National Firework Championships

August 10th - 11th 1999 is on this page

Mount Batten Breakwater, Plymouth Sound, UK


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.......and a little firework heritage too, actually rather a lot!..

is HERE!

Original Pains, Brocks, Astra, Rainbow, Standard, Wilders, and Wells Fireworks, Labels and Boxes and the actual item itselftit.jpg (3839 bytes) tit3.jpg (6102 bytes)  tit6.jpg (12459 bytes)

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"It is important that the industry knows it (the competition) is evolving well - with Tom Smith as a totally independent umpire - (which is) really vital"

Bill Deeker, Managing Director of Pains Fireworks.

Plymouth is a truly beautiful city by the sea, truly a jewel set within the frame of Plymouth Sound, one of the world`s great natural harbours. Plymouth has a curious mix of ultra new mingling with the very old. Of blue seas and panoramic views. Of pedestrian freeways, where children may ramble on the footpaths safe from traffic, and play in a traditional travelling fair accompanied by the sounds of old whistle organs and cawing seagulls. Of new architecture next to centuries old antique and curio shops; cafes among the ghosts of centuries of maritime trade, picnics among stunning views, and sunny isolation.   Even the "Taxi" goes on the water. Click here for more Plymouth and Plymouth heritage web pages from Steve Johnson.

.......So it`s no big surprise that this pier, known as Mount Batten Breakwater is a particularly good firing site for mega firework displays! This link here:- FIREWORKS: 1998 PLYMOUTH FIREWORK COMPETITION  will take you to last years1998 competition page, and give you an insight into the rules and regulations - little has changed for 1999, except the amount of expenses available to the contestants has increased a little in line with many other costs which we all must share in daily living, 200 accommodation and 4,800 materials.The other major change this year in comparison to last,  was the lack of hotdogs, hamburgers, Mars bars and cold Coke cans handed out to me! Next years contestants please take note!

This year we had 6 companies taking part, in firing order they were: First night - Viking Fireworks, Happy Dragon Fireworks, Phoenix Fireworks.   Second night - Dragonfire Fireworks, Fantastic Fireworks, Cosmic Fireworks.

What shows we had! OK lets get on with it, we will look at each of the competitors set ups and some of the actual displays. Let me say that the photos of the displays do not do them justice, also I do not have some contestants displays on film. Why? Dozens of little kids marching up and down past my photographic spot and using my tripod legs as a hand hold on the slippery grass!!!!

I would like to thank Jon Culverhouse of Fantasic Fireworks and Ian Craig of Phoenix Fireworks for facilitating my entry to the site.Also many thanks are due to Ian Blackhouse, of Plymouth City Council - who sponsor the event.

Please also note that the photos below are just a selection of what was used..and as web space is not never ending, many are compressed and have lost quality. Whether I took a photo of it or not could well depend on the angle of the sun, space to get around it, and whether I needed a tea break! In all cases I would would say I have missed more than I recorded. It is a light hearted look to give folks a look "behind the scenes."

Phoenix Fireworks from Dartford, Kent  established in 1972

Ian Craig had a team of 6 on site, including one travelling Fireworker from Australia. Phoenix had some snazzy decorated mortars, which made them as interesting as mortar tubes can be. Much tinfoil was used in their rig to guard against rain and flashovers. The Spanish flight rockets were fired from cones, while the large shell-burst type rockets were from Vulcan! It appears to me that Vulcan are taking us over!! they seem to be everywhere, but they are really good it must be a friendly invasion. The Vulcan rockets certainly brighten the rig up!

At the top of some very long and heavy wooden poles were fountains, probably from Australia at a guess. Good use was made of large multishot and large calibre cakes.

These small but very effective plastic shells are also from Spain and very effective for their small size. These shells are rather more meaty! These decent large bore Roman candles are being laid out prior to final positioning.

Happy Dragon Fireworks from Emneth, Norfolk established in 1984

Phil Morley also had a team of 6 on site. He estimated that his display would include approximately 1,000 shells and bombettes.Here we see one of the team setting up a Bengal Light, while here is Phil Morley himself and a "friend!" In recent months, small Chinese garden rockets, displaying a small flare on a paper parachute have been made publicly available under the British Standard. They are OK, but when fired in large numbers, as here, the effect is all together different. They are being fired not from cones, but by the novel method of firing them a bunch at a time from shell mortar tubes.The High Street versions of the "Para Fly" rocket is more gaily wrapped and labelled. Apart from these, Happy Dragon also had Spanish flight rockets, which judging by this - came by the bunch!

