Keeping up the energy

Fireworks crew silhouetted against the explosions and sparks at a training event

The best parts of running a fireworks company all take place outdoors. Meeting clients, visiting venues, planning a display to fit the location… and of course firing the display itself. We fire a lot of our shows by hand so we’re often in the middle of things.

We’re out in the dark in the middle of a field. We can hear the crowd getting ready and wanting the show to start. We’ve been there for hours setting everything up. Checking it. Checking it again. Making sure it will all go to plan.

There’s a countdown. 10, 9, 8…

And we’re off. There are fireworks exploding at our feet and right above our heads. We have full PPE of course, and we have strict safety procedures. Even on the shows fired by computer, when we can be up to half a mile away, we get the very best view of the fireworks as they fill the night sky. The tension, the excitement, the noise, the flashes, the colours… there’s nothing to beat it.

But now COVID is here, and lockdown has more or less confined me to the office. It’s all work that has to be done, but fatigue can certainly set in. So I try to follow these rules to keep my energy levels high. You might like to try them yourself, wherever you work.

  • Keep a list of tasks that need doing, but don’t let it get too long (it just gets dispiriting).
  • Start your day with a couple of quick wins so you feel like you are making progress. 
  • Have a “top jobs” section on your list – no more that 3 things which really need attending to today. 
  • Even within that list have ONE priority task for the day, and (whatever else happens) make some progress on that task.
  • Notice your own energy levels and the times of day when you are most productive. Focus on your priority task at those times. Leave the other, shorter, less-important tasks to tick off when you have less energy.
  • Take regular breaks. These can be at set times (11:00 13:00 and 16:00 in my case) when I can drink, eat, see other people, and touch base with the real world.
  • Stay hydrated – but not too much caffeine
  • Reward yourself when you’ve done a big task. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get everything done.
  • And – I know it’s a bit quirky – even if you are working from home, you can walk or cycle to work and back home again at the end of the day. I try to walk a mile before work, and the same at the end of the day. It helps focus my mind before I start and to unwind at the end.

And if you want to plan a fireworks display to mark the day you finally emerge from your own lockdown… you know where to come! Because we’ll have done all the office work and we’ll be ready to help you celebrate!

Why do we have fireworks on New Year’s Eve?

New year fireworks with midnight clock and champagne glasses
Fireworks spelling out Happy New Year 2120
Fireworks for New Year

Fireworks and New Year’s Eve go together like… well like fireworks and Bonfire Night, or fireworks and weddings, or fireworks and “because I’ve liked them since I was a kid.”

But why do we have them on New Year’s Eve in particular?

Before we can answer that question we need to ask two others.
Why do we celebrate New Year’s Eve at all? 
And why do we celebrate the New Year on the 1
stJanuary? 

Crowd of people looking at bonfire

Why do we celebrate New Year’s Eve at all?
Imagine that you lived in a time before diaries and calendars. Thousands of years ago, people knew that it got cold and dark in winter. They knew that the leaves fell of the trees, that the crops stopped growing, that their hunting grounds were empty, that the rivers froze and (particularly) that the days got shorter and shorter, while the nights got longer and longer.

They knew that they needed more fuel for their fires, and that there was less time to find it. They knew they had to eat whatever reserves of food they had managed to build up since the harvest. They knew that some animals would disappear from their woods and fields. And that others would come looking to steal their food – or even to attack them.

They knew that these longer, darker nights would be hard and scary. They were scared that spirits would be roaming, and needed ways of frightening them off. They would have fires in their homes, and already believed that these were keeping the demons at bay.

And they also believed that, however dark and scary these nights might seem, there would come a time when the days would begin to lengthen again. They would eventually feel the slow drift back into spring, when the crops would grow. When the sun would regain some of its warmth.

And they had learned that this happened every year. On a day which could be recognised by the patterns of the sun and the moon, and by the way that sunshine would strike a particular stone or monument in the morning. 

