Each year the UK's top firework companies exhibit at the Spring Fair in Birmingham's NEC. UKFR reporter Julian Hartley went along to this trade-only event to find out their latest news and product launches. Whether you're a seasonal shop or an all-year stockist, and whether you're looking for a profitable brand to partner with or new ideas to attract customers, the companies featured here can help.

BOOM TIME

Boom Time Fireworks is a new brand. It launched in 2005 and was being exhibited at the Spring Fair for the first time in 2006. It has a young and enthusiastic team running the company bringing prior experience in the firework industry to bear in this new venture. The team has deliberately limited the number of items in Boom Time's range. That, they say, is because feedback suggested that big ranges were felt to be too much to take in, work with and choose from.

The team members are looking to concentrate on and develop what they've seen and know to be good. Feedback is judged to be important and looking at UKFR reviews has been informative! When putting the range together an emphasis was placed on colour rather than noise. Even more low noise cakes are being planned for next year's range.

The range starts with two selection boxes of garden fireworks with £5.99 and £9.99 RRPs then goes up through a series of display firework selection boxes and barrage packs. The Battle Of Stalingrad pack in the photograph below is the biggest of these, with 14 cakes (including a fan cake) for a £99.99 RRP. The Dawn Of The Droids pack of 5 x 18 shot cakes has a £9.99 RRP and comes supplied to the trade in outers of twelve packs.

- Click on any smaller picture to enlarge it -

Individual cakes start at £5.99 for a 100 shot cake of the "pen lid firing" variety and goes up through the brand's namesake - the 32 shot £29.99 Boom Time - to Hercules with 60 shots and The Beast with 200 shots and both at £74.99. There are no individual rockets - all the rockets are in packs. These run from the five for £5 Category 2 (garden firework) Sonic Bursts on up to four larger sized rockets for £24.99 (these are Offensive by name, hopefully not offensive by nature!) And a mixed size rocket pack with nine rockets for £39.99.

To give an idea of size, the Twirling Thunder Wheel in one of the photographs is 400mm in diameter. It's driven by 20 motors and has a £19.99 RRP.

CONTACT: 01842 890 627 Web: www.boomtimefireworks.co.uk


BRITISH BULLDOG

Bulldog Fireworks is based in Lancashire and over the years has become well established. The company is a member of the Explosives Industry Group and also of the CBI.

The most distinctive feature of Bulldog's range is Barney's Big Crate with its black wrappered fireworks in a wooden crate. This style of package is said to be a Bulldog innovation and one that has proven to be successful. The Big Crate has a 499.99 RRP price tag. There is also Barney's Pup Crate at 124.99. In the light of the new regulations, the crate contents have had to be adjusted for 2006.

There is a range of five selection boxes running from the £5.99 Monsoon box of garden fireworks with no bangs through to the £99.99 Volcano box of display fireworks. Bulldog also offers a special range suitable for sale and use in Northern Ireland.

All the rockets in the range are supplied in packs. These start at £9.99 for a tube of six Apollo rockets and go up to £39.99 for a pack of four of the large Super Apollo Power rockets.

In addition to the cakes in the crates, there's a range of individual cakes. There are eight different 16 and 25 shot cakes at the £4.99 RRP price point. Among them Sonic Woof picks up the dog element from the brand name. Its 16 shots include green and silver stars accompanied by bangs and crackles. Then there are six cakes at £14.99, including the aptly named Short Circuit which gives a volley of white spirals which fizz upwards before exploding into a shower of white sparks. After that the range jumps up to the £74.99 200 shot Grand Finale and £89.99 300 shot Showstopper - which is described as "a dramatic 300 shot firework... red, gold, purple and blue heads develop within a host of white swirls and turn into golden crackles which sound and look like a tropical rain storm". In the middle there is the intriguingly named Mutts Nutts at £24.99. It's 27" high and is described as "a finale firework where multicoloured clusters of balls shoot upwards and burst, scattering exploding coloured stars in every direction".

The range of retail fireworks is rounded off a pack of three roman candles, three individual different sized cone fountains, a wheel and the Megamine.

