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.

Above: BOOM! Clevedon Pier is set on fire with simultaneous mine detonations.



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!"

The pier as the sun sets. Note the anvil shaped thundercloud in the background, I'm afraid it started to pour down during the firing.
The Clevedon sea front.
The crowd gathers expectantly, swelling later to an estimated 20,000.



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 view down the pier showing the multiple firing points.
A closer view.
And even closer!
The crew make final preparations.



"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."


[8 pictures] Multiple mines fire along the whole pier, here captured in eight successive action shots leading from mines to shell breaks. If you thought the pier's shape (long and narrow) would hinder the visual impact, think again. Wow!
[3 pictures] A spectacular shell break captured in three shots.
[2 pictures] Two star-only pictures of the changing colour breaks from purple to red.
[3 pictures] From darkness to a sky-full of pyrotechnics, here multiple mines fire, leading into a barrage of shell effects.
[3 pictures] Expanding flat ring breaks are quite common now in major displays but here we see a double-ring effect in three sequential shots. Yummy!
[3 pictures] Aside from colours and special effects there were some fantastic gold and silver effects. Here we see shells breaking to multiple gold/silver comets.
[7 pictures] Check out this amazing break of multiple mines to various stars, comets and colours over seven rapid-fire action shots.
[3 pictures] These were interesting shells with an outer red star ring break, and an inner break of gold/silver comets.
[2 pictures] Of course you cannot beat the traditional spherical starburst effect, here shown in two pictures.
[6 pictures] Multiple shells are launched together along the length of the pier, each exploding with a dual ring and comet effect as shown in these six amazing fast action shots.
Night turns to day over the pier in this larger, longer exposure shot.
More shell breaks.
The static shots of the finale just do not do it justice. The whole space above the pier was saturated in persistent gold glitter that burned through the cool coastal air... what an amazing end to a wonderful display, created with around 600 brocade shells. And to think this was all staged through pouring rain - well done Firemagic!



"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. All pictures and content including logos and background ©1999-2001 UK Firework Review. Duplication of any content by any means for any reason prohibited. All rights reserved. All trademarks acknowledged.