But what if that day didn’t come again? Might they be stuck in endless cold and darkness? Might the sun fade further and further away, never to return? Might the gods, or the moon, or the clouds take it away forever? And was there anything they could do to make sure that this didn’t happen?

They began to invent rituals which could force the year to turn. They held winter festivals on the darkest of days. They chanted and sang to the stars, the gods, or whatever powers were in control. They made sacrifices. And lit ceremonial fires. Fires which sent sparks and embers into the sky. Sparks and embers which might even turn into stars and sunlight. These rituals developed and grew.

And the festivals worked! For the sun did return, the days did lengthen, the crops did grow agan, and the people thrived.

Calendar showing January 1st

But why do we celebrate the New Year on the 1stJanuary? 
We know that the winter solstice – when the shortest day and the longest night mark the middle of winter – is actually the 21stDecember. And it is a day which is crying out for us to add light and colour to the sky. It would be a perfect symbolic day for fireworks. It’s why I am writing this post today in the dark of my office, with the rain rattling the windows. But not everyone sees this as the day to celebrate mid-winter.

The earliest human societies of Mesapotamia (near modern day Iraq) celebrated their New Year in March (at the vernal equinox). The Ancient Greeks celebrated their winter festival on the solstice. Christmas is on the 25thDecember (or 6thJanuary in some countries). Hanukkah is celebrated in December or even in November. Diwali comes earlier still, near the beginning of the month of Kartik. Kwanzaa is celebrated in parts of Africa over the five days between December 26thand January 1st. Tschäggättu (no I can’t pronounce it either) isn’t celebrated in Switzerland till February. All of these festivals have used lights, fire and rituals to note and ensure the turning of the year.

Any society which uses the Gregorian Calendar has January 1stas New Year’s Day. It is the start of the month named after “Janus” the two-faced Roman god who had one face looking back at the past and the other looking to the future. 

Scientists now tells us that January 1st is the day when the earth is closest to the sun as it moves on its celestial journey. But it’s an accident that we call it the first day of the year. January the 1st even moved by 10 days when Pope Gregory XIII replaced the Roman Calendar with the Gregorian Calendar we use to this day.

It’s all a bit of a coincidence.

And why fireworks?
They give us light to restore the missing sunshine. Fire to warm the night and the soul. Explosions to scare away the demons and the evil spirits. Colour to replace the drab dark days. Magic to bring back a touch of wonder. Parties to encourage the return of spring.

They help us to celebrate the fact that life continues whatever the winter has thrown at us – and let’s face it parts of this winter have been pretty grim.

Of course there will be fireworks at New Year.

And there always will be.

Family looking at a firework in their garden at night

Feedback and reviews

Thumbs up for a big thank you

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a bit tired with companies who pester me for reviews and feedback. I understand why it’s important to them, but I find it annoying when I get emails saying “How do you like your new 10mm self-tapping screw?” “How did we do with your query to our help desk?” or “Click here to provide feedback on your insurance renewal experience.” Here’s a genuine one from today:-

Standard eBay product review request for feedback

All of this makes me reluctant to ask our customers for feedback and reviews on their fireworks. I’d prefer their comments to be unsolicited and genuine.

So some of the things that people have said to us this year, by email, in person, by text or carrier pigeon are all the more pleasing…

“Thank you so much. Even better than last year.”

“Brilliant. I really appreciated your advice and the free delivery.”

“Fabulous. Best ever.”

“We’ll be in touch for our New Year fireworks.”

“I really like doing business with you.”

“You guys really know what you are doing. Thanks so much.”

“The products are so much better than the ones we’ve bought before from *******”

“Excellent service”

“Blimey, that was quick!”

And I can relate to this one which has just come in… “Would love to give you a glowing review but regrettably we are not on Facebook.”

Another successful Bonfire Night

Close up of pink and gold fireworks in the night sky

This year has been our best so far. We supplied our friends at Electrify with the fireworks for all their shows again – from Kent to Cheshire, from Oxfordshire to County Durham, from London to the Humber, crowds all over the country were treated to some of the best displays in the UK.

