I was surprised to find myself co-ordinating the Sky Monkey competition entry this time, following a minor disaster the previous year. It seemed a good chance to redeem myself so off I went full of enthusiasm.

For me, the most difficult part of planning is choosing the music. You have to remember that you are choosing music that will compliment the fireworks, and that the crowd will like. I considered throwing up a load of noise barrages accompanied by my favourite Iron Maiden track, but the look on Tony's face when this was suggested soon dissuaded me. So we settled on the theme music from Pirates Of The Caribbean and edited it to suit our timing requirements.

Once you have the music agreed, in my experience everything else falls into place. You have your high points, quiet points, loud points and ending mapped out for you and need to find appropriate fireworks to fit into the timings. I have to admit to being a bit of an anorak at this point as I have a database of various fireworks along with details of their timings, effects, cost etc. This database is also colour coded to enable me to find a particular colour firework at a glance. Whilst taking time initially to set up, this has proved invaluable on a number of occasions. So now you know a Sky Monkey trade secret!

As a team, we like to do something a little different to the standard display so we worked on creating a set piece to help our display stand out. Waterfalls are always a crowd pleaser, but can be a little boring. So we experimented with a number of ideas (one of them included a wheelchair motor) and settled on an inverted V frame with the waterfall bores arranged along the sides. During our testing we found out that the waterfall composition burns at a high enough temperature to melt through almost anything, so be careful out there! My original plan contained 2 x 6-Point Stars as they provide a fantastic effect. However, we couldn’t source any and it was obvious that my carefully laid plans needed to be re-drawn.

From left to right: Gerry, Tony, Debbie, James, Carrie & Peter . Team photo courtesy of Debbie.

We resurrected one of the rockers that Tony built the previous year as they give a very effective look for a low price. Just hook up a battery and a bundle of candles and you have an instant Z firing effect. We also dusted off the light-up Monkey mascots and decided to throw in some flash bulbs for good measure.

When it looked like some of the team might not be able to make it on the competition day, we roped in my older brother who had a hasty introduction to firing plans, timings and Rothenbergers. The good aspect of this was that it gave us another excuse for a test fire (as if much of an excuse was needed). Thanks should be given to Mike40 at this point who helped out with some of the test firing, and gave plenty of constructive criticism (OK, he laughed loudly when something went wrong on one of the test firings, but he meant well).

We arrived at the Woodman nice and early and set up the traditional Sky Monkey camp, compete with gazebo, table and chairs and flag. Much coffee and biscuits were consumed whilst I issued the team with their pep talk and issued each person with specific tasks for the day.

The team worked hard to get everything set up as we had a fair amount of constructions to get ready, but we still found time for plenty of banter with the other teams and the odd trip to the bar. The competition day produces a good atmosphere amongst all the teams and the fellow pyromaniacs who come to watch. The teams help each other out during set-up and use the opportunity to sneak a peak at what the other teams are up to. I remember telling a rival team "Oi, get orf my land!" when I caught them trying to sneak a peak at my set-up plan.

The day flew past in a blur of activity as usual (never think you have plenty of time when setting up a display as you never do. Terry Pratchett wrote a very funny book on the subject which you should read when you have time). I definitely find myself wondering who stole my time on some set-ups when the sun is setting and you are still busy working away.

Anyway, the displays got going and once again, they were all excellent. Each very different from the next, even though in some cases, a very similar selection of fireworks were used. Just goes to show how a different arrangement of pieces can completely alter a display.

When it was time for us to do our display, we went to our positions and did a double-double check that we had everything and were ready to go before we gave Meggsy the all clear. We had one small hiccough with a catherine wheel failing to pull to a horizontal position as planned, which goes to show that you are only as good as the cheap bit of string you decide to use. That is a lesson learnt for another time.

Apart from that the display went well from our perspective and I remember uttering a few choice words of relief before looking up to see CrazedMonkey stood next to me with his helmet cam recording! Hopefully that bit will only make it into the 18 version of any footage that is produced.

Once we were finished firing we got to sit back and watch the other displays, including the pro displays and Ambient and RocketRev's latest creation. The good thing about still having your PPE gear on is that you can remain on the firing field during this and it is great being close to the action without being the one doing the firing.

In all, it was a great day and we can't thank Meggsy enough for giving us the opportunity to let our creative juices run riot. In recognition of this, we all presented him with an engraved glass and a poem as a lasting memento of the day, after which a few more beers were drunk before we finally hit our beds at the end of a very long, very enjoyable day.

MAIN CAMERA: View from right at the front of the spectator area. This is the highest quality video clip. Windows Media format, 960x540 (widescreen format), 84Mb, click on the image to the left. Please download it all before playing. See the clips below for views from further back.

MONKEY CAM: A unique view from the sidelines, from a camera mounted on UKFR member Crazedmonkey's helmet. This is a lower quality (noisy) clip due to the analogue source camera. Windows Media format, 85Mb, click on the image to the left. Please download it all before playing.

HOTDOG CAM: View from further back, footage kindly provided by UKFR member Hotdog. Windows Media format, 80Mb, click on the image to the left. Please download it all before playing.

FLASH2 CAM: From the Video Vault, footage by Flash2 from a superb viewpoint near the back. Quicktime format, 24Mb, click on the image to access this from the Video Vault section.

Item Cost £ Qty Total £ Brand
BIRD OF PREY 9.00 2 18.00 PLANET
GRAND STALLION 6.00 5 30.00 FI
13" SPARKING WHEEL 19.99 2 39.98 FI
WATERFALL 40.00 1 40.00 FI
3" AIRBOMB MINE 12.00 3 36.00 FI
PALMS AWAY 29.99 1 29.99 BLACK CAT
4" BROCADE MINE 17.00 1 17.00 FI

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