> REPORTER: THE LEGENDARY GRAHAM (TLG) PICTURES: TLG, MARY BURRIDGE, ROCKET REV

Uuurrgghh! Morning time! Eyes working but head still fuzzy: Too much beer the night before. Fumble around a bit, grab my water bottle, have a swig and go back to sleep, or so I thought.

WHAM! The bliss of the morning's first thoughts, nothing to do but laze about in bed all happy without a care in the world were shoved aside rather rudely. "GET UP!" my brain shouted to me. "Gren is coming for you". Aww it's too early it's like stone age getting up at 6am. "GET UP!" the brain shouted again. "You have fireworks to see - BIG fireworks". And with that I jumped out of bed, stumbled around doing my usual morning routine with one eye shut, grabbed a quick bacon sarnie which I finished off just as Gren pulled up ready to take me away.

We arrived at the workshop and started loading gear into the trailer for the show. "Pass me a six inch tube and another and another and another". This went on for ages. Now the eight inchers next the tens then the twelves. "Come on pass me the four inch racks". "How many?" I queried. "All of them!" came the reply! Then a load of three inch racks went in along with plenty of splayed four, five and six inch racks. Whoa!!! There was going to be plenty going on here and we hadn't even started on the cakes and candles! It took four of us working at warp speed nearly three hours to get all the gear loaded. MWHA HAA HAA HAAAAA - this was going to be awesome!

Next up came breakfast at Big Dave's. I had been looking forward to this for a long time I had always wanted a cooked breakfast on a farm having heard fables of what to expect, and what a feast lay before us. Now this is the bit where I decided to be a fat b*****d. I ate everything: Four rashers of bacon, five pieces of white pudding, two fried eggs, four slices of fried bread, two slices of buttered bread, beans, tomatoes and four sausages. After everything was washed down with a very large mug of tea it was time to make a move and just as I was going out of the door Dave tempted me with the last sausage. Hehe big mistake I ate half and gave half to the dog and on the way out of the house I just wanted to crawl under a bush and go to sleep. I swear I have stretch marks from that feast. I was a walking cholesterol time bomb, well you have to live a little now and again.

We arrived at the venue where a marquee was already set up for the grub and beer; also a huge screen was being erected on the side of the pub ready for the music videos. We had a full compliment: Me, Gren, Pete, Mick, Ian and Dave all ready to get things ready. We moved out into the field and we were met with a mine field of cow crap. Not too bad I thought though at least we can see it all and it will be easy to dodge.

Setting up time next. All the cakes were unloaded and put into a really obscene pile. They were big, they were heavy and they would have made for a couple of excellent displays on their own. But this was the big one so they were all gathered here in a mean bunch ready to be put into their places to give the audience a display they wouldn't forget. That done Pete and I got on with setting up all of the candle racks and the mines for the start of the show.

The pile of candle racks were slowly but surely being staked out in the field. In fact there were so many it looked like we were erecting a new fence, the huge Sky Blitz candles along with Crown brand Special Willow in a fan of five were spread out and those evil nasty Blockbusters that always blow up when I'm near them had extra stakes front and back when I'd finished with them. If they tried to kill me this time they would be met with a forest of stakes to contain the explosion; "Aah yes one up to me this time" I thought. In the end there were around fifteen racks of meaty candles ready to compliment the cakes.

Next came the mine sequences for the start of the show. Each set consisted of three mines with a shell and this was repeated three times with the mines and the shells getting bigger with each sequence. CRUNCH! came the sickening sound - a sound that sounded a bit wrong - kind of like it hurt, must have been someone meeting one of those piles of cow poo that were a bit dried out I thought. I looked back and no it wasn't a cow poo CRUNCH! it was the safety disaster of the day. Pete had whacked his thumb with a lump hammer as he reeled back and forth inconsolable at the pain he was enduring. Big Dave came over to do the father thing and see to him. "Come on Pete lets have a look" he said as Pete offered a shy and swollen thumb whilst rolling back and forth. All I could think was "OUCH!". However the highlight of the day was when he ran around the back of the van and yawned in Technicolor at the pain. Remember folks, thumbs, looking away, and huge hammer swings don't mix very well, neither did the carrots Pete ate along with the Stella. (Hehe sorry Pete, revenge for the ground maroon at Lightcliffe me thinks!).

