Next up on the Skyscenes tour of duty was a display at Felixstowe in Suffolk, and the chance to report from behind the scenes at the town's popular annual carnival.

The day started off really well with brilliant weather and a chance encounter with Skyscenes on the dual carriageway leading towards the town. Putting the old V6 into third gear it was a pleasure to burn off the ambling Gerry who responded to my toot of the horn with a furious wave. Still he had the last laugh because overtaking him meant we could not follow the van to the firing site and we ended up getting a bit lost. Tortoise and the hare and all that.

We finally both made it on site which was a wide, open school playing field a few hundred metres from the main park where the carnival was.

Steve managed to get out of PE class early to help set up.

- You can click on any thumbnail to view a bigger picture -

That's the van unloaded and here are the shell racks in the process of being made secure.

Lots of timber (and tools) required as always. In the background is one of the cake sections, you can see some quite large ones there!

Steve at work on the fusing. You can see the yellow and green quickmatch by the box load It's surprising just how much fuse is needed in a pro display - and it ain't cheap!

A fan of professional candles. These have a length of quickmatch coming out of the top into which will be inserted an electrical ignitor - Steve wanted to ensure the timing on these was perfect.

The camcorder surveys the scene. Gerry shows some rare savoir-faire with his hat while PeteB continues his fast-track pyro management training and stands "supervising" the proceedings ;-)

Closer view of the shells being fused up. For those who are interested you can also see a mix of mortar tubes here, with the traditional card ones and some plastic ones too (the orange ones). The high density plastic ones are reputed to last much, much longer than the card ones - but cost a lot more to buy.

General view of the firing area. Hope the people across the road have got their cats in!

Close-up detail of an aerial shell label, in this case a four inch brocade crown.

A potpourri of aerial shells of various sizes and brands. It is such a shame that these are now professional use only, the fall out from these is negligible compared to cat 2 and 3 rockets.

A detailed close-up of a professional (category four) shell in case you've never seen one before. Note the warning "constructed to fire instantly". It is up to the firer fuse this as required.

Finishing off the fusing (which for this show took around two hours to complete) and covering the tubes with foil, Steve enjoys the very last of the day's sun.

Another view of the professional candles, here they are now electrically primed as required. Time to tidy the wiring.

Here (bottom) is a standard electrical connection box which allows a display to be organised more easily for electrical firing. You can follow the wiring here from the box to the fireworks and then beyond to the next rack.

Well there goes the sun. What a perfect day while it lasted. Oh well!

Drool! No other words needed.

Firing site : General view of the firing site. 527Kb Windows Media clip.
What's up Doc? : At St. Peter's we were faced with bats, at Felixstowe it was Hitchcock's "The Rabbits", heheh... If Skyscenes ever display in Africa I'm taking an elephant gun. 839Kb Windows Media clip.

After a very pleasant afternoon covering the setting up in glorious sunshine, darkness fell, which brought with it a serious issue, an increasing amount of rabbit crap on my boots which I could no longer avoid in the dark unless I switched the camcorder to 0 lux mode and used it as night vision! Add to this a complete change in the weather as some quite thick mist started to form. This might pose a problem with the high action fireworks such as aerial shells.

As the time approached for the show, Steve confirmed with the organisers that he would await a crowd countdown then fire a single small firework as agreed. The compere would jokingly say that the countdown was not loud enough and another was needed to get the "proper" display started, and Bob's your uncle the crowd would count down again really loudly and look out Butlin's here we come with our new act!

With minutes to go me and PeteB had to decide how to cover this display. With the dank mist overhead I decided not to bother with still images, and opted for the safer option of the camcorder. PeteB likes a challenge though and decided to try his luck with the SLR.

We hopped over the fence with our camera gear - mixing with the public who the organisers were clearing just in the nick of time - and made our way to our chosen filming point, a bit of grassland halfway between the site and the park. Actually I say "hopped over", it was in fact a five foot and rather unsteady fence, and we are not quite as nimble as we used to be. In fact to be honest getting over the fence probably took longer than the fireworks were due to last, and resulted in more pulled muscles than when I last moved the greenhouse.

At the due time, we were ready with the cameras, Skyscenes were ready and told the organisers this, and the crowd started to countdown. "3-2-1..." were the last three numbers and then BANG, Skyscenes obliged with the required single firework. Pandemonium and chaos followed on the walkie talkie. That was not, apparently, the firework countdown. The organisers had decided to count something else down at the same time and not inform the firing crew!

After this initial confusion the show proceeded as planned and the fireworks themselves were excellent. Despite the mist which obscured some of the higher action, the show was Skyscene's typical mix of colour and sound with high and low action. Feedback from the spectator's who watched from the adjacent road was very positive (one person said the fireworks were the best he had seen).

A great show despite the mist

Highlights : Edited video clip showing some of the highlights that were not too obscured by the mist. 6.4Mb Windows Media clip.
Golden Flowers : This is a really pretty twinkling golden flower effect - this was the first display we'd seen this effect. 805Kb Windows Media clip.
Golden Flowers for broadband : Same clip as a higher quality 720x576 video. 3.8Mb AVI file, DivX required.
Poisonous Spider : This cat 4 cake really rocks. Swirling silver serpents to coloured breaks. 1Mb Windows Media clip.
Poisonous Spider for broadband : Same clip as a higher quality 720x576 video. 2.5Mb AVI file, DivX required.

Video stills (click to enlarge):

A good night's pyro in the end, well done to Steve and the crew for performing a top show.

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