CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Derbyshire Life today CLICK HERE

Jubilee Fireworks - preparing for the UK Festival of Fireworks at Catton Hall

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 September 2015

Taken at a previous Catton Hall festival of fireworks

Taken at a previous Catton Hall festival of fireworks

as submitted

Jubilee Fireworks is internationally recognised for its spectacular displays which include the major annual festival at Catton Hall every September and the Bonfire Night extravaganzas at Alton Towers each November

Taken at a previous Catton Hall festival of fireworksTaken at a previous Catton Hall festival of fireworks

FIREWORKS have been part of festive celebrations ever since they were first developed in China in the seventh century but thanks to advances in digital technology we are now in the golden age of pyrotechnics, according to Chris Pearce.

And Chris should know. His company Jubilee Fireworks is internationally recognised for its spectacular displays which include the major annual festival at Catton Hall every September and the Bonfire Night extravaganzas at Alton Towers each November.

He says: ‘We have such an incredible range of products available to us that it is hard to see how displays could improve beyond this point. Something may come along but they have almost reached the pinnacle of achievement.’

The 2015 UK Festival of Fireworks takes place in the grounds of Catton Hall, in South Derbyshire, on 5th September.

Taken at a previous Catton Hall festival of fireworksTaken at a previous Catton Hall festival of fireworks

It’s a chance to see four world class displays in one night as a quartet of award-winning companies show off their pyrotechnic skills, often using the event to try out new techniques for the first time.

It’s the 16th year that the festival has been held and it attracts thousands of enthusiasts from near and far who bring a picnic, and sit back and enjoy the displays in the spacious grounds of the Catton estate.

As well as putting on one of the displays, Jubilee Firework organises the event and managing director Chris always looks forward to the festival as one of the highlights on his busy calendar.

He says: ‘What we try to do is bring together four very good companies and let them show off a bit. It’s not like your average 5th November fireworks event. The display teams have won major international competitions and have a good history and they present displays in their own characteristic style.

‘It’s like an art gallery showcase – but for fireworks companies.

‘People enjoy coming and, because it’s a ticketed event that people pay for, we have to maintain very high standards, or they wouldn’t come back year after year.’

As well as Jubilee, Sirotechnics and Dragon Firework from the UK will be taking part alongside HC Pyrotechnics from Belgium.

Chris says: ‘We all put on pyro-musical displays but the companies can chose whatever themes and music they wish and often choose to experiment. They have a total free rein to do whatever they want.’

The UK Festival of Fireworks dates back to 1999, transferring to Catton seven years ago.

Chris says: ‘It’s a good venue for us. There’s plenty of space and you need that for fireworks because of the safety distances required. It’s also well established as a venue and creates the right atmosphere. We have a good working relationship with Catton Hall.’

Jubilee Fireworks was founded in 1987 and has been named Champion of Champions in national competitions and has taken international prizes in places like Monaco and Manila. In 2015 it has been chosen to represent the UK in the most prestigious fireworks competition in the world, held in Montreal.

So Chris should have a good idea what makes a great pyrotechnic show.

He says: ‘A very good fireworks display is a work of art in my opinion. Most are set to music and so it’s the choreography, the choice of material, the balance of colour. There are a lot of factors. With the advent of electronic firing systems in the last 10 to 15 years, it has liberated the designers who have produced fantastic choreographed displays which really are in time to the music.

‘It’s hard to see what the next major step would be. We have terrific colours, wonderful chemistry, we are improving the environmental impact and after the introduction of electronics, it’s hard to see what the next quantum leap could be.’

Fireworks have become a big part of festivals, opening and closing ceremonies for sporting events, and celebrations of all kinds but it wasn’t always the case.

Chris says: ‘If you go back to the 1950s and 60s there weren’t that many public displays. If you did see them they would last maybe 30 minutes with a lot of ground works going on. Now the average is about 15 minutes and they cram an awful lot more into that time.’

It takes an enormous amount of pre-planning and preparation for even a short display.

One of Jubilee’s biggest contracts is for the annual Alton Towers fireworks which mark the end of the theme park’s season around Bonfire Night. Those displays last 18 minutes but take many days to design and a team a week to assemble on site.

‘It’s very labour intensive and each individual firework has to be wired into a panel,’ says Chris. ‘The Montreal show has 5,000 individual circuits to wire in, so it’s quite a task.’

Fireworks are dangerous in the wrong hands but public displays organised by companies like Jubilee are incredibly safe these days.

‘It’s as safe as it can be,’ says Chris. ‘It’s not true to say that accidents never happen and very, very occasionally things do go wrong. We have to remember that fireworks are explosives. We have to be extremely careful how they are handled and set up. The key thing is that the company firing the display understands the products and where and how they should be used.’