These shells  have small "flowers" attached to them to function during the shells ascent. The red paper on these shells is to protect their "tails"...a streaking blazing light trail that follows the shell into the sky. The pier is very popular with anglers, however this is a prize catch of a different sort. This is his catch to date?!! Speaking of water, Happy Dragon were I believe the only company to use "aquatic fireworks" this year. Last year many of the competitors used them. In case you do not know, aquatic fireworks are similar to a mine that fires horizontally out on to the water, it discharges units that float...after an interval they burst while floating on the waters surface, being ignited by waterproof fuse....very eye-catching..sort of "bouncing stars!"

One of the things that struck me about this years displays was the intelligent and varied use of all sizes of Roman Candles. They were fired in rows, batteries, barrages and most interesting of all in sorts of twisted and turned and spiral and helical formed clusters...whatever does he mean?!

Viking Fireworks from Kent established in 1984

Mark Dempsey had a team of 7 on the site. His pride was to be a stunning finale of 2 shells of 12 inch and an 8 inch, all from Santai.

...And they used "NoMatch."...hmmm, what`s that? Well in case you do not know it`s the latest British invention in the pyro world. Rather than use miles of quick match linked to more miles of electrical wire, "NoMatch" is a pinkish hollow plastic like tube that does not get itself into knots or cause folks to trip up!!! clips together like Lego and at junctions uses a "T" piece to connect sections.An ignition at one end travels at supersonic speed throughout the tubular circuit and fires the items attached to it.

As I said earlier I got the feeling that this year there was more of "lots of little" and less of "few of large" in regard to the items used. Showing this very well here ( and to effect in the display) are these two happy folks! They made great use of lots of small shells...and also lots and lots of very small calibre Roman candles. Look at this lot!...and these as well, what wonderful boxes they have made to hold these candles.

These were backed up by rows of 40-50mm candles.  Here some are awaiting placing within the rig. Interestingly along this theme of lots of small, we see even some barrages being used albeit in quantity, that the public could buy in the High Street come Nov 5th. Like most companies they decided to put their rig under wraps in case it rained.

Fantastic Fireworks (winners 1997) from Pepperstock in Luton (Rocket Park!)

Jon Culverhouse MD of Fantastic Fireworks put his display manager Andrew Goldsmith at the helm of his companies efforts this year. Fantastic won in 1997 and then went on to represent the UK at the international firework competition at San Sebastian in Spain in 1998. For this years display they were the only competitor to use Crown Wheels. The firing point at the end of Mount Batten Breakwater pier, is one of the few locations where devices such as these can safely be fired...they can be a tad erratic in their flight! Andrew had a team of 8 with him. Among their armoury this year were 5 shells at 12 inches, and 40 Roman candles of 3 inch calibre.For their final hit they had a 12inch shell that was to carry a little passenger called "Lucky 2" ...hardly an appropriate term for having a live 12 inch shell fired under your bottom! (Lucky 1 met his or her end in the same fashion in 1997!) Fantastic`s Simon Patterson is seen here about to put Lucky in the hot seat!

Of special interest to me, as I had never seen any before, were cylindrical Spanish multi-break effect shells..I believe they were 6 inch. Unusual too was the row of synchronised 100mm mines. ....designed to open like a curtain in a theatre.

Andrew Goldsmith is seen here with a Spanish cylinder shell and here is a different one. Here we can see the Crown Wheels being prepared, as you see they are a little like flying Catherine Wheels and are launched from a pointy nail placed vertical...they then spin up on this pint and fly off. There were two types, this one...and that one. A 12 inch shell waits for the count!

This lady member of Fantastic found the Spanish shells of interest!!!!!!!!!!.."as with most things in life....size matters!" that 4 cms???(UK folks will get this re a TV ad for a car`s suspension or something!! )

In this photo we see large bore Roman candles and large cakes, while here we see a forest of mortar tubes.

This company made a professional video of the whole event and all the displays, available at cost in a variety of formats for home and overseas pyros, e-mail for info.