My own favourite show is always the one I fire for Electrify in my own village of Radcliffe on Trent. The local schools, sports clubs and voluntary organisations get together to organise a true community event, with a fun fair, live music, food and drink, novelties, and (of course) two firework displays. There’s a quiet one for the children and a spectacular show later on for the adults (and the children brave enough to stay on).

It’s what it’s all about for me – people gathering in the dark in the depths of autumn to celebrate the summer that’s passed and look forward to the cosy nights of winter. Never mind the wind and the rain. Wrap up warm and fill the sky with light and fire.

So thank you to all our customers, to all the people who came to watch a show, to the firers, to the clearer-uppers, to Lucy and Ian at Electrify, and to all the volunteers who made it a night to remember.

See you next year.

Can I light fireworks in the rain?

Fireworks reflected in a puddle

The simple answer is yes. You just need to make sure your fireworks don’t get wet before you light the fuse.

If the ground is damp, it’s a good idea to lay the firework on a plastic bag before you fix it to a stake. (Most professional companies fix their cakes like this to make sure they don’t fall over or bounce around).

Fanned Celtic Firework product safely secured and ready for firing
A fanned cake placed on a plastic bag as the grass is damp. Note how this fanned cake has a label telling you which way to point it.

If it’s really wet, if rain or heavy dew is expected, you can place the whole cake inside a plastic bag before taping it to the stake. Rip open the bag just before you light the fuse. The firework will easily burst through the rest of the bag once it gets going.

Fanned Celtic Firework product safely secured and waterproofed ready for firing
A fanned cake wrapped in a plastic bag and taped to a stake

But don’t cover rockets. They won’t burst through a bag. Just keep the fuse dry until the last minute.

And whatever you do, be safe. Follow the firework code. (Click here to see some sound advice from ROSPA.)

(Featured photo: Colby Stopa under a Creative Commons Licence on Flickr. With thanks)

How to prepare a safe firework display

People looking at fireworks bursting over the trees in a night sky

This is a longer blog post than usual. But it is important. If you are planning a fireworks display please read through it and make sure everyone goes home safe and happy.

1 Look closely at the site where you are going to have your display. Where are the hazards? Are there any overhanging trees? Flammable things like fences, sheds or rubbish? Plan your layout so that you minimise the risk of any danger.

2. Where will the audience stand? Will they be safe while they are watching? Observe the safety distances on the fireworks themselves. Category 2 fireworks (typically the smaller ones) have an 8 metre safety distance, whilst the larger category 3 fireworks have a 25 metre safety distance. If your back garden isn’t large enough for a category 3 firework then don’t buy them. Category 2 fireworks are now equally as impressive and so there’s no need to put your guests at risk.

3. Plan your layout according to the size and hazard of each firework. Have the smaller ones near the front, and the larger ones to the back. In our professional displays we often lay the fireworks in the order that we are going to fire them. This means we aren’t going backwards and forwards across the site. This is a neat example of a professional layout from Zeus Fireworks

4. If you are firing rockets remember that they track into the wind. This means that on a windy night they will head into the wind and not move in the direction of the wind. This is because the wind blows the rocket’s stick which then points its head into the wind. One to consider for safety reasons but also so it doesn’t disappear behind your house meaning that your guests miss the burst.

5. Who will light the fireworks? It needs to be a responsible adult, who will not be drinking, and who will help everyone follow the Firework Code.

6.  Secure your fireworks so they don’t fall over. Multi-shot barrage cakes (often referred to as cakes because they are shaped like a large Christmas cake) fire anything between 10 and 100 shots, which means once it’s lit it won’t stop. These are great value, because you get a longer firework display and each shot is pretty much like one rocket.  However, if they aren’t secured they can bounce around or fall over, which could lead to them firing in the direction of your audience.  Many instructions tell you to bury them up to a pre-prescribed line.  This is fine, however most professional firework companies will hammer a small wooden stake into the ground and gaffer tape the cake to the stake.  The cake’s not going anywhere then!  Although make sure you don’t tape over the fuse!