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Time for me to organise a tea break I thought and headed off to the establishment to get a tray full of refreshments, which took forever (were they growing the tea and coffee out back?). Whilst I was waiting though the phone was ringing constantly and it was the same call from different people every time. "Is the display on up there tonight?" or "Is it tonight?" etc, there were going to be a lot of people here tonight I thought. I wandered back through the cow poo minefield with the tray and after staggering about dodging all the crap the cups were only half full by the time I reached everyone.

Everyone had been busy whilst I had been away. All the shells were loaded into the racks, which were secured and ready to go, the twelve inchers looked really formidable standing almost as tall as me and nearby were loads of ten and eight inchers ready to bring the sky to its knees. Big plain box time, boxes that were plain and boring except for the description on the sides of them: Poisonous Spider, Spectacle 3, Multicoloured Palm Tree, Devil's Flute, Super Mantronix, Waterfall Cake, Cenxi Surprise, Kaleidoscope, Double Dragon.

And the really evil stuff, the sort of things Oppenheimer would have created: SPRING WIND and 100 TITANIUM SALUTES amongst lots of others (I said it was the big one didn't I?). The latter two cakes were placed well apart from everyone and everything. Why? Because they are the kind of cakes that make you reflect on life as you are watching them. These cakes do nothing but convey scary power. The makers of these must have tapped into that primal nature of man to run with fear when you hear something this bad, they conjure up feelings of earthquakes, volcanoes and land slides. They are loud, they are relentless, they hate you and everything around them, and when they get going you either stare in awe or bloody leg it.

"Hey where is Ian going?" I shouted in protest. Turns out he was going home for a rest; no big deal except my camera was in his car! I grumbled to myself for a while. All I could think was that half of my write-up was going out of the window without a camera. In stepped Big Dave telling me to get his from the car. Phew! Catastrophe averted, I chuckled to myself as I could hear him saying let him have a play with that it will keep him happy for a while. Which it did as I managed to get plenty of set up shots, the ones I was denied a year earlier thanks to a thief who stole my camera.

All the fusing was now complete. Some fantastic sequences of shells were ready to go and the bigger ones were all wired up to the technology box as no one fancied lighting the twelve inchers with a portfire (I will I thought to myself! I can light it and lay under it filming it as it goes skyward. Yeah and HSE would have a field day! Oh well wishful thinking for a truly astounding ground zero shot). Nothing to do now but leave someone baby-sitting whilst we go back to the establishment for some grub and a well earned rest, and the phone was still ringing constantly with people asking about the show.

Then Pete's phone rang this time it was from the guy who was paying for this lot - he wanted more fireworks! What more? Haven't you been out there and had a look at what is already going up? Well actually I didn't think that I just thought yeah bring it on! Let's blow half the world's stash in one go! I was buzzing more on top of that lot - have I died and gone to heaven or what? Heads went together for some fast thinking as to what could be put in and where without drastically changing the firing plan in the short space of time we had to do this. Within moments Gren and Pete's pyrotechnical genius had it sorted out perfectly. It was time to go get some more kit. Pete and I plumped for going to the workshop and store to collect the extra items while the rest of the crew stayed behind getting things ready for the extras we were going to fetch. The sun was getting low on the horizon as we were heading away and I though to myself that's it the Rocket Rev has been detained - he is going to miss one hell of a show. Shame.