But there's more to Bulldog than their range of retail fireworks. Bulldog is also a display company. The company also supplies stage effects like conventionally fired stage fountains, mines and confetti cannons. There's also an interesting compressed air powered confetti cannon available. There are two sizes with different powers to suit venues with higher or lower ceiling heights. Their firing control box is shown above. Alongside that are some professional level display firing systems that Bulldog's Tony Mason is working on. Once fully tried and tested these could be made for sale to professional display companies.

CONTACT: 01772 629929


COSMIC

The Cosmic Group is amongst the band of the UK's well established fireworks companies. At 115 pages it presented the biggest 2006 fireworks catalogue available at the Spring Fair. Even that didn't feature everything that the group have to offer, for the Cosmic Group has a huge range of fireworks to draw on, spread across several brands. Some of those brands are reserved for particular market sectors, like Dynasty which appears in our Supermarkets. The catalogue available at the Spring Fair covered Astra, Cosmic, Golden Lion and Next Generation - brands which should therefore be on sale in the general retail market. It offers 99p RRP packs of single shot roman candles up to the £95 Extravaganza cake with fireworks available in a wide range of categories.

Funny Faces is my choice of new product to look out for in 2006. These are small ball head rockets, in packs of five with a £4.99 RRP. What marks them out is the expected effect. The catalogue says "See a face light up in the sky" and the rocket label shows a smiley face. This is an effect that I've only seen with shells used in professional displays. Such a small rocket isn't going to produce an effect as big or long lasting as a shell, but if they do manage a smiley face then I'm certainly going to be happy and smiling and so will a lot of children that I know!

Curiously these rockets have been included not in the main rocket section of the catalogue, but in the Cosmic Party range. They're there alongside the existing range of Coloured Flares, Party Smoke, Parachute Smoke, Party Poppers, Table Bombs and Confetti Canons (both in several sizes) and the spinning Sputnik fountain. The other new item in this category is a £9.99 Haunted House. It's said to be "not for the faint hearted", but we haven't yet been told what it'll do...

Back in the main rocket section there's been little change. Golden Lion's Mystical Thunder Hawk has been dropped and an old favourite, Golden Pheasant, has returned to the line up. Thunder Bats, the little black ball head rockets, have been given little black bat wings for 2006! These changes apart, all the small medium and even the large rockets from the 2005 range are carried through into 2006. Intriguingly three of the individual rockets are marked "Buy 2 get 1 free" in the catalogue - Super Sonic (Cosmic, RRP £6.99), Sky Blazer (Astra, RRP £6.99) and Sky Bombard (Astra, RRP £11.99). The 2005 RRPs were £5.99, £5.99 and £9.99 respectively, so there's a fair offer to be looked out for. As for the prices of the rest of the range, many have stayed the same as 2005, some have gone up (as we might have expected) whilst some have actually gone down. It's the same picture throughout the whole catalogue. But remember, these are all RRPs and actual prices and offers will no doubt vary from place to place as they always have.

In the selection box arena there's more or less the same range as in 2005 covering both garden and display fireworks. The Astra range stays the same. The Cosmic range has had a few adjustments - the Saturn box drops from 30 to 27 fireworks but the Jupiter box goes up from 24 to 30 fireworks and the Neptune box from 30 to 33, with all three boxes keeping their 2005 RRPs. The Golden Lion range has had a packaging facelift and now wears a fresh and distinctive big cat livery - Cougar, Leopard, Panther, Tiger and Lion. The Cougar and Leopard boxes appear to have the same contents and prices as the old boxes they replace. The Tiger keeps the same price as the box it replaces but loses a couple of fireworks. It's the Lion box that's an all new product, coming in it at the top of range with a £90 RRP.

The Golden Lion brand has a reputation for giving fireworks amusing names - a feature that regularly delights UKFR members. This year we look forward to the return of Frightened Ducks With Abundant Wind which had migrated away for a couple of years. This year's new addition to the zoo is Happy Panda Shoots Himself! The photo that accompanies this report suggests this to be a fan cake with two different tube lengths. Its got a £35 RRP and is described as having "strong yet gentle effects". The other new animal to look out for is the £35 Rampaging Boar that is tagged "Loud". Sadly it looks as though Silver Fish In Blue Lake has swum away - an old favourite that will be missed - and the Golden Serpents have slithered away, too. However the Sky Monkey With Exploding Coconuts that inspired a UKFR competition team is still there in the same form and price as last year.

