10 Things you Learn as a Pyrotechnician

By 1st November 2015News
  1. Skin is waterproof: Unfortunately Guy Fawkes chose November to deliver his “Epic Fail” so there is a good chance the Gortex jacket will be required for some or all of our busiest season. At least it gets dark early so there is no hanging around for the sun to disappear over the horizon. I have learned that it doesn’t matter how wet you get, you don’t dissolve and a hot shower will stop even the most quivering bottom lip.

2. Wet grass is not wet tarmac: I once spent nearly 5 hours in the dead of the night digging out a 7.5T box lorry which had been sunk to it’s axle on a wet field. The term “floor it” should never be used when you feel the wheels spin – it is the equivalent of winding up the window of a car when you can hear the flat tyre flapping – it is only going to get worse so stop and work out a better exit plan!

3. Beware the Law of Sod: Working with fireworks is a passion and a joy but never forget that you are dealing with things that go bang and can cause serious injury or worse. Always consider the worst thing that could happen when rigging and mentally work back to a position of safety for yourself and your audience. The Law of Sod really does exist and if there is a 1 in 100 chance something might go wrong it will – just to remind you.

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  1. Enjoy the Roar: The sound of a crowd whistling and cheering is like nothing else. I can see how performers take energy from their audience. I have been lucky enough to hear the wave of enthusiasm at the conclusion of the ceremonies at London 2012, the opening ceremony at Glasgow 2014 and Rugby World Cup Final 2015. For the last 8 years at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay I have literally felt the roar from Princes Street as our fireworks subside and the hugging begins. Nobody sees us but it doesn’t matter – we go home (eventually!) with the satisfaction of having initiated that roar!
  1. Beware Broken Slates: I once had a call from a man claiming our fireworks had damaged slates on his roof. When I pointed out that he was nearly 1300 metres from the firing site he sent me a picture of a rocket stick – clearly a garden rocket picked up from a gutter somewhere. Even when I pointed out that we don’t use rockets he still threatened me with a solicitor, telling me it would be easier and quicker just to give him cash for the damage. I didn’t. It is really sad but there are some people out there who will go to any lengths to try to make a claim. Don’t get me started on the man who claimed we had bruised his wheelchair bound wife!

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  1. All cogs required for the machine to work: The work that goes on with a large event is something that has to be experienced to be appreciated. I suppose it depends on your personality type but I am really happy to walk away from having delivered a massive show without most people having the first idea what I do. I have a few mementos from some of the larger events I have been involved with and of course it is nice that my children are proud of my modest achievements but I do recognise that it takes a big team to make good things happen. I think the whole nation should be proud of the Ceremonies in Stratford, Glasgow and most recently in Twickenham because they really have been world class.

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  1. The power of positivity: Because I am prone to a moan I try to compensate by being positive. We work long and often uncomfortable hours but nobody wants to work with someone who is constantly grumbling. Things go wrong and no plan I have ever seen or be part of survives the start line so it is sleeves up, keep smiling and know that steps forward with a grin are so much easier than steps forward tripping over your bottom lip.
  1. Easy Life: There are over 100 hundred firework companies in the UK and every year as many start as close. A small number of companies will supply 80% of the business in the UK and in that sense it is a standard business distribution. We do what we do because we love it. Because we are good at what we do we can make a living. However you really are only as good as the last display you do so whether it is The London Eye or a Wedding you have to give the display your best attention. I like to say we will deliver the best possible display for any given budget – cheesy but actually true.
  1. Ps and Qs: Never mind Ts and Cs I have learned that saying thank you is the way to conduct business. Appreciate the people who work for you and convey your thanks to them because like customers they also have a choice.

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  1. Promises Promises: We have all been on the end of something which didn’t meet expectation, whether it be a new music album or an Ebay purchase! Defining what a customer will see in the sky is incredibly difficult because we do not believe that there is a standard show. Every site is unique and choosing the best fireworks for that site is part of the skill based on experience which we feel differentiates us from a lot of the competition. We try so hard not to over promise and under deliver. Only this week we turned away a large display because we knew we would not be able to meet their expectations in the space they had available for us to use.

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