Scattering Ashes In Fireworks
RIP Peter Benefield 1952-2007.
In 2007, UKFR Forum members staged an ash scattering display to lay the late Peter Benefield to rest across his gardens at the rear of the Woodman Pub, home of many UKFR member meets over the preceding years. In this article (words by UKFR member Meggsy), we take a look at this event which shows just how magical and poignant a fireworks send-off can be.
Over the last few years, the field behind ‘The Woodman’ Pub had become a Mecca for firework enthusiasts from all over the UK and beyond.
This all came about when several years ago I offered to help Raj at Newsbox Fireworks run a demo night, but as is always the case we had nowhere to run the event. Having made numerous enquiries I got an e-mail from Peter Benefield of The Woodman Pub expressing interest. On calling him it transpired he knew my name and was an old friend of my recently deceased stepfather. When I explained what it was we wanted to do, and I will never forget his words, his voice became very excited and proclaimed ‘F**king fantastic I love fireworks, do what you want, the field is yours!’. Well, not one to refuse an invitation off we went.
Peter’s love of fireworks set in motion and made possible a whole number of pyrotechnic events and it was his enthusiasm over those early years that inspired me to arrange the first St Georges Day Fireworks Competition and the rest, as they say, is history. Peter’s passing spells the end of an era for many dedicated pyros, it seems the brewery will be installing new owners soon, and in any event it wouldn’t be the same without Peter and his sister Joan’s support and kindness.
When Peter was first diagnosed he told me that when he passed away he wanted me to load his ashes into fireworks and spread them across the field behind the pub, and that he also wanted a nice display fired for all his family and friends, he only ever discussed it with me and on one occasion Julian (Rocket Rev) as he wanted it to be a surprise for them.
I have been working with Jason at Flashpoint Fireworks since their early days and it’s fair to say that over the years we have cut our teeth on displays fired for Peter at the pub. Therefore, it was his wish that Flashpoint and I fire the display. Peter’s sister told me the songs she wanted played, which were Peter’s favourites: ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘Rocket Man’ (Elton John – very appropriate), ‘Sweet Caroline’ (Neil Diamond), and she also told me how much Peter had loved ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ when we ended the competition each year. We were given the green light for the display just over a week before it was to happen, so we really had to get our skates on.
Jason and I then had many late nights designing the show and I had many early mornings programming it all in (we fired a few shows in between as well for good measure) so it was a busy week, but with half a day in hand we had a plan. Mike (Mike40) was a star for helping us out at such short notice by providing the PA, it had to be Mike of course. So with a hastily assembled Flashpoint crew, and many kind offers of help, we were ready to go.
Peter’s request was specifically that his ashes were to be scattered on the field, this got me thinking that if we loaded his ashes into 150mm shells he may end up miles away even on a slight breeze. So I decided to load his ashes on top of some quality hand made 125mm Kimbolton mines (he would have enjoyed the fact they were pricey) to minimise the spread, this was of course agreed with Peter’s family.
I also thought it would be nice to make the firing of the mines an event in itself (with a bit of theatre with solemnity) not just fire the ashes as part of the display. And as a complete surprise to his sister and family I wanted some Khoom Fay type balloons being released and the field where his ashes had been scattered to light up with quiet fireworks. All this with Amazing Grace in the background. I am sure Peter would have loved it all. It was great that so many UKFR members were there to help launch the balloons. It was all very moving and appropriate and thanks to Pete (Pyro Pete) and Marcus (Shedman) for sourcing them at such short notice.
Once again the weather at The Woodman smiled on us, I really cannot think of any occasion when I have rigged displays there, and there were many, when the weather was that bad, apart from some light drizzle at the first StG. The sun broke through as the family and I loaded the ashes onto the mines.
The display itself went very well, to pull off a musical choreographed display in six days was not easy especially sourcing material. Jason (Flashpoint) designed the majority of the musical display and I chipped in with one of the song designs, it really had to be a joint effort to get it done.
Mike (Mike40) very kindly came up with the wonderful idea of creating and presenting Peter’s sister Joan with a commemorative engraved glass plate celebrating Peter’s association with St George Reloaded and his support of it. This will take pride of place I am told at Peter’s other pub ‘The Rabbits’ just up the road in Stapleford Abbots, so if anyone is over that way you can go in and see it and raise a glass to Peter.