How To Put On A Spectacular Fireworks Display
Illustration by Mr Giordano Poloni
Follow our guide to impress your friends this celebratory season, with a hand-fired show from the comfort of your own garden.
It’s that time of year again. The nights are lengthening. The air is… sort of… crisping up. The natural instinct is to gather in groups and watch things explode in the air, so that’s what we do. It’s time to bring on the fireworks. Of course, whether you’re celebrating Diwali, Bonfire Night or New Year’s Eve, the easiest way to enjoy these nocturnal effusions is to stand around and wait in a crowded public place while someone else does it all for you. But that doesn’t mean you should never try to attempt it yourself. In fact, the bespoke firework experience can be both awe-inspiring and rewarding, as long as it’s carried off with aplomb. To find out how it’s done best, we turned to pyrotechnics expert Reverend Ron Lancaster, the chairman of the UK’s only remaining UK fireworks manufacturer Kimbolton Fireworks. Having orchestrated displays for such illustrious events as London’s official New Year’s Eve celebrations and the 2012 Olympics ceremonies, he’s more than equipped to help you light up your back garden this winter. Scroll down for his top five tips:
THINK IT THROUGH
Fireworks, though fun, are also dangerous. Reverend Lancaster says that the best way to avoid the risks is to take a realistic approach to the space you have available. “Each firework will have an individual distance on it for how far away you need to be once it’s lit. Smaller ones will require five or eight metres, but bigger one’s need around 25 metres, which tends to restrict you,” he says. In other words, if you’re thinking of wowing your guests from your penthouse roof terrace, you might want to consider a nice sparkler instead.
CHOREOGRAPH YOUR EXPLOSIONS
“For a group of adults who want something decent and have the capacity, you don’t want to be setting off little rockets one by one,” says Reverend Lancaster. Instead, he suggests mixing different types of fireworks to build up to a climax at the end with bigger pieces that offer a “prolonged explosion”. “There’s no great art,” he says “It’s just common sense.” Start with the smaller pieces and individual rockets and fountains, and then rotate the different varieties of fireworks to hold your audience’s attention until the finale, when the multi-shot boxes and cakes of roman candles will have the most dazzling effect.
SECURE YOUR LIGHTER
We all know that there’s no smoke without fire, and there’ll be no joyful explosions if you’ve forgotten to bring something to light them with. If you’re buying a mixed pack or larger pieces, check that they come with a punk lighter or incense-type stick, which is safer than a regular match or lighter and burns slowly without an open flame. If you want to take the traditional route, Reverend Lancaster recommends using rope, as it stays alight and glows when you blow on it. “Old-fashioned rope, however,” he advises “not the modern plastic material, which just melts.”
PLAN YOUR ATTACK
“If you’re doing a display with several fireworks, you’ve got to know where to find them when it’s dark,” says Reverend Lancaster. He advises a minimum of two people as lighters. Arrange your fireworks in the daylight, on sturdy surfaces, such as concrete slabs (to avoid wobbling, wayward shots) and split them into sections so each designated lighter can “memorise their patch”. This will avoid mood-killing lulls in action, collisions in the dark, and any forgotten fireworks.
SET THE SCENE
As with any successful gathering, you need to consider the wellbeing of your guests. “If it’s a nice night and you’ve got something nice to eat and drink, are wrapped up well and have a fire, then set fireworks off for about 15-20 minutes,” says Reverend Lancaster. Make some mulled wine, stack up some blankets and put out some chairs so people can get comfortable. Another tip is to try adding music to your display to help create the atmosphere – and no, Ms Katy Perry’s “Firework” is the not the perfect choice. Reverend Lancaster advises classical music for best effect: a section from Mr Paul Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” for noisier, crackling and whirling sections, and something like Mr Maurice Ravel’s “Boléro” for a dramatic finish.