In the Astra division, Midnight Mayhem comes in and Midnight Thunder goes out. Jamboree looks like being a replacement for the 2005 Tropical Storm - both carrying the same description, "a 37 shot cake ejecting bursts of red, green, blue and crackling stars". Under the Cosmic label Martian Attack seems to have taken the place of Spiders From Mars whilst Moon Missile is now clearly presented as a red tipped "pen lid" type of cake. The Next Generation range looks like being available in the same range of individual fireworks and packs as last year.

Astra, Cosmic, Golden Lion, Next Generation... but no Weco. In the past the Weco range of rockets have been given their own place in the catalogue, not with the main rocket section rather with Next Generation's section. However in 2006 there are no longer any Weco rockets in the catalogue. So the big Weco's, costing up to £20 each have left the line up, but at least there's the little £1 Funny Faces to look forward to.

CONTACT: 01283 520771 Web: www.cosmicfireworks.com


DEVCO

With almost twenty years in the UK firework business, Devco is now one of our well established firework companies. It's not a household name everywhere, though. It's based in London and that seems to be its main market area, although the Devco range is available in some specialist firework shops around the country.



Above: Mr Chawla and Mr Shah from Devco Fireworks

Mr Chawla, one of Devco's directors, is the current vice-chairman of the British Fireworks Association. He and his fellow director, Mr Shah, take a close personal interest in the development of fireworks for their range.

Back in 2005 they expressed a determination to work on some of their smaller fireworks so that they could be classified as category 2 garden fireworks. The good news is that following the publication of the anticipated new regulations and having had time to study them carefully, Mr Shah and Mr Chawla think they'll be able to achieve this aim this year. So, for example, we can expect to see the little 19 shot Pingolai cake range in garden firework guise this year. This looks as if it's bucking the trend, but it is welcome news. Most firework companies are not developing garden firework ranges beyond the traditional small selection boxes. Yet the majority of gardens these days are too small for the proper use of the category 3 display fireworks which make up the bulk of the fireworks available to the general public. There are some notable examples of good garden fireworks around and it's to be hoped that Devco can add to them.

From the point of view of reporting on new products, the Spring Fair comes too early in the year for Devco. Like many other companies, visits to China to formulate, test and accept new products for 2006 take place after the Spring Fair has finished.

The intriguing heart shaped Ace Of My Heart was on display at the Spring Fair in dummy form and this looks like being a new item for 2006. The Quantum Accelerator in the photographs also looks like being a new addition to Devco's range - in the fan cake section. The definitive list of new fireworks will be announced with the publication on Devco's 2006 catalogue which is due in April.

CONTACT: 020 8994 0714 Web: www.devcofireworks.co.uk


FESTIVAL

Festival Fireworks, based near Lewes in Sussex, is a well established firework display company and supplier of category 4 fireworks. Over the last few years it has been branching out into the general retail firework market and can now provide fireworks in all categories. At one end of its range are the category 4 fireworks for professional use, whilst at the other end there are category 1 indoor fireworks suitable for use on the domestic dining table.

The fireworks available to the general public are sold under the Sovereign Brand. For 2006 a neat CD-based catalogue has been produced in place of last year's traditional paper based one. Comparison of the two shows that the 2006 range is more or less the same as in 2005, although a number of items don't seem to have made it across into the 2006 range. However, it's likely that more items are still to be added to the range. The CD doesn't reveal any new products, but some are certainly in the pipeline. The Festival Fireworks people were talking about a visit to China to check that new products were actually being made as specified.

All being well we can expect developments in the line of fan cakes, for example. One such is said to be a gold mine / kamuro barrage.

The indoor fireworks are very similar to those traditional ones that some of us are old enough to remember from 30 or 40 years ago and which seemed to have disappeared from sale. Now they are back. Various UKFR members have tried them and mentioned them on the UKFR's members discussion forum. It seems that they evoke smiles of nostalgia from older members whilst delighting their children too .

The category 2 (garden), fireworks come in the traditional selection boxes.