Just as we were approaching the workshop my phone rang. It was Mick on site with some UKFR nut had just turned up armed with a serious camera asking for me. Sod's law or what the Rev had arrived, nothing I can do about it now so Mick gave him a very detailed tour of the site and some insight into what was going to be happening and what effect certain items would have on the crowd. The van was reloaded with some quite serious items, one of them being another monster cake - the four minute spectacular. As we heaved it into the van I was grinning away. This was absurd! We could create a wormhole to another galaxy with this lot.

We returned to the site with the extra gear and this is the point where all that cow crap had gone into stealth mode. It seemed to have multiplied, you couldn't stand anywhere without standing in the bloody stuff. Cows? Gits! Only good for one thing: Burgers. Everything was now ready over twenty BIG cakes, over a dozen candle racks ranging from 28mm up to plenty of hefty 60mm ones and well over two hundred shells ranging from three inches right up to twelve; this was going to be awesome.

Now where has the Rev gone? A quick phone call and I found out he was just parking his car in a better spot for filming the show so I decided to wander off and meet up with him. The fire had already been lit and lots of people were arriving. Up the hill I walked and was met by a jolly chap armed with a camera and tripod and a huge smile that went from ear to ear. We introduced ourselves "Ah the elusive Rocket Rev I believe" and walked back to the venue, which was now packed out and people were still arriving in droves. We chatted for a good hour about all things pyro related and what to expect from the show. Basically I said hold on to your hat this is going to be something else, oh and watch out at the start of the show there is going to be a surprise! (One which shocked even me the hardened ground zero nut) and with that he said his farewell to take up position on the hill.

Urgh! Nerves. Don't you just hate them? About half an hour before the start of the show I got the worst case of them ever. Was it because of the thousands of people at the venue and covering the surrounding hills all staring at me? Or was it that mass of explosives just a few yards away from me? Ill settle on the latter. I just wanted this feeling to go away now! Thankfully they settled after a while and it was time to remove plastic and get serious.

Everything was ready. The Shellinator was up and active with his grand supply of bombs, Mick and Pete were on cakes and I had the job of the candle man whilst Dave and Ian were to keep a good eye on things. The final count down started and portfires were lit. The crowd were counting back from twenty they soon reached ten then five (take your protein pills and put your helmet on), four, three, two, one (and may God's love be with you).

The row of strobes were lit and everyone moved on to their positions as the strobes flickered away for a while. Pete lit a rack of noise to get everyone's attention, this was met with a cheer that was only rivalled at a premiership football match, a cheer that didn't stop until the show finished. Next Pete fired up his first mine and shell sequence. Huge silver spinners that ended in a report along with a blue brocade shell. A few moments later the next set fired up, top class very vivid blue mines with a silver brocade shell above them.

Next the sneaky surprise was fired. "Whudump" - a twelve inch shell launched into the heavens as the final sequence of mines blew into the sky along with a thundering five inch maroon. Suddenly, just as the lovely red crossettes from the mines were breaking, I was hit with a sound that made me think the world had come to an end. It wasn't a boom or a kaboom it was just one God almighty BANG!!! I have never heard anything so loud in my entire life the ground literally shook! I looked up and saw an ominous grey cloud where a twelve inch shell had once been. That wasn't a shell I thought to myself that was more like a twelve inch maroon. I grinned to myself as I pictured the label on the side of it: "Warning will induce a heart attack in all cattle instantly within a 10 mile radius". Early shock out of the way the rest of the show steadily started to take place.

Time for a crowd favourite. Pete put his portfire to the fuse of the helicopter wheel, it slowly started to spin and lift off from its launch pad and rather than go straight up it decided to go sideways for a while chasing Mick along the field. Now here's where it gets hard to explain things as while I was trying to watch the all-powerful beauty above my head there was a strict game plan I had to adhere to. A few three inch shells started to fill the sky and then onto the angled candle pots, streams of coloured stars flew left and right whilst various shells popped every few seconds. A crackling crossettes cake started making its noise next, as Pete and I lit the Vulcan Crackling Bombard crossover the whole place was going crackle mad. Another cake awoke followed by one of the many various willow shell sequences that would pop up throughout the show.

