Choosing Fireworks: Small Gardens

Exploring your options for fireworks if you don't have much space.

Not everyone has the luxury of a large garden to play with, so if you fall into that category I’ll run through some ideas.

The minimum space required

To use outdoor fireworks such as cakes, rockets and so on you will need, as a minimum, 8m distance between the fireworks and your spectators. This will allow you to use Category F2 fireworks which have an 8m spectator distance.

The 8m distance should be considered as a minimum. These fireworks, especially cakes and barrages, are very powerful. Please do not be tempted to use them at less than 8m and if you have more than 8m then use the full space available.

Note that some Category F2 fireworks have spectator distances of 15m or 20m. Only use these if you have those distances available in your garden or venue.

Although securing your fireworks before lighting them should always be considered mandatory, it is even more critical at shorter distances to ensure you mitigate as many risks as possible. Please see my Setting Up Fireworks sections for more help.

If you’re worried about cakes and barrages being too powerful in a small garden then look at fountains, wheels and smaller selection boxes. Novelty items and ground spinners are also a lot of fun (see the Firework Types section for info on all of these). An example multi-effect fountain is shown below (typically about £8 to £10) which as you can see is ideal for this type of situation.

The safety distance is the space required to spectators, not to structures or buildings. Many smaller gardens can squeeze in 8m to people with some creative positioning, or even by using the front garden.

What about rockets? Don't they go off in the air anyway?

A common question from newbies is whether rockets are still subject to the same safety distances because they can be “aimed” away from spectators and go off in the air anyway.

In actual fact the safety distance with rockets is even more important. This is because in the case of a malfunction, or the rocket getting stuck in the ground or tube, you will have a very big explosion at ground level. So please respect the safety distances on all fireworks including rockets.

Balconies and apartments

Your options for fireworks if you live in an apartment or flat and only have a balcony to play with are very limited. The only outdoor fireworks I could suggest here are sparklers. Even Category F1 fireworks such as ground spinners could pose a risk in a confined area. Of course, there is always the option of indoor fireworks

Fireworks in the street, the beach, parks and communal areas

If you don’t have the space you might be tempted to fire somewhere else. Here things get a little trickier to advise on.

Firing on the beach is a good example. Technically, this could be considered illegal as it’s not your own land and you would be firing without permission. However anyone who lives on or near the coast will know of the great UK tradition of beach fireworks on New Year’s Eve. So lots of people do it and I am unaware of any prosecutions as a result. I wouldn’t want to condone it then given the unclear legal position, but it’s unlikely to be a problem in mass gatherings such as NYE when many people are celebrating together. 

Parks and other public areas should be considered off-limits for fireworks unless you have permission to do so (and that’s unlikely unless you are a professional display operator). Most councils and local authorities – not to mention the police – take a dim view of fireworks being let off in such places.

Firing in the street is also off-limits and definitely illegal. That would include the public road outside of your house.

Communal areas for those living in flats or apartments have some potential but you should get permission from the owner of the land first. This could be tricky and in my experience most say no because of the worry of damage to other properties.

Please note that it is also illegal for anyone under 18 years old to possess fireworks in a public place.

I was asked an interesting question by someone who didn’t have much space but wanted to know whether they could let off their fireworks in their front garden and watch from the street in order to get sufficient safety distance. In this case as the fireworks themselves are being let off on private land it’s probably OK – but you will need to ensure members of the public are not going to walk too close to your fireworks. As always with legal matters, it’s hard to give a definitive answer until such time as there is a prosecution or test case. 

Further information

The other Choosing Fireworks sections might also be of help in case your display also falls within the scope of those too.

If you’re a complete beginner and some of the terms used in this page are unclear then head over to the Beginners Start Here! page for a run-through of both fireworks and the extensive guides on my website.

The next step after narrowing down your choice of fireworks is buying them, arguably the most fun part! The Buying Fireworks sections will help you.

Then, it’s time to set up your pyro before firing it. The Setting Up Fireworks and Firing Your Display sections will guide you further.