willow to silver crown/5 point star in ring; 3x8" thousand Kamuro; 3x8" 1000 chrys; 3x8" willow to silver crown; 3x8" timed rain; 5x4" double break colour; 5x4" multibreak colour and noise cylinder; 20x3" Titanium maroons on 1 sec delay; 1fs mixed effects alternate x3", 4", 5" 9x5" fanned gold Kamuro; 8" gold willow; 8" brocade crown; 12" twinkling to brocade diadem chrys; 3x3" Titanium maroons.

Second to fire on day 2 were The London Firework Company, known as LFX, whose parent company are Emergency Exit Arts. Les Sharpe told me that 'the show was built around the palm sequence, with sequences repeated each side of it. This helped produce an overall aesthetic/coherent show design. The other factor was the rhythmic, percussive and powerful nature of the show. It is true to our house style, a very Spanish influenced display'. He also said that the 8 all male crew had arrived on site at 7am; they were firing around 1500 shells, 1704 individual fireworks, no cakes because of timings, mainly Kimbolton and Imperial material and, when I asked if they were doing anything special he replied 'the very loud start but not as loud as the end, 100 maroons in 15secs'. Also criss-cross single shot candles and a 180 fill of mines. Their firing system had been hired from Pyrovision and their site layout was stuck on the side of the van, which struck me as a very good way not to lose it. Shells were broken down into the following quantities: 2"x130, 3"x704, 4"x360, 5"x141, 6"x80, 8"x12, 10"x3 and 12" x1.

The show was certainly loud and personally I didn't like the use of so many maroons but that's probably just me getting old. There were some great shells and a lot of slow burn glitter which I loved; it had great width and the finale certainly had the wow factor. There were a couple of dead hush moments, but nothing major. To quote those around me: 'well co-coordinated' - Jill Lawn, 'used the sky very well' 'overlaps were very good' 'well layered' - John Pitcher, 'gappy beginning' - unknown and my favourite was from a child standing next to us who called the gold palms 'Dougals'. The crowd enjoyed it and as Les Sharpe himself said, 'the audience were cheering from half way through the finale sequence'.

Firing order (courtesy of Les Sharpe) Seq 1 - 3 maroons; Seq 2 - maroon sequence; Seq 3 - 8x60mm single shot silver comet candles, 10 maroons over; Seq 4 - ditto x8 gold on opposite angle; Seq 5 - ditto 16 silver crossing; Seq 6 - ditto crackle crossing; Seq 7 - single lift 3x6" Brocade, 8x3" Tit maroons, 5x4" blue rings; Seq 8 - 25secs silver and green 30x2", 30x3", 15x4" with 25 x 3" and 4" torbillion, crossette and crackle mines, big lift of 55x3" 7 4" shells and mines; Seq 9 - Effects - 10x30mm silv tail/flash candles and 95x3" and 4" shells and mines (whistles, screechers, hummers, serps, torb and maroons); Seq 10 - single detonation again 5x5" identical shells each lift, 8 detonations, finale 5x5" Spanish red, 8 maroons, 16x60mm red glitter single shot candles; Seq 11 - leading into palm sequence - silver to blue to gold with layers created with 14x45mm and 50mm silver comet and crossette candles, angled 3" silv comet mines and 4" blue w/gold brocade mines, 30x3" silv and blue shells, 15x4" silv and gold, 5" and 6" gold glitter crossettes at end; Seq 12 - acutely angled mainly gold palm sequence - 20x3", 20x4", 20x5", 8x6", 2x8" Seq 13 - red to gold similar to seq 11 but with more material; Seq 14 - single detonations similar to seq 10 but mainly 6" shells plus 5x5" gold glitter crossette, 2x6" Tai shell of shells, 1x10" Kamuro twinkling white; Seq 15 - yellow to blue 60x3", 30x4", 3x5", 3x6" Seq 16 - blue to silver with rings 60x3", 35x4", 3x5", 3x6", 1x8" Seq 17 - silver to red with meteors 60x3", 40x4", 2x5", 4x6", 1x8" Seq 18 - red to red and green 60x3", 60x4", 9x5", 10x6", 1x10", the final lift was 10" green crossette, 3x6" red crossettes together with 22x3" and 4" Seq 19 - maroon sequence - 60x3" in 14 secs followed by 30, plus 5x5" in one lift; Seq 20 - gold finale - very powerful, gold chrys changing to brocade half way through the sequence, 90x3", 65x4", 19x5", 15x6", 5x8", 1x10", followed by a single lift of 40x3" gold willow and gold to crackle, 15xgold chrys, 5x5" crossette glitter, 3x6" gold chrys, 2x8" gold chrys, 1x12" brocade w/red pistil.

