Stanford Hall is quite an imposing looking building, in front of it is a wide, flat area which would host the spectators. This led down to a stretch of water and safely beyond this was the firing area. It was a hive of activity when we arrived with all five teams setting up, checking firing lists, tweaking fireworks here and there, loading rocket racks and wondering if they had enough pyro on hand to impress the audience. Let's meet the teams one by one in reverse order (first team here fires last):

Above: Chris makes last minute checks to their innovative fountain rockers.

Chris from Team Ground Force was busy making some last minute checks when we arrived. Several silver contraptions caught our eye, these were the spinning and rocking platforms his team developed. The idea behind these was to use large conic fountains but to add an interesting twist by spinning or rotating them. It certainly looked impressive even in daylight. "We're aiming for a high impact show with large cakes and candles" explained Chris. "But with artistry in it too. We have mostly Shellscape and MLE items, with two Kimbolton Midnight Carnivals as a finale".

- Click on any thumbnail for a larger picture -

Team Ground Force's pyro list, shown here with the kind permission of Chris.

The team's firing order. Many teams keep their stash a closely guarded secret even after the event for obvious reasons, but Chris was keen to share theirs with others, so anyone else could emulate their display if they liked it. Nice one Chris, thank you.

A view across the team's allotted firing area. You can see that even £500 of fireworks looks very thin when spread around!

The view across the other corner, towards the water that divides the hall from the firing areas.

One of the rotating platforms for two of the conic fountains. These were electrically powered and as they involved no modifications to the actual firework itself were legal to use in the competition.

Two rotating platforms and in the middle the rockers. For added safety the conic fountains were mounted within wooden frames.

The view past one of the cones across the water to the hall itself. The cone here is a Millennium conic fountain.

Another view across the water. Situating these next to the water was intentional with the reflections hopefully adding to the overall effect.

A variety of cakes. If this looks like your back garden display then it's no wonder, remember, all fireworks used in the competition were garden and display fireworks on sale to the public, fired with no modifications.

Close-up shot of the rockers for the fountains. Ground Force were the only team to really concentrate on a set piece section, with the exception of Sky Matrix's wheels, most of the other pyro was cakes, candles and rockets.

If you thought Chris has a large car because he is a family man, think again, it is of course for the fireworks!

Many thanks to Chris and his team (Andy and Stuart) for allowing us to have a look around their firing site and to take pictures for this feature.

Above: Dave gets ready to launch a rocket assault on the hall!

Team Sky Matrix was unique in being the only team to have just one member. That's one person to do all the setting up, the same person to fire, and then clear up! If you think that sounds impossible then think again: Team Sky Matrix is the defending champion having won the previous year's competition! And despite having to do everything, sole team member Dave was surprisingly relaxed. "I aim to show what can be achieved using category two and three fireworks" he explained. Dave rates the event very highly. "I also want to have a good day and enjoy myself" he added.

Three angled candles with the hall in the background. You can see in these shots that Dave uses a very low tech solution to protect his stash - Tesco carrier bags - which he jokingly pointed out to us.

No display would be complete without the old screeching pen-lid cake, MLE's Whistling Dragon's Teeth being Sky Matrix's choice here.

Nice view across the water to the hall. In the foreground, a wheel, one of several being used in Sky Matrix's display, hoping as with Ground Force to utilise the water for reflections.

Close-up of one of Sky Matrix's racks. The rockets shown are Blue Moon's Shuttle Rockets.

Another view of this rack. The Shuttle Rockets are only garden fireworks but if you fire enough of them they form a good value barrage. "This whole rack only takes up £16 of my budget" explained Dave.

But enough of the smaller rockets, Dave now sets to work loading his other rack, which contained a selection of various sizes and effects.

Here is the rack fully loaded with the familiar green Medusa rockets from Kimbolton on the left, Midas Gold rockets in the middle and a Blue Moon Orbiter on the right.

A closer view of the same rocket rack, the Hall is in the background as spectators start to arrive and pick the prime spots. The soot on the top of the tubes shows that Dave's racks have seen some prior campaigns, I wonder if this is his lucky rocket rack from last year?

All the work done and everything bagged up, time to sit down, unwind with a little food, and watch the watchers!


Above: Many of the teams were starting to feel the nerves early on, and this is understandable. But not Team Sky "Ice Man" Matrix. After setting up, Dave whips out not just a portable stove, but a complete table and chair, a full English breakfast and proceeds to cook this, then enjoys a warm meal while he relaxes. All that was missing was the wine and candelabra. Bravo Dave!

Many thanks to Dave for allowing us to have a look at his firing site and for talking to us about his display.

Above: Dieter tapes up a few cakes ready for firing.

Tinderbox Fantasia were situated right in the middle of the action with two teams either side, and they were hard at work staking and taping their fireworks. "We want to showcase how many different effects you can get from cat 3" explained Dieter, taking a break from sorting through his stash. "We also hope to show how fireworks can be choreographed together with synchronised colour and effects".

