Day One: Vulcan UK, Pains and Jubilee
Report by Pyro Pete: In August 2001 Tony and I made the pyro
pilgrimage to Plymouth for day one of the fireworks championships
featuring Vulcan UK, Pains and Jubilee. Sit back and enjoy loads
of pictures and some fantastic video clips.
turn the sky - and the sea - bright red as the judges boat steams
Each year six professional display teams gather in Plymouth
to fire over two nights - three teams per night. At stake is
the coveted prize for the best display. In addition to providing
some of the year's best pyro action, the public can view for
free! Quite simply it is one of the most spectacular firework
events in the UK and well worth the long journey.
The teams fire from Mount Batten Point, a long concrete jetty.
Note that this area is restricted to the public over the two
days of firing.
- Click on a thumbnail to view
a picture -
Mount Batten Point - as seen
from the cliffs overlooking it. In this shot we can see
three teams spaced out, setting up for the evening's displays.
Here from the end of Mount Batten Point
looking back towards the coast. This is a brilliant setting
for the displays because most of Plymouth can see it.
If you're spectating, the best place is from The Hoe. This
is easy to get to being near central Plymouth and gives really
nice views of the whole area. It looks a long way away - but
the distance is ideal considering the size of the pyro being
Here's the view from Mount
Batten Point looking north towards The Hoe. Spectators (tens
of thousands of them) gather on the grassy areas. Loads
of room but for unrestricted views make your way to the
front sea wall of The Hoe - but get there early!
The view from The Hoe, looking
towards Mount Batten Point. The hire vans give the teams
away. From left to right we have Vulcan UK, Pains and then
Fireworks isn't always fun!
Here I (Pyro Pete) shelter from one of many squalls. Although
the competition takes place in August, being exposed to
the sea breeze late at night can be quite cold - take warm
clothes, waterproofs AND FOOD! Note the wall here provides
a good area to set up cameras etc and ensures no-one with
a large hat stands in front of you (heheh...). Tony got
soaking wet taking this :)
The main highlight of the
five hours we were waiting (we like to choose our spot early!).
It's a long day for the teams and being exposed to wind and
rain doesn't help.
Firstly many thanks to Jubilee
who invited UKFR to see behind the scenes at their display.
Their hospitality was awesome and they gave us unrestricted
access to film for our members. In this picture Jubilee
get their shell racks ready while I (far left) nose about.
A general view of Jubilee's stash. You
can see why it takes all day to set up.
Jubilee's candle fans make my cat 3 attempts
One of the Jubilee team doing some fusing.
Much of the set-up time for a big display is doing jobs
This gives a whole new meaning to "insert
upright in a bucket of sand".
Jubilee have enough pyro here to sink
any attacking battleships.
Whoops! Did we mention that wind? Anything
that wasn't secured was blown away. Here a member of Jubilee's
team who looks uncannily like Jaws from the Bond films recovers
a mortar tube (although I wasn't going to call him that
to his face, heheh...). I don't know who had it worse, Jubilee
at the end or Vulcan UK downwind and working in both wind
AND sand blown down from everyone else's sandbags.
Chris Pearce from Jubilee kindly poses
with one of his large shells. Once again Chris many thanks
for your hospitality.
Moving down now to Pains. The number of
candles, mines and rockets showed they were going all out
for some creative effects.
These look very interesting. Thanks to
everyone at Pains for letting us nose around and take pictures,
you had some really cool pyro.
The pyro shown above is now being waterproofed.
It may look fine in the pictures here but it didn't stay
like it for long.
One of the Pains team gets some pyro set
up and fused.
Now which wire went where? You have to
watch where you're walking in all this lot. Notice for a
display of this size how much is electronically fired -
the only way to ensure spot-on timing.
What a novel use for a skip. If I'd known
I would have brought down some old rubble get rid of it
The guy in charge of Pains display runs
through the firing sequence on the control box.
Wow! This is serious stuff. A close-up
picture of Pains firing box. We resisted the urge to press
A control box like that needs lots of
wire. You could wire up a small town with this lot. Thanks
Pains for your time.
On to Vulcan UK now. Sadly not quite as
happy to see us (nothing personal, UK Firework Who?) and
they were very busy. In fact the lady there practically
told us to get lost. This is a shame, their display turned
out to be the most entertaining. Anyway not deterred we
took this picture of their Aqua shells pointing out to sea.
Then we went back and chatted to Jubilee again.
Out of interest here are a couple of Vulcan's
parachutes (picture taken the next morning) which set fire
to the nearby cliff. I told you it was entertaining!
VULCAN UK - PHOTOS
This display was one of the most entertaining and magical of
the night. Magical because they had two sublime sequences of
parachute flares (one silver and one coloured). Entertaining
because they almost broadsided the judges boat (from the angle
we viewed it) with aqua shells and then set fire to the hill
behind the display area. The locals thoroughly enjoyed the arrival
of several fire engines :-) We gave this a ten out of ten for
enjoyment! Naturally the judges did not see it this way (we
need a clapometer rather than judges) and Vulcan did not make
it on to the podium.
What a superb start, several
layers of shells with great colour at the crown.
Various shells with long hang times makes
for a "fuzzy" long exposure picture.
A nice twist on ring shells - multicolour
But enough of the normal crap. Let's have
loads of salvos of aqua shells, dambuster style. Did this
thrill the audience? Listen to the video clip. It was awesome.
Before each salvo was a hanging canopy of persistent glitter,
it took your eyes to the sky then brought them down again
to water level with the shells. Brilliant.