Demand is continually growing for firework displays across the globe with no major event complete without one.

Chris says: ‘It’s not just outdoors but indoor displays now. We did the Isle of Wight Festival this summer and at festivals like that some of the bands choose to have close proximity pyrotechnics to support their act so it has gone beyond just the standard outdoor, night-time fireworks. The use of fireworks is far more extensive than it was 15 years ago.’

There is also still a powerful sense of wonderment about a fireworks display, with people of all ages loving them.

Chris says: ‘I think it comes back to the fact that they are powerful explosives but presented in a safe way so there’s always that element of shock and awe in any display – that’s what characterises a good display and being able to stimulate an array of emotions from the audience. We often have very soft, sedate music and at other times very climactic pieces and the job of the designer is to work that through.

‘When I watch displays, I do it from a very critical viewpoint, we look all the time for quality of performance, symmetry, whether a firework was missing because of a wiring fault. The way we view displays is similar to how a dance choreographer watches a ballet – it’s very analytical.

‘The interpretation of the music is vital. In Montreal the displays are 30 minutes and they judge you on the choice of music and how successful you are at interpreting that music.

‘When we get all that right, it’s truly special.’

The UK Festival of Fireworks takes place at Catton Hall on Saturday, 5th September. Advance tickets are £25 for adults, £23 for under 16s and £70 for a family ticket. Go to www.festivaloffireworks.co.uk

ALTON TOWERS

ALTON Towers theme park’s annual fireworks are rated as among the best Bonfire Night attractions in the country, drawing big audiences.

Jubilee Fireworks is responsible for the displays and is proud of the reception they have received from visitors.

Managing director Chris Pearce says: ‘Alton Towers displays are more than just a firework show – they are total multi-media productions. We integrate lasers and lights and last year we had flame jets. It’s an immersive experience for spectators. It’s not the same as seeing a normal Bonfire Night display, enjoying it and going home. There’s a whole storyline with the Alton Towers displays, they are much more than just fireworks.’

In fact so good are the displays that Chris’s biggest job is thinking how to top the last one. He says: ‘It’s like a theatrical performance, you are always looking for something different, something unique, but it gets harder. The key thing is to maintain the high standards. Every firework display is different, often dictated by the music. Improving standards is difficult because we are already at such a high level but we can leave people with a different impression each time.’

Alton Towers Fireworks displays take place on 6th, 7th and 8th November. Book tickets at Altontowers.com

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Derbyshire Life and Countryside visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Derbyshire Life and Countryside staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Derbyshire Life and Countryside account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Andrew Griffiths meets Jim Dixon, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Peak District National Park.

Read more

This walk offers a dance with the Dove and a meander by the Manifold, whilst along the way passing a church, castle remains, country houses and a hollow way

Read more

With winter on the horizon, trees glow with colour, migratory birds arrive and house spiders set off in search of a mate

Read more

Ann Hodgkin investigates a case of the sincerest form of flattery… or industrial espionage!

Read more

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s vision is of landscapes rich in wildlife, valued by everyone. They will achieve this 
by pursuing their mission of creating Living Landscapes. Here Julia Gow, the White Peak Reserve Officer at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust tells us about the reserve above the River Wye

Read more

Nigel Powlson visits Sudbury where a shopping courtyard is attracting even more visitors to this quintessential English village

Read more

If you’re walking in the Peak District, the chances are that you could encounter a reservoir at some point during your ramble. There are dozens of resevoirs dotted around all corners of the national park, we pick some of our favourite walks from our archive.

Read more
Peak District

A five-year Heritage Lottery-funded scheme, launched in 2010, was designed to encourage the restoration and conservation of the distinctive landscape character of a large area of north-east Derbyshire.

Read more

Enjoy the wonder of woodland in our glorious Derwent Valley on this park and ride special.

Read more

Paul Hobson reveals some of the fascinating wildlife there is to be found in this month of transition

Read more

From far away constellations to gas clouds, our night skies are bursting with natural wonders – if you know where to look... Viv Micklefield goes stargazing in Derbyshire

Read more

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust works across six Living Landscapes with 46 nature reserves to ensure there is wildlife and wild places for everyone. Reserve officer Sam Willis tells us about one of his favourite places – Ladybower Wood Nature Reserve

Read more

A multi-million pound makeover attracts more leading brands to one of the UK’s biggest shopping destinations

Read more

The first ever National GetOutside Day takes place on Sunday 30 September with the aim of getting 1 million people active outdoors across the UK.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Subscribe or buy a mag today

Topics of Interest


Local Business Directory


Property Search