Clevedon Fireworks 2001
Firemagic's display from the pier.
In June 2001 UKFR reporter Tony Webster braved rain, tides and seaweed to film Firemagic’s Clevedon firework display featuring a cool £10k of munitions. In this special feature we take a look at the brilliant pyrotechnics on show that night.
Clevedon on the Bristol Channel coast provided a majestic venue for this display, with Firemagic choosing nothing less than the pier itself as their pyro-stage. “The aim of the display was to offer our clients an insight into the type of shows that we stage and the quality of the stock that we are currently using,” said Andrew Collins, senior partner of Firemagic. “Firemagic wasn’t paid to stage the display, but offered it as a present to the people of Clevedon as a late Millennium Celebration.”
The pier itself partially collapsed in 1970 and although rebuilt must have provided quite a challenge to the firing team. “Due to the length of the pier, and the age, there were many things that had to be taken into account,” said Andrew. “The whole of the structure is made up from steel and cast iron arches with a wooden decking to walk down. When we test fired on the structure some time ago we were very aware that the pier vibrates even when a small 75mm shell was fired. This not only caused the racks to bounce down the pier but we had to be careful that we didn’t set up a resonance effect that could cause the structure to collapse. While it was possible to drive a van down the pier when dry, with the rain the boards start to swell and an increase in weight can cause them to split and the van drop into the Bristol Channel!”
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You’d think an ageing pier would curtail a display of this size, but Firemagic employed some ingenious planning to utilise the whole length, firing from multiple points. “The whole show was fired using our Radio Frequency system and around 400 Bickford Ignitors,” said Andrew. “This system allowed us to pulse between seven points on the pier, building a show over the 800yd distance. While we had some 4000 firing cues available on the system, we fired the whole show using less than 500.”
“The show itself involved in excess of 1200 mortar shells ranging from 65mm through to 350mm in calibre,” said Andrew. “The finale alone incorporated around 600 brocade shells from 65mm to 350mm along the full length. In addition we had a range of comet and bombette candles from 30mm to 60mm and mines from 75mm through to 200mm, as well as numerous barrages and cakes.” And it shows as these pictures prove. The mine sections in particular were a brilliant use of the pier’s length.
UKFR reporter Tony Webster was on hand to see the display from the seafront, a suitably safe distance away in case the 1200 mortar shells reduced the pier to flotsam and jetsam. “It was dry all night until half an hour before the display then for the entire duration it threw it down,” said Tony. “My main priority was to keep both cameras dry. There was quite a large crowd there especially considering the weather and I wanted to avoid all the people and umbrellas and managed to film from a boat launching ramp leading down to the sea.
“It did occur to me that where I was standing there were not many people around me and then it hit me like a thunderbolt. I was surrounded by seaweed! The tide might come in half way through filming! So I had one eye on my camcorder, one eye on my digital camera and both on the incoming tide and the four foot drop on either side of the ramp. I also had someone hold an umbrella over my head during the whole display to keep everything dry including the cameras.”
Thanks to Tony’s brave filming in the face of possible drowning we have some great pictures and around 20 Mb of Windows Media clips for your enjoyment, including an 8 minute clip of the main part of the display.
“The show itself was a success despite the bad weather, and with media coverage we were pleased to attract an estimated audience of over 20,000 people,” said Andrew of Firemagic. “We would like to thank Clevedon Pier and the Local Round Table for their support in the event, as well as our display team of eight people who set the show up in 10 hours and in the worst rain we have seen since last Bonfire Night.”
About Firemagic Fireworks
“Firemagic specialises in firing large displays from any location, including awkward sites such as cranes, buildings, and pontoons etc.” said Andrew and he’s not joking, if you can fire from an ageing pier in torrential rain you could probably cope with just about any kind of venue. “Using our firing system we are able to choreograph large-scale displays over a massive distance (20 separate firing locations over 2 Miles). We cater for all sizes of shows from small weddings through to private parties, corporate events, as well as festivals and traditional bonfire night shows.”
You can contact Firemagic by calling (01934) 750955, or writing to Firemagic Fireworks, 4 The Homestead, Clevedon, North Somerset, BS21 7XW.
Pictures and video courtesy Tony Webster.