Looking back towards the hall through four large display rockets. Tinderbox didn't have a rocket rack as such, using instead the standard tubing normally supplied with rockets, so their display was probably the closest in terms of setting up to what you would expect in the back garden.

Various rockets ready for launch and a nice mix too with Kimbolton, Men Shun and Weco amongst others.

Chris is busy banging in some stakes.

Millennium's Crackling Moon Dust, paired up for added impact.

It looks like chaos and it probably was for a while. Like the other teams, Tinderbox had to think about many things apart from the actual fireworks - how to secure them, waterproof them, carry them and store them for example.

Batteries of Devco fireworks with many different effects. Each team had their own "best value" barrage up their sleeve to produce the most effects for the least cost.

A Men Shun cake sits ready for firing.

Three big Weco rockets promise some artistic effects. Big rockets can take a massive chunk out of your budget, every team I am sure agonised for many a long hour about how many big ones to include.

Many thanks to Dieter and Chris for allowing us to have a look around their site and to interrupt them during much hammering, taping and sweating to ask lots of questions.

Above: Colourflek load up their rocket salvo.

Colourflek were also hard at work setting out their final fireworks as the light was beginning to fade. "We mainly want to enjoy the event and the taking part" explained Martin and Chris who made up the team. "This is the first time we have competed in it" they continued, "We've got a mix of everything in tonight's display".

Men Shun's eight shot Titanium Thunder is a stunning firework for the price and we were not at all surprised to see it in action at the competition.

Colourflek's set up was very interesting and it was nice to see a good deal of effects and brands not widely in use with the other teams. Here, some items from Cosmic.

The unmistakeable label design of Winda fireworks. This looks like a fairly meaty big bore barrage to me.

One of Colourflek's big ones, Razzle Dazzle.

And another big Golden Lion cake, Imperial Warlord.

Very interestingly shaped and coloured rockets made this the best looking rocket line-up from the teams.

Many thanks to Martin and Chris at Colourflek for letting us have a look around and take pictures for this feature.

Above: Team Sky Monkeys look the part with printed hats, shirts and car. Plus, a semi-pro pose on the tool box from Gerry.

Last along the water's edge but first to fire was Sky Monkeys. Their firing area looked a little different to everyone else's due to a large number of candles set up at various angles, and enough timber to build a small African village. Like Sky Matrix, nerves seemed to have been left firmly at home in this team. "We just want to enjoy putting on a good display" explained Gerry. "We have no expectations" he continued, "We're enjoying it a lot so far". I asked him if firing first was putting pressure on them. "Not really" he replied, "We're happy to go first and get it out of the way, then we can sit back and enjoy the rest of the show".

Extreme angles but securely fastened, Sky Monkeys had the biggest number of single effect, loose candles of all the teams. The plan was to fire these in multiples to create a saturated effect at low cost. Candles can be angled much more precisely than cakes.

More single candles in a long line. I hope the team has been to the gym a lot recently, they'll have their work cut out lighting this lot. Remember, all the fireworks must be fired "as is" with no professional modifications to the fuse.

Another shot of the big-bore candles, angled to give maximum sky coverage.

This is an interesting looking rack for the smaller candles.

A great deal of timber, tape, tools and assorted equipment.

General view across their firing site and then down towards the previous four competitors.

Many thanks to Sky Monkeys for allowing us to take pictures for this feature and have a wander through their firing area.

Above: Angled shell racks with the hall in the background.

To end the evening, MLE Pyrotechnics would be showing off with some professional effects. These were set up behind the competitors, safely away from the crowd but close enough so that the whole spectator area would get a stunning view. The show was electrically fired, so MLE's team were hard at work for hours getting everything set up and then wired up.

Angled shell racks covered with tape and wired up ready for remote firing.

More shells and you can see at the bottom how one single wire splits onto multiple connections out to each tube.

The view across the firing area and you can see there is a great deal of heavy duty professional pyro ready here.

Another view of shell racks with the hall in the background.

Many thanks to the Mat and the MLE team for letting us have a look around the firing site. We appreciate you were very busy on the day and thanks for taking a few minutes out to talk to us.

Well with all the setting up complete, it was time to sit down and relax, waiting with anticipation for the shows to start. In "UKFR corner" we had a great deal of camera equipment rolling. We hatched a cunning plan to "leg it" around the perimeter of the field to ensure each display was kept in the frame, easier said than done and carrying two tripods in the dark after a birthday beer is not as easy as it sounds!

Click here to see a video clip of the hall and crowd just after the sun had set (880Kb WMV).

In addition to thanking the teams and the organisers for their time and help I'd like to say thanks also to the teams' various crews and the other UKFR members present for their hospitality, coffee, food and beer.

The final few hours passed quite quickly and then it was time....

©2003 UK Firework Review. All content protected by copyright and may not be copied in any form or medium for any reason without our written consent. All trademarks acknowledged. UK Firework Review acknowledges and thanks MLE Pyrotechnics for their cooperation in allowing us to film and make this feature.

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