7.  Don’t let the fuse get wet, in fact don’t let your firework get wet. If your firework or green visco fuse get wet (in the rain or because the ground is damp) then it’s unlikely to light or fire all the way through.  If the ground is damp, lay the fireworks on a plastic bag. If you are expecting rain put the whole firework in a swing bin liner before securing it into place.  Give the bag a shake before you light it to shake away the water then just tear the bag to expose the fuse and light it.  The firework will fire through the bag just fine and it’ll stay dry – although unfortunately if it’s raining you and your guests won’t!!! Click here for more details.

8.  If it doesn’t go off, then do not return to it– sounds obvious, however as a professional firework firing team we’ve seen many fireworks go off seconds, minutes and on occasions hours after they’ve been lit. Just leave it, don’t go anywhere near it, don’t bring it back into the house.  Retrieve it the next day, and return it another day to the store that you bought it from.  They will dispose of it securely.

9.  Think of your pets. Most pets, especially cats and dogs hate fireworks. Never take your dog to a firework display unless you know they are OK around them. It’s best to keep your pets indoors once it gets dark over the couple of weeks that fireworks are being let off. Keeping curtains closed and the TV or Radio on fairly loud often means they don’t hear the fireworks.  If that doesn’t work, and your pet is particularly traumatised then speak to your vet.  There are treatments and clothing that your pets can wear to help them cope, however always seek a professionals advice.

9. Clean up afterwards. Spent fireworks are messy and may not all have gone off. Please don’t leave them lying around. Dispose of them thoughtfully. If in doubt, talk to your Local Authority or your fireworks supplier.

10. But whatever you do, think Safety First. If it doesn’t feel safe, it probably isn’t. So don’t do it. Promise yourself that you will do whatever it takes to let you and your audience go home safe and happy. Even if you have to leave your display for another evening.

(With acknowledgement to Electrify PyrotechnicsZeus Fireworks, ROSPA and others who offer safety information on-line. Click on their name for more detailed advice)

5 tips for a perfect Bonfire Night at home

Two hands holding a lit sparker

It’s getting to that time of year again. Remember, remember the 5th of November…

Hands holding a lit sparkler on bonfire night

If you are having a bonfire party at home this year, with friends, family and neighbours, follow these five important points.

  1. Only buy fireworks from a reputable source. Not the guy down the pub. Not the car-boot sale. Not the buy-one-get-three-free rip off merchants. They will only sell you disappointment, and the fireworks may not even be safe.
  2. Prepare your display in advance and in the light. Work out all your safety distances and stick to them.
  3. Decide who is going to let the fireworks off. It needs to be a responsible adult who won’t have been drinking, and who wants everyone to be able to go home safely.
  4. Keep pets indoors, with someone who can calm them down if they get worried by your fireworks (or someone else’s)
  5. Ask someone to be the safety monitor. They have the final say on anything.
  6. Yes, we know we said 5 tips. But the last one is to check the other advice here.

Professional Display Fireworks

Professional fireworks burst in the night sky

Peak Fireworks can supply Category 4 fireworks to other professional companies. We have a wide range of shells, mines, candles, single shots and stage pyro.

These fireworks are ONLY for use by licensed, insured, and qualified professionals.

Please contact us if you  have any requirements. But please note: you will be required to provide us with evidence of suitable insurance, storage licence, and professional competence before we can supply you with any Category 4 explosives.

If you do not have these  documents we cannot sell you these fireworks.

But please look at our full range of Category 3 fireworks – many of which are perfectly adequate for a high quality display.

Our new Flickr photostream

Montage of professional fireworks in night sky

We’ve just launched our new Flickr photo stream where you can see our own photos of some of the best displays we have worked on over the years.

We’ll update this stream from time to time, so please follow it if you are a Flickr user (it’s free to join). Flickr is more specialist than Instagram, not least because you can download images direct from the site in high res and use them under a Creative Commons Licence (but not for commercial purposes).