The cakes and shells continued rocking on. A large Dragons Eggs shell broke to a huge cloud of golden crackles as the blue tipped golden willow comets were spreading across the field. Things were really hotting up now this was going fast and furious. What was happening above my head right now would have been passed off as a finale to most shows, even more so as the multicoloured palm tree showed just what a two inch bore cake can really do. This was an outstanding piece of pyro kit, comet tails rose high into the sky followed by massive breaks of sky filling brocades.

Now all hell was breaking loose. Loads of kit was erupting above my head in what was about forty seconds of pure madness. The crowd must have thought this was the finale, how wrong they were! Everything fell silent. A lone Supermantronix was lit to start the second stage of the show which contained quite a few varieties of willow sequences interspersed with large special shells and more cakes; all fired at a steady pace this time so as everyone could appreciate the effects. The familiar sound of a volley of shells launching caught my attention above all the other noise so I looked up and my eyes were met with the most amazing willow sequence I have ever seen. Around four huge golden willows with an eight inch crackling octopus shell. I thought I'd seen all that willows could offer until this one broke, it was huge, hung for ages then each of the shimmering tips broke crossette style filling the sky even more and all along crackling away. This has to rate as one of the best shells I have ever seen.

A few more large shells went up and the Dragons Eggs was fired into life on its own, this was the precursor to the finale. As the cake sped up we all got ready to fire our finale pieces. Shells launched and a Poisonous Spider started whirling in the sky filling it with coloured stars.

Then it came: "LIGHT EVERYTHING". Hehe what a thing to say! "Light everything!". I still chuckle about it now, so we all got started on our respective pieces of pyro, and then it started. "The day the Earth stood still". Two maroon cakes launched an assault; they were relentless raw power. The sound from the display had now taken a new turn this would have made a battle field seem tame. Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Lots of shells were blazing away, lots of cakes and lots of candles - it was sheer madness - unbelievable madness. Every effect in the book was now wowing the audience, fast-paced and absolutely mental. As I looked on in awe I just couldn't help myself and started cheering as loud as I could, this to me was my ultimate pyro moment it was absolutely astounding and my words cannot do it any justice. The kaleidoscope fan cake was spreading out across the field now as the maroon cakes fired their final deafening volley only to be followed by an assault of very large shells filling the sky.

Gren had disappeared inside the van now to press the detonator on the last of the shells. Up went the first set of tens and eights followed by a large volley of four inch peanut shells and a new galaxy was born as the sky was completely filled with colour and willows. Utterly stunning, and as this was all hanging in the sky the final twelve inch shell went up and up and up and broke big time to a colossal sphere that changed colour four times and filled more sky than even the biggest of the shell volleys that had gone before it. I don't know how they did it but the crowd let out an even louder cheer than the one that they had been doing throughout the entire show, and I just couldn't help myself - portfire still burning in hand - I just broke out into a dance right in front of thousands of them. I had died and gone to heaven that was absolutely FANTASTIC.

We all gathered together to congratulate each other on a sterling show. The lovely man who pays cracked open the beers as we all just hung around for a while chatting about the show, it was at this point I decided to wander off and start taking the candle racks down as my eyes were filling I just couldn't help it. Yes it's sad but I just cried that's how much passion I really have for this game. Crying done I finished all the racks off as everyone else got on with their jobs, what had taken the best part of a day to set up was cleared away in a little over an hour and it was time to go home and get plenty of rest as we had three shows to do the next day. Hehe I must have been bad in a past life to be lumbered with doing all these displays ;-)

SOURCE MATERIAL ©TLG, MARY BURRIDGE AND ROCKET REV AS NOTED.
THIS PRESENTATION ©2005 UK FIREWORK REVIEW. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.