Here Vulcan give the judges something
to think about. I'd have loved to have been on that boat.
It looked close. Imagine being on deck and seeing THAT go
And again! Full power ahead Captain!
Look at this! Hanging silver stars. These
hung around for ages. In fact they stayed around long enough
to set the hill on fire. The amusing thing was the next
day Tony discovered they landed about ten metres from where
some builders were laying some new wooden decking at
a cliffside property.
Drifting parachutes move off. Meanwhile
the fire brigade arrived to try and put the hill out. This
was superb entertainment. Imagine trying to hose down a
hill while half a tonne of cardboard continues to fall on
Towards the finale and Vulcan mix it with
the best of them.
Part of the finale. The long hanging effects
make this look "fuzzy".
Afterwards, and the hill is still on fire.
Seriously, this was an amazing mix of pyro and for me, the
hanging effects gave this the edge. What made this entertaining
for the crowd (the fire and broadside) do reflect how our
opinion of an entertaining display is somewhat different
from the judge's mind you I was not in that boat while those
aqua shells went off. The only display on the night to beat
this with sheer "ooomph" was Jubilee's.
VULCAN UK - VIDEO GRABS
This is awesome - there are
actual STARS in these shell breaks.
Double ring breaks.
This sequence was incredible. Loads of
pyro went up and dissolved into fizzing chains of colour,
which drifted off.
A Pandora's box of colour.
These hanging lights were one of the crowd
Hanging blue flares.
Tony's on the case now with the video
camera. He couldn't believe this sequence either. Here the
shells seem quite a way off the boat.
Imagine being on deck. This would have
filled the sky.
The next salvo lands front and aft of
Boom! A torpedo would have been less frightening.
Hanging silver lanterns. Plymouth was
lucky to escape with a minor fire. The Great Fire Of Plymouth
was on the cards at one stage!
Check this out, you had to be there to
savour the noise. Note the smouldering hillside bottom left
Close to the finale.
A great mix of shells.
PAINS - PHOTOS
Pains had quite an act to follow and they pulled it off. We
enjoyed this display which had a definite emphasis on creative
effects rather than raw power, with sequenced candles and mines.
This was the "thinking man's" display, but sandwiched
between the fluke crowd pleasing mayhem of Vulcan UK and the
seasoned sky-splitting of Jubilee, it was up against it....
This is a good example of
the various effects Pains created.
Almost every part of their display was
These hanging silver comets were brilliant.
Here we move back to coloured stars. Pains
used the whole front of the display area to fire serious
numbers of candles. The screen of colour worked well. Several
sequences also made some quite fantastic "phut phut
phut" sounds as shells ejected left, centre and right.
Zooming back, the candles are now supported
with some shells.
Weird effect, these shells broke in half.
Another sublime mix of colour and noise.
As you can see this is a very synchronised
Various ground level fireworks shoot stars
while some shells take the action higher.
The green stars here were a nice interlude
before the "boom" of a big bore shell - with a
comet tail - splits it in two.
Here we zoom out to capture the effect.
Another long hanging sequence. Personally
I would like to see more of these in displays.
Pains light up the judges' boat.
Multi-layered effects as they build towards
As is the ending sequence.
PAINS - VIDEO GRABS
Tony picked up some brilliant red/blue shells... take a look.
A mixed comet and shell sequence.
These shells were brilliant. Half red,
And two more, by coincidence pointing
the opposite way.
Two mixed shells and one red. This sequence
was one of the most visually impressive of the whole night.
Blindingly bright ground effects.
Gearing up to the finale.
Hanging silver bouquets.
JUBILEE - PHOTOS
Bright silver effects tear
through the sky.
Big-bore sequences were evident
throughout this display. The crowd loved them.
Trailing stars while candles explode below.
Jubilee now go for some quieter and more
These were sequenced together very well.
More candle fan effects...
... with some shells now
Nice orange shells.
This was good. Fans of crackling silver,
with more effects that seem to hang over into the water.
Then, a shell slices the whole lot in two.
We zoom out to get the effect.
Look how this one hangs in the air!
This sequence really did light up the
One of my favourite shots because the
timing here is spot-on. Silver trails and stunning bronze
Two big shells.
A huge (and low breaking) shell similar
to what Pains used. These really did stand out from everything
else. It would be nice to see other colour combinations.
These five shots show the onslaught of
... bright colours across the whole display
... ring shells...
... now silver, green and red...
... ending with sky-filling colour at
Zooming in now we can see how Jubilee
layered the effects from water level upwards.
What a view from that boat!
Another one of my favourite pictures.
The whole sky turns red...
... then silver...
What a class display. Jubilee finished
third, the only display on the night to make it into the
JUBILEE - VIDEO GRABS
Red shells are the staple
diet of many displays, but string them together and they
can look very pretty.
Particularly if you go mad and let this
many off at the same time!
Bright salutes light up the sea.
The red/blue shell captured.
This was awesome.
Multi-effect shells, again spread out
and timed well to make the best possible impact.
Double ring shells.
Double ring shells and lots
Getting near the end and this was sensory
Jubilee's display had by far the most
impact on the night.
PLYMOUTH FIREWORKS ON YOUTUBE (from site
update in 2011)
DOWNLOADABLE VIDEO CLIPS (from the original
feature in 2001!)
WMV clips You must "right click " and "save
target as" (or equivalent on your browser). Download
these clips in full before playing them on your computer.
Do not try and stream them.
Right click here [5.3Mb]
Only one clip and very long, but this has it all. Well
worth a download even at 56k. Aqua shells, parachute
flares, it's all here. Download it NOW!