> REPORTER, PICTURES AND VIDEO: DAVID POYTON

1st Galaxy Fireworks kindly invited me along to help out and report on a display for the ThunderRock Fair in the centre of Nottingham. The display was to last four and a half minutes and was to include a mixture of cat 3 and cat 4 material.

Galaxy Fireworks were founded in 1985 by Barrie Smith and son Lee. Barrie Smith decided to set up a fireworks business to justify spending so much money on pyro. Lee said that his father would bring home lots of 4" and even 5" shells for their private bonfire night displays (top dad).

Sadly Mr Smith, a well respected and much admired member of the business and known by many UKFR members, passed away in 2002. Many references to him can be found on the UKFR forum and he sounds a gentleman I would have really liked to know.

Their business was mainly set up as enthusiasts broadening their horizons. They started by producing local shows for schools, pubs and the local football team. Lee was just nine years old when the business started and used to help his father design the displays. Ten years later and they decided to go professional and 1st Galaxy Fireworks was born. The "1st" part of the name was a ploy to get to the top of the listings in Yellow Pages. The name initially was just going to be Galaxy Fireworks but the 1st stuck!

Now after several years of trading as a professional outfit 1st Galaxy Fireworks import their own brands Blue Moon and Britannia Fireworks. They also supply to the trade and have five outlets as well as the internet mail order service they provide. They have a full factory licence and are now performing in excess of 125 displays per year.

Since Barrie Smith passed away in late 2002 , Lee along with his wife, brother and mum have continued to grow the business and are now one of the forefront display teams in the UK using Nighthawk and Smarthawk firing systems.

I arrived at 1st Galaxy's outlet just outside Mansfield at noon and was greeted by a very welcoming proprietor. Lee gave me free reign to browse his shop and photograph the items on display.

A well-stocked 1st Galaxy display cabinet!

My favourite item has to be the little Weco screech bang rockets Lee had available which helped us reminisce back to the days of the first import stock that were available from Sohni Esco. Alas most people just don't even look at these rockets due to their small size and are immediately drawn to larger oversized rockets (but size isn't everything).

1: A selection of cakes and candles 2: Rocket packs and volleys 3: Some HUGE cakes! 4: Meet the crew.

Around this time other members of Lee's crew started to arrive, among them a couple of UKFR members who were both self-confessed lurkers. You know you are Kee_Ring and Paul now we have a photo of a real life lurker!

Whilst waiting for the stragglers to turn up with hangovers (well it was Saturday) Lee kindly showed me his training room situated above the shop. The training room can cater for up to 25 people at a time for BPA courses and exams and is complete with a large overhead projector. Here I was treated to videos from previous displays complete with 1st Galaxy's display from last year's Southport event. I have to say this was mightily impressive and set to music by a Philharmonic Orchestra playing various Abba classics.

1st Galaxy's excellent training room for BPA and other courses.

All the team were now here with the exception of one who was to meet us at the site. The team consisted of both very experienced members and people fairly new to the pyro scene. One of the team Kieran (kee_ring in the UKFR forum) is now employed full time by 1st Galaxy doing what he says is his "dream job" and all thanks to UKFR as he started helping out Lee in 2004 after advice received on the forum!

1pm and it was time to head off to the firing site. First job: Unload the van and put up perimeter fencing.

Today 1st Galaxy would be using a mixture of cat 3 and cat 4. Lee showed me one of beautiful cat 3 crossette cakes that were to be used. The display consisted of material from Lee's own brand Britannia and Vulcan fireworks.

Now the real work had to begin, first the fence which seemed to go on forever and ever! Even this seemingly mundane task was done with great enthusiasm by all, even with a couple of bashed thumbs due to someone being over-enthusiastic with a hammer!

Perimeter fencing. One of the many essential non-pyro jobs at any pro display.

Fence finished now it was time to unload the racks, clean out the tubes and then to start the fusing. Fusing the mines was left to the joker of the team Steve who made me feel extremely welcome and very comfortable.

The mine sequence was to be spectacular. Going from left to right, right to left and then back again, speeding up all the time and ending with a wall of noise. A total of FIFTY mines of 40 x 75mm and 10 x 100mm sizes (it turned out to be stunning).

1: A van FULL of gear 2: One of many cakes 3: Another view of a cake 4: Measuring safety distances

Next job was to help Kieran set up the cakes, a mixture of Cat 3 and Cat 4. The cakes to be used were blue and silver crossettes, yellow and purple crossettes, red yellow and blue barrages, crackling coconut with pistil fanned barrages and stunning blue and gold criss-cross mine cakes. The crossette cakes were fantastic as can been seen in the video below they were one of my favourite bits of the display.

Getting ready to load the shell racks

Shells and candles came next and everyone helped out here either fusing or securing the racks. I was stunned as to how many shells and candles were to be used for a four minute display. There were to be 2 x 125mm, 50 x 100mm and 24 x 75mm shells. Time flew by and before I knew it I been on the site for nearly four hours and there was still lots to do. I was now wishing I'd taken all your advice and worn thermals, for May it was bloody freezing. I should have listened to my Gran who had a great saying "ney cast off owt till May is owt".

1: Cleaning shell racks 2: Loading shells 3: More racks 4: Fusing 5: More fusing!

Shells finally in place and it was time for Paul Bowker (the other UKFR forum lurker!) to unveil his masterpiece, housing for the single shot comets. I have to say the craftsmanship was superb and a brilliant idea. The comets were to be secured using tie wraps, getting them evenly spaced is usually a bit of a nightmare but with the boards made by Paul it took no time at all. I am a bit dubious of the fact that he claims it will make him a millionaire. Mind you he is a shop fitter so I don't suppose he's got that far to go!

1: Single shot candles 2: Preparing the single shots 3: Final connections 4: All done (phew!)

Everything in place by 6pm and the experienced members had set up all the electronics as this was all to be electronically fired. The circuits were tested and all were OK, now it was time to wait and wait some more. The display wasn't due to start until 9.30 - I wish I'd brought more food and thermals!

9pm and all the cars were moved from the site and it was time to set up my cameras. The display started with hardly anyone around but for those who did bother to come it was amazing.

As for the stills I thought I had picked up a few nice images. The professional photographers asked me how I thought Id got on. "I think I have got a few nice images". "Perhaps for the Nokia brigade" came the reply which I thought was tad insulting but hey I had just seen a stunning display and afterwards they did offer me photos of previous displays should my images not turn out so they were not that bad.

Totally impressed, it was time to clean up. I volunteered to help take down the fence and pick up the debris and rake the grass afterwards. Even this didn't seem a chore even though my back ached like hell rolling up the fence. I eventually left having made numerous new friends and determined to do something like this again. I just need a pass signed in blood by the wife for a whole day out. I eventually arrived home @ 1.30 am totally exhausted but with a smile on my face.

Thanks to Lee Smith at 1st Galaxy for giving me the opportunity to come along.
And a big thank you for the rest of the team: Kieran, Paul, Paul Bowker, Steve and Ian for making me feel so welcome. A day I will never forget.

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©2005 UK Firework Review. All rights reserved. Source pictures and video ©2005 David Poyton