The British Fireworks Championships are back after last year’s pandemic hiatus. Six British fireworks companies will be competing over two nights in Plymouth. Each night has three displays lasting 10 minutes with a 10-minute break in-between, starting around 9:30 PM.
Over 100 thousand spectators watch from all around Plymouth Sound. The main viewing area is on The Hoe, where there will be additional entertainment and food stalls. Many watch from The Barbican, West Hoe and Jennycliff (directly behind the firing site).
The firing site is Mount Batten Breakwater. The judges sit aboard a boat in the estuary. They judge each display on a list of criteria and, at the end of the second night, they will award a winner and runner-up.
The firework companies competing this year are;
(At the time of press – in alphabetical order)
The firing order for these competitors has not yet be released.
The British Fireworks Championship has been running since 1997, organised by TESA (The Event Services Association) and sponsored by Plymouth City Council. The 2021 competition is on Wednesday 18th August and Thursday 19th August evenings.
Most people happily watch the displays and have no idea that there is a competition going on. Six judges, three from the professional community and three lay people, judge the competitors on a list of attributes, including overall design, symmetry, choice of effects and wow-factor. There are also penalties for exceeding the 10-minute display window.
Each competing company gets a budget of several thousand pounds from Plymouth Council to pay for the display. If the companies want a good chance of winning, they will need to enhance the budget themselves.
The winner gets to call themselves the British Firework Champion for 2021 and wins a cash prize. Interestingly, even Plymouth City Council don’t use the winning company for their Bonfire Night display. Many companies in the industry question the expense of competing when the reward is so small.
Many competitors also compete in other competitions around the World and say that Plymouth is a good learning opportunity to up their game to an international level.
A lot of people travel to Plymouth from Devon and Cornwall. Plan to arrive early in the day and stay overnight if you can. The traffic will be heavy after the event – be patient.
Check the closing time of car parks because you don’t want to be locked in. Public transport is pretty much out of the question as most services don’t run late in the night. Plymouth City Council offers special late services to their Park & Ride car parks. The Falcon bus service to Exeter runs all night.
The best place to view is in front of the Citadel along Maderia Road. You can stand along the wall or sit on the grassy banks below the Citadel walls. It will be busy here, with the best spots taken from early in the day. A quieter ‘party-in-the-park’ style location is Jennycliff, with people sitting on blankets and having picnics. The view is not as good from here, and it can still be busy.
We have watched almost all of the competitions over the past twenty-something years. But have never put our name forward to compete. Mike Glover is an industry veteran and has often been invited behind-the-scenes at the event by other companies, even considered to be a judge.
We are a busy small operator that usually works on at least one of the competition nights. 2021 is no different. Small operators are always at a disadvantage to large companies that import their fireworks because we have to pay higher prices for our stock. And, as mentioned, there is a lack of financial incentive to win.
However, Mike is warming to the idea of competing soon. We will have an announcement shortly about another competition keep, an eye on our social media feeds.