By far the majority of fireworks in the range are in the display category. There's a full range on offer, from small barrages through medium, large and giant barrages on to a pro-series of barrages. Many of these have deliberately been produced as category 3 versions of category 4 products - they feature effects from the company's category 4 range, fitted into the category 3 bore and cake size limits. The range also includes a good selection of candles, fountains, and rockets, but curiously the mines in the 2005 range do not feature on the 2006 CD catalogue. It remains to be seen if the mines do make the final retail range line-up. If they don't then there's a set of six very good value, well performing pre-loaded mortar mines that will be missed. More understandable, in the light of new noise regulations, is the absence of the Thunderbolt Screech rocket pack and Thunder Blitz individual rockets. At the quiet end of the range there's an unusual fountain of a type not seen in the catalogues of any of the other exhibitors at the Spring Fair. Clearly intended to be mounted on a post, the £19.99 RRP Sovereign Sun has 8 silver fountains arranged in a circle to create a big eight-pointed star.

CONTACT: 01825 840 818 Web: www.festivalfireworks.net/


FIREWORKS INTERNATIONAL

Fireworks International is a well established brand with a good reputation. A look through the UKFR review index shows that this company has produced a good number of "Best Buy" rated fireworks. Apart from the Colour Blitz and Soaring Eagles cakes, they're all in the 2006 range - including the now legendary Triple H Bomb and Crazy Horses. A comparison of the 2005 and 2006 catalogues reveals that for every firework dropped from the range, at least two new ones have been added.

The £7 Floral Wizard, £8 Singing Bees, £25 Galactic Invader, £65 Pagoda Dragon and £75 Ninja Attack haven't made it across from 2005 to the 2006 range. All the large single rockets remain in the range, as do the After Shock report rockets which come in packs of five for £9.99.

For 2006 the Artillery Shell gets a companion called Little Demons - a 200 shot screaming report candle with a fountain start and a £9.99 price tag. The fountain start in a firework of this kind is unusual. Another unusual and new firework in the range is the £5.99 Howling Wolves which produces triple tone whistles. Don't confuse this effect with another new whistling firework in the range - Triple XXX Whistle is a 64 shot £6.99 cake with three different calibres of silver and gold whistling comets. If you want something quiet and cheerful, then look out for Cheeky Cherries. For £7.99 RRP this will give 25 shots of rising tails with red chrysanthemum bursts with crackle.

Moving up the price and size range The Ogre comes in at a penny under £25. It's a 25 shot green and silver glitter with willow and red tails cake. This is one of a number of new fireworks that look as if they've got names and wrapper designs that are contemporary with current popular cartoon and film characters. The other two are War Of The Wizards and Merlin's Cauldron. These are both £29.99 36 shot cakes. The former fires red tails to cherry bursts with red pistils whilst the latter provides red and blue mines bursting into silver chrysanthemums.

At the top end of the range, in the Single Ignition Box section, the much liked Tiger's Revenge is joined by another big cat, Panther Attack. Tiger's Revenge offers 168 shots for £85 just as it did last year. The new cat spits out 208 shots for its £100 as it attacks the night sky. Another heavyweight cake is the aptly named Sumo. At £65 and 150 shots this appears to be a direct replacement for the Pagoda Dragon. But it's not the biggest firework cake in the range. That honour goes to the new 240 shot Oriental Emperor, which at £120 also boasts the biggest price tag. Fireworks International haven't neglected the other end of the SIB range for there's now Medusa at just under £30. This has 120 shots of silver glitter, willow, brocade crown and silver cyclone.

There's one more new item to be mentioned and it's the most distinctive of them all. There's a wooden rack with 5 x 75mm mortar mines and a fan of 5 x 1 metre tall, 30mm bore candles attached to it. This is Zeus. The price tag is £99. It's been put together so that the candles fire first, followed by the mines. Two of the mines throw out salutes. It's reckoned that this will be a good finale piece!

CONTACT: 01332 298448 Web: www.fireworksinternational.co.uk


KIMBOLTON

Kimbolton Fireworks is a multifaceted firework company. It has a highly regarded display business, produces a range of category 4 fireworks for professional use and has created a widely available range of fireworks for the general retail market. It is a long established British firework company with a good reputation for its consumer fireworks which are aimed at the premium end of the market range.

The 2006 catalogue improves on the 2005 edition by adding much more effects across the range. It shows that all the fireworks except the Super Nova slat type wheel have been carried across from 2005 into the 2006 range. This has been replaced by the Giant Sun Wheel which is also a slat wheel. It's slightly smaller in diameter than the Super Nova (560mm compared with 600mm) and much smaller in RRP (£12.99 compared with £29.99).