Cosmic Fireworks of Birmingham established 1989

Rup Bagha is the MD of Cosmic Fireworks and he had 6 staff on site. Of special interest was the synchronised row of 60 3 inch and 4 inch mines of varying types, designed to function as a giant "Mexican wave"...just look at the length of that tinfoiled quick match! Cosmic certainly had a lot of big shells and big mortars to go with them....this little lot definitely looks good to me! I just love photos of big shells! ...and some more! ...and some little dinky ones! ..and some middle sized ones..OK, OK, that`s enough! Once again there was much intelligent use of various calibre's of Roman candles all bundled up in groups all set at different and varying angles.....this effort would certainly look good.

As the van was unloaded these boxes would make the mouth of any pyro water! Final touches are put to this row of large mortar tubes.

Sam Woodward provided the electrical firing system for Cosmic Fireworks, and here we see Adrian Plaw of CTV Facilities doing a final check that all looks and really is OK.

Dragonfire Fireworks from Bromyard, Hereford established in 1985

Andrew Fielder was on site with his team of 7. I really, really enjoyed meeting Dragonfire. Why? Well I have always had a soft spot for any sort of firework or pyro connected to a parachute...and Dragonfire had them in plenty.

The small items of my desire were Dragon Shells with parachute suspended floating crackers, up to an 8 inch floating cracker shell - with 200 crackers on it...and also 6 inch floating light lantern shells. To do all this least for me..was to be 8 flights of 4 inch parachute shells to be fired underneath the aforementioned lot!! Yummy!

Another object of great desire was this 12 inch shell in it`s box! What I liked about some of these shells was they had a lovely little Chinese icon on each one.

Dragonfire had a fine and large set-up with a wide range of shells of all sizes. Here you can see them working close-by the little house at the end of the pier!

Dragonfire also used shellburst Vulcan rockets, they are really good, I have used them myself....these go by the name of "Whopper" and "Big Max"...I thought that these were Hamburgers from Burger King!?


Tom Smith, the Umpire

L-R Bill Deeker (Co-ordinator)of Pains Fireworks, Ian Blackhouse of Plymouth City Council, the sponsor, and Tom Smith, the Umpire.

The Claydons: Nigel Claydon (left) and his father from Dynamic Fireworks. ....popping by to say hello.

The Show

Despite dozens of children treating my precious photographic position as the junction of the M1, I managed to get shots of all the shows. However as a poor photo can make a good display look bad, and the undisputed fact that all the shows were excellent, I give you these display pics, but I have not named which company was many of the thousands and thousands of spectators it was just a spectacular show...which company was which probably did not come into it. This is was fireworks are all about, pleasure,fun and thrills for thousands of people...all at the same time

So here we go, under the photo title...ohhhh. and ahhhhh....!

ohhhhhhhhh ............  ahhhhhhh ahhhohhhhh............ohhhhahhhhh.......whoooahhh.........oooowwwahhh

coorrwhhhahhh      wowowohhhhahh      ooohhhhhhwow     wwwwaahhhhh

The Result

1st Happy Dragon Fireworks

2nd Dragonfire Fireworks

3rd Phoenix Fireworks

I have no presentation photos this year as the awards were presented on the otherside of Plymouth Sound to which I was taking the display photos....too far to swim!

The spirit among the whole lot of the competitors was especially excellent this year, as indeed it was last year. Jon Culverhouse of Fantastic Fireworks said about his own firm`s display:-

"We were disappointed with our performance in
Plymouth. We know we're capable of more imaginative and higher impact
displays and on those criteria thought Happy Dragon were worthy winners"


For more firework and firework heritage and pyro sites from Steve Johnson, as well as Plymouth local history, CLICK HERE....for the firework heritage associated with this page..

John Bennetts totally indispensible Firework Magazine that if you do not get you need your brain   to be seen to!!!!!...and his Fireworks news page.

November 5th

Larry Crump in USA

NB...if you are one of the people who asked me to put a link to you on this page..and I agreed...I am sorry to say that I have lost your details - so please contact me again and we`ll sort it.

e-mail Steve Johnson

PS Thanks to Danny for helping me out. You bet that I would not put on a pic of you up...well it`s here! Cheers!