The closing show was to be provided by Jubilee, and, having seen what they had achieved at the Shugborough festival, I was expecting great things from them today. I spoke to Andy Wiggins who was in charge and also to Rodney Clarke. They told me that they had arrived on site at 7am and I was impressed that 2 out of the 9 crew were female. They were firing approximately 600 shells and were using a Fire1 firing system as well as their own manual electric box.

The show was brilliant! Very artistic, with stunning purple/greens. The Australia sequence looked great, the shape shells to represent a deck of cards actually worked and the only minor problem was that something from LFX's show fired 30mtrs away on their site during this show but it didn't matter because, by sheer fluke, the colours happened to match. 'Very colour co-ordinated' said Claire, 'Stunning strobes' said Steve Britton, 'Played the height/different effects within colour groups/layering/used the sky very well' and 'I think they've got it' from John Pitcher.

Firing order (given verbally on the day by Andy) 3", 4", 5", 6", 8", 10", 12" shells with single shot candle frontage, overlaid; fan cakes, 3"and4" shells, flurry of 3", 4", 5", 6", 12" 5", 8" shells over 30mm candles; "blarey noise" 3 stage whistles, report shells, hummers etc, 4" cylinder shells; 30mm candles, up to 8" shells, blue and gold spangle sequence; fan cake, double break shells, 8" palm; 30mm 100shot cakes, 4", 5", 6", 8" shells; 6" shape shells including a deck of cards; 11 firing points across the front to be fired by the Fire1 system; a nice mine sequence with a bit of a surprise; 3 arches, 2 small, 1 big, colour changing colour pots, Spanish candles overlaid with German and Italian shells; 2" candle fan of 15, silver strobe willows over the top; an expensive sequence using the best quality German red to silver colour change strobe; colour change, gold and crackle final hit which should be intense, Kamuro rather than willow. Plan of show: British - blue and gold to red to silver to multicolour - similar to a sequence they used in Macao to open an International competition; American - red and silver; Italian colour - green and purple delicate crossette effects; Italian noise - mixed noise effects; Spanish - blue and yellow; Spanish - red and green with palm effects; Chinese - brocade to blue; Japanese - special patterns, deck of cards (quote "we took a gamble on this"); Australian - comet chaser sequence replicating the Sydney Harbour Bridge displays - computer fired wave effects; Australian - colour sequenced mines - computer fired; French - yellow flitter and green - Arc de Triumph; Japanese - silver willow to strobe; German - red to silver strobe transformation; British (Jubilee) - three-colour change finale green to yellow to purple with terminal noise statement - a seamless colour progression with a climactic volley of noise

So, shows over and what did we think? Well most of my entourage and I thought that the winning order would be Jubilee first with Spitfire and Festival fighting it out for second place, although Richard Kempton thought it would be a close thing between Jubilee and LFX for first place and between Spitfire and Festival for third. As it happens, between all of us, we weren't too far wrong as the actual order was Jubilee first, LFX second and Festival third. Supposedly, there was only 1 point between first and third and 0.4 of a point between first and second so it really was anybody's game but, personally, I can never work out where the fractions of points come from. Oh well, I guess that bit doesn't really matter because most people seemed to agree that Jubilee pulled out all the stops and were best on the night.

Well I guess that's another year over and this year's competition is just about to happen. So all that's left is to say good luck to all those who are competing and please don't look too scared when I accost you on the wharf!

Note to self: Set up a pitch on the Hoe earlier this time, to avoid another ruckus. Those who were there in 2003 will know exactly what I mean!

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