Two new big rockets have been added to the squadron. Brimstone is a Chinese manufactured version of the German made Jumbo Display Rocket. Brimstone will cost £9.99 whilst the German Jumbos are £17.99. Then there's Magellan at £12.99 which is a Chinese alternative to the £18.99 German made Special Jumbo Display Rockets.

The catalogue now also includes the Plotters' Keg at £17.99. This was originally planned as a "limited edition" for last year's 400th anniversary of the gunpowder plot. But it has proved so successful (unlike the plot) that it has been added into the standard range. It starts with a silver fountain, goes on to a battery of roman candles and has a large mine finale.

The main additions to the range for 2006 have been included on a leaflet that is separate to the main catalogue. This gives details of no less than nine new medium to large single ignition cakes. The photographs in this feature show that these come in distinctive packaging which is quite different from the wrapper style that Kimbolton has usually been associated with. The packaging of these new items has more in common with the box designs for Kimbolton's selection box range and gives the impression of a coherent brand identity which is lacking in the mêlée of wrapper designs elsewhere in the range.

Five of these new fireworks are traditional vertical firing cakes. These start with Sandstorm at £44 and 100 shots in 60 seconds, then Silver Humming Bird and Coloured Whirlwind both at £59 and 64 shots in 70 seconds, then Royal Jubilee at £69 and 200 shots in 120 seconds and finally Royal Tornado at £79 and 180 shots in 120 seconds. They have different sets of effects but all end with a salute finale. The other four are pattern firing. Two are £79, 45 second Z-firing cakes - National Salute with 80 shots of red, white and blue and Rainbow Spectacular with 84 shots of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. Starmine Fiesta has a £69 price tag, a 30 second duration and is an 80 shot V-firing cake of multicoloured two layer mine effects. The more novel pattern firer is Curtain Raiser. It's a C-pattern, firing from the centre to left and right and back to the centre again, followed by a full fan then a cross-over with one row firing from left to right at the same time as another row fires from right to left. Curtain Raiser does this in 45 seconds with 80 shots of bombards and mines for £69.

CONTACT: 08700 762538 Web: www.kimboltonfireworks.co.uk


LILAC MANHATTAN

Finding Lilac Manhattan was a pleasant surprise. The Spring Fair database can list exhibitors according to product category. Whilst looking for all the traditional firework companies to visit, the database put Lilac Manhattan on the list! It's not a traditional firework company. But sparklers and party poppers are classed in law as fireworks and that put the company on the list.

Lilac Manhattan's main product line-up consists of collections of high quality cards, kids krafts (sic) and social stationery by named designers. The company has a range of confetti mines and party poppers and would like to find and add indoor fireworks to its list.

But the line-up already includes a wonderful range of well packaged and presented indoor sparklers suitable for hand holding or for using on cakes etc. in place of candles. That's something for people to consider when birthdays and other celebrations come round. Lilac Manhattan's sparklers are available in a variety of shapes - including male and female varieties, as the photographs show!

The Spring Fair takes over every exhibition hall at the NEC - it's that big. It boasts some 4000 exhibitors. Lilac Manhattan's stand was therefore just one amongst 1000's. But its banner read "Lilac Manhattan Add A Touch of Sparkle". It was an unexpected find and a fun stand to visit and it certainly added a sparkle to this reporter's visit to the Spring Fair.

CONTACT: 01604 250 900 Web: www.lilacmanhattan.com


MEN SHUN

Men Shun is a well established brand in the UK and offers a range of fireworks covering just about every type of retail garden and display firework available and at every price point. Its brochure lists over 150 items ranging from the £1.99 Skud to the £99.99 Dynamite barrages and from a £7.99 selection box of garden fireworks to a £1925 pack of display fireworks. The company is presenting a revised and improved brochure for 2006. The metallic purple cover is carried through from 2005 but it's now published as a solid hardback book!

It's a similar story in the firework range. Some of the pieces have been carried through from 2005 but have been revised and improved for 2006. In the brochure the Lethal Tank series and Autumn Leaves have been marked as having "New Improved Effects". But several other items are being released with new artwork for the packaging and it's said that these items have also had their effects revised. Comparing the 2005 and 2006 brochures, this applies to Earthquake Shake, Pulverizer, Meteor Explosion, Hells Journey, Devastation, and The Incredible Invasion. The word from Men Shun is that bangs are being toned down while colours are toned up.

