The annual Shugborough Festival has become one of the firework highlights of the year. Set in the 900 acre Shugborough Estate, the event sees four professional display companies showcase their skills with huge firework displays set to music - all for the entertainment of a packed crowd. Voted "Best Fireworks Event" in the 2003 UK Firework Awards, it offers perhaps the UK's best showcase of professional pyrotechnic talent.

In this feature, we take a look behind the scenes at the event to see the setting up of the huge amounts of fireworks that make up each display, courtesy of an invitation from the kind folks at Vulcan UK. If you're new to fireworks or one of the many non-pyro spectators who bring their families along to the displays, you'll be able to get an unprecedented glimpse at the complexities involved in setting up and managing a pro display. And of course, if you are one of our regular members, you'll be able to drool over huge amounts of pyro from the comfort of your armchair. Enjoy this "access all areas" feature, with thanks to Vulcan UK, the other teams taking part, and the organisers Jubilee Fireworks.

We couldn't have asked for a nicer day - the sun was shining and the hall itself looked beautiful. Although we had arrived fairly early to get some setting up photos, crowds were already beginning to gather. The large lawned area makes it ideal for picnicking, and towards the back, marquees were being erected too.

The Vulcan UK crew were already hard at work and after a chat with Vulcan's Andy Bone who gave us an overview of their display, we were introduced to the boss, John Rowland. "We are out to impress with a selection of quality shells, candle sequences and mines" he explained, pointing towards a massive array of mortar and mine tubes. If you had a mine fetish this was clearly the place to be. "There are 42 pairs of mines" he continued. "We don't have a particular theme as such, other than to incorporate some fast shell barrages and to keep a good pace going".

View across Vulcan UK's display area, towards the hall

John kindly gave us permission to have a wander around the firing area (avoiding any contact with the miles of electrical cabling of course) which gave us a good opportunity to take plenty of photos.

- You can click on any image below to view a much larger version -

Two massive 100 shot cakes, Blue Spider. There were a total of four of these to be used in the finale build up. Towards the back, Green Brocade 100 shot fan cake - another one which is to be employed in the last few minutes of the display.

A large selection of bores here and note that each one is set up to fire electrically. An awful lot of work went into getting this ready.

A fan of five 28mm Blockbuster candles (available as cat 3 items) to be fired at the same time in a fanned effect.

View from ground level of the various mortar tubes with the hall in the background. Note how they are all slightly angled, to give a fanned coverage in the sky.

Bundles of smaller bore candles. These look stunning when used in sufficient numbers such as shown here.

A picture of the large cakes from the other angle. The hall is in the background - note the number of spectators there already and it is nowhere near dark yet (hint: get there early to get a good spot!).

A large number of big bore shell tubes stand menacingly pointing at the sky above.

This bright yellow box caught our attention thanks to the large number of wires going into it, and out of it.

And a look inside reveals a huge number of wires. Each pair goes off to a firework, and these are all wired into this box which in turn is connected to another box, and so on, until you have just one master control box.

Another great view of the candle fans with the hall in the background. There were around fifteen separate such candle sequences ready to fire.

The end result was awesome. Here, you can see
the bundles of 14mm red and 30mm violet candles being used to create
a stunning fanned effect. See this display in full here.

Three other teams were also hard at work: Jubilee, Alan Hillary and Sandling. To take a look around their display areas please click here for the second part of this feature.

All four teams can be seen in action with stunning photography and high quality video, in our main feature which is coming soon. Keep an eye on our What's New page for our latest feature uploads!

Many thanks to Vulcan UK for their kind help in allowing us access to their display area.

Many thanks to the organisers Jubilee Fireworks and Chris Pearce for their kind hospitality on the day, and to all the teams who were happy for us to have a look at their fireworks: Sandling Fireworks, Alan Hillary and Jubilee.

With thanks also to Luvagoodbang for his help on the day filming the main displays.

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