This aim applies to Autumn Leaves which now has a finale of silver fish instead of the previous big bang willows. It's now featured in a new "Low Noise Fireworks" section in the brochure along with Stardust and Mystical Fairytales. These three fireworks have RRPs of £14.99, £39.99 and £64.99 respectively. Joining them are several new items. There are three varieties of Triple Delight barrages at £4.99 each which will offer colour stars, crackling stars and silver snakes. Starry Starry Night will sprinkle the sky with colour stars for £9.99 and adding crackle to the mix, Colour Mania joins the group at £14.99.

Elsewhere in the range the existing quartet of £10.99 19 shot barrages is joined by Midnight Melody, Golden Dawn and Evening Sunset. The Spin Doctor has been replaced by Typhoon, although the product code is the same, suggesting this is a renamed, repackaged firework rather than something entirely new. Jail Break breaks out with 25 shots fired in volleys of five at a time.

Recognising that fireworks aren't just for November 5th, there's a wedding cake on offer. Wedding Bells tops the price range in the standard barrage section at £99.99. At the same price and topping the range in the fan barrage section there will be New Year Celebrations and a Diwali Dazzler.

Meanwhile at the other end of the price range, there'll be a new £9.99 fan cake called Star Gazer offering four effects fired in volleys of five.

A new sort of firework - for Men Shun at least - is a mine barrage. Other brands offer them, so this isn't as much a "true piece of innovation" as the brochure claims. However, the 36 shot Mine Field is a welcome addition to the range. This has a £39.99 RRP. Staying with mines, the single fountain start mine range has been completely changed. Moon Bomb, Sex Pot and Backdraught are out. Four new mines with family friendly names are in, with a wider price and size range: Blow Your... Pants Off, Socks Off and Shirt Off, with Hang On To Your Hat getting in between them! According to the brochure, Pants has a green and red fountain and a golden palm mine, Hat blasts into green and red palms whilst the Shirt is a blue bouquet with crackling thunder. What pattern the Socks have is not divulged!

In the ordinary fountains range we lose the Amber and Crystal cones as well as Gypsy and Pyramid Jewels but gain the small £1.99 Fountain Frenzy. The wheels range is more than halved with only the Cyclone Wheels and The Eye spinning on into 2006. Elsewhere in the brochure Thunderation and the Powder Keg are gone, along with all the Party Poppers and Fun Snaps. However the selection box, barrage pack, display pack and sparkler ranges are showing no changes.

It's a different story for the rocket range. Nothing new has been added across the rocket range, although a few prices have been reduced. But with new regulations coming in, large rockets are being phased out. This year the Neon Nightfighter, The Bullet, Torpedo, Golden Age and Heavy Metal have all been launched out of the range. Fans of the renowned Orb will be relieved to know that it's still available, but next year's report may bring different news...

CONTACT: 01937 849188


NIGHT STAR / BRIGHT STAR

Night Star is a new brand that UKFR members began to see in shops and to ask about in 2005. The Spring Fair presented an opportunity to find out more about this brand. The photographs show that Night Star had one of the biggest of the firework company stands at the exhibition and it was certainly the most eye catching.

Night Star is aiming to be a brand that can help the retailer compete with supermarkets. So although the range is quite compact at the moment, it has been put together with scope for creating special offers in mind. With around 30 items the range might be compact, but it includes some seriously large fireworks with prices that stop just short of £100.

There are five selection boxes with RRPs ranging from £14.99 to £99.99. The rockets all come in packs. The big metallic finished Liquid Gold and Platinum rockets come in boxes of six with £89.99 RRP per box. There's also a "Massive Assault" pack of 30 rockets of assorted sizes with a £49.99 RRP. There is a smaller rocket pack, although this is pictured in the brochure with Star Burst branding. There are two roman candles in the range - both being candle bundles. Earth Splitter gives 48 shots at a £9.99 RRP whilst the £14.99 Castle Attack produces 72 shots.

As with most brands, the bulk of the range consists of barrages, otherwise known as cakes. In Night Star's case these range in RRP from £9.99 to £99.99. The photograph of the stand above shows a three pedestal arrangement exhibiting three of the £99.99 barrages: Asteroid Attack which is a conventionally packaged 138 shot "straight up" barrage; Final Frontier, a 100 shot fan firing barrage; and the Terror Tower with the tubes for its 41 shots arranged in a more novel design. These all look impressive. As for their performance - well no doubt UKFR members will pass on their experiences and opinions via the lively UKFR forum and the review section of the UKFR site as they get to buy them and fire them.

Bright Star joined Night Star on the exhibition stand. It's understood that these are two separate companies, although they are working in association in that one is providing facilities to the other. Night Star is based at Parkview Nurseries in Crews Hill, Enfield, not far from London. Bright Star is working from its established base near Ripon in North Yorkshire. Bright Star has well established storage and distribution facilities and it's these that are being made available to help to Night Star at the moment.

For its part, Bright Star, with over 200 items on its 2005 product list, has one of the biggest and most comprehensive ranges of category 2 and 3 fireworks on offer to the consumer. It includes fireworks bearing the Star Burst label as part of its range. At the Spring Fair it took the opportunity to show some of its big fireworks - like the intriguingly shaped and new for 2006 Fighting Fortress and the 49 shot fan barrage Crystal Cascade which was new to the range in 2005. It also announced the launch of its new premium Elite range of fireworks. These are bigger, higher powder weight fireworks that are said to be packed with "more power, more colour and more stunning effects". The Fighting Fortress is understood to be part of this Elite range. We'll have to wait and see what's in the rest of the range. Bright Star's new catalogue is due for release in March 2006

CONTACT: 01765 640740 www.brightstaruk.com


ROYAL PARTY

Here's a company that has produced a catalogue with features that other companies would do well to emulate. Each firework has a series of icons with relevant information. These cover the safety distance, noise level, running time, bore size, number of shots, powder weight and height travelled. This is all helpful information when planning displays. The height information is welcome and rarely seen in other catalogues. Royal Party also provides a well produced, very watchable DVD of its firework range. This all fits in with the company's aim to position itself at the quality end of the market.

The Royal Party brand is already a well established and mature brand in Sweden and Norway and is on its way to acheiving that in the UK. Here it's now going into its third season, building on the success of its first two seasons and engaging in a gradual evolution of its UK range.

It's a range that encompasses everything from selection packs of small garden fireworks up to big display fireworks costing around £80 each. Market research to define the range was done before launching the brand in the UK and is being used to refine the range now. So we can look out for additions to the range of popular 49 shot 49'ers and to the range of 61 shot cakes. Its been observed that in the individual display firework realm the brand had a good selection of fireworks at price points from around £40 upwards but that it had too limited a choice of fireworks in the lower price ranges. It's understood that this situation is being addressed for 2006. The range also includes what has turned out to be a popular series of distinctive family display packs presented in clear plastic sleeves and holdall type bags instead of the more traditional cardboard box.

Like several other companies, Royal Party was still finalising the 2006 range at the time of the Spring Fair. Thus the catalogue available was a 2005 / 06 one. So it hasn't been possible to do a full comparison of the old and new ranges for this report. A full assessment of how the company has strengthened its range will have to wait until the new 2006 catalogue is published.

CONTACT: 0870 760 9533 Web: www.royalparty.co.uk


SPARKY

This is one of the newer brands that we've seen appear in the last few years. Now going into its 4th season, the company appears to be well established and is in the process of expanding its range of fireworks. It's a range that covers just about every type of outdoor firework, in packs and as individual items, both big and small, in traditional shapes and with some novel shapes for good measure.

Sparky's catalogue is well presented. The company is to be commended for including full effects descriptions and running times for nearly all its fireworks. The one thing the catalogue does not show is price. The company is continuing its policy of selling to retailers at fixed trade prices and allowing retailers to set their own selling price. The 2006 catalogue includes everything that was in the 2005 range - it seems that no items, including big rockets, have been dropped. The catalogue shows that the range has been expanded with 18 new barrages and, in response to public demand, a 1Kg conical fountain.

The most interesting addition is a set of more or less single colour category 3 barrages. There are 10 of them - Red, Blue, Gold, Purple and Green barrages each in 24 and 30 shot versions at different price points. They do include silver as a foil to the principle colour. Each of the barrages has a wrapper appropriate to the colour of its effects. Crystal Falls is 24 shot blue version. Running for about 36 seconds it produces repeating sequences of blue and light blue peony with light blue falling leaves and silver willow. The red, purple and green equivalents do exactly the same thing in their own colour whilst the gold has the same range of effects but with the addition of gold tails to each shot. There's a bit more variation of effects amongst the 30 shot range. Coloured lights, glittering effects, falling leaves, willows and peonies are involved, but not all of these effects are in all five of the colours. To give one example, Deep Blue Sea is the 30 shot blue version. It runs for about 49 seconds and produces blue lights and blue willow, blue lights with white glittering and blue peonies. None of the fireworks in this set include titanium salutes - they're designed to be colourful rather than noisy. It's a set of fireworks that Richard Astle, who designed them, is very proud of. He's shown photographed with a display of the new fireworks.

If you'd like something bigger in blue, the there's the new 49 shot Blue Lagoon. It gives 21 shots of blue light peony (that's how the catalogue words it) followed by 28 shots of blue light to blue crackling peony. (In other words it seems that light = star, not pale). There's a bigger purple barrage too - the new 72 shot Cool Secret. The biggest of the new fireworks in the range is the 800 shots in 162 seconds Ultimate. It's described as "fast and furious" and produces a range of coloured stars and peonies with crackles, whistles and bangs!

CONTACT: 01937 841101 Web: (Bright Spark) www.brightspark.co.uk


TNT

This TNT isn't the logistics and delivery company whose lorries are a familiar sight on our motorways, rather it's the TNT that claims to be "the largest firework company in the world". This is a big firework company in the USA and it recently arrived in the UK when it bought Millennium Pyrotechnics. TNT supplies fireworks to the giant Walmart retail empire in the USA. So when Walmart acquired ASDA it was no surprise to see TNT fireworks on sale in our ASDA supermarkets.

The popular Millennium brand of fireworks will continue to be available in 2006. Although no new items will be added to that range, it's good to know that established favourites will still be available. It's in the TNT range that new fireworks will be seen this year. These will be spread across the price and type ranges. There'll be a couple of small category 2 fountains, Pink Diamonds and Crickets at around the £2 - £3 mark. Fantasia, a £20 fan fountain, was popular in 2005 and now it will be joined by a baby brother called Night Treasure at around £5. The £125 Guy Fawkes Return selection box sold well in 2005 and will be joined by a big brother costing around £150 in 2006. However the biggest boxes from the 2005 range - Trafalgar at £218 and The Big Bang at £699 - are expected to be dropped. TNT will introduce a multi-rocket pod in 2006 as part of its strategy to cope with the demise of big single rockets. Then further up the price range there'll be the £54.99 15 shot Big Honkin Star. This is said to produce gold willows to red stars, gold willows to silver fish, gold willows to flowers and crackling flowers. Another new piece to look out for will be the £64.99 Minesweeper - a pumpkin keg shaped 19 shot mine barrage.



Above: Paul Ribchester from TNT Fireworks

These are just some of the 28 new items that are going to be added to TNT's range this year. At the time of the Spring Fair, the final development and testing stages of the 2006 season's new fireworks were being done in China. So the full details of all 28 weren't available at the Spring Fair. However those details, together with an opportunity to see some of the new fireworks in action, should be available to trade customers at a series of demonstration evenings being planned for April.

CONTACT: 0808 131 4499 Web: www.tntfireworks.uk.com


TOTAL FX

Here's a brand new brand to look out for. Total Fireworks has been around for four years as a retailer. Now its Director, Tim Sallis, is developing their own brand for the company. That range is Total FX. Launched this year, its been specially commissioned, with design input from Tim, and will be promoted as a premium brand. The plan is to make it available through Total Firework's own High Wycombe shop and on-line system as well as through wholesalers to garden centres and individual retailers.

There are two distinctive features to all the barrages in the Total FX range. One is the eye-catching livery and the other is that they all end with a finale salvo. This has been done deliberately and could well be a hallmark of the range. There are 18 barrages in the range starting with the £5.99 25 shot Dragon's Breath. This generates a mix of multicoloured pearl bursts and crackling followed by the volley finale. After this comes the £7.99 35 shot Samurai Warrior with peonies and other effects. Climbing gradually through the price range, past The Abyss at £8.99 and Black Magic at £9.99 there's the 19 shot Titanium Rhapsody with its willow finale at £14.99 and the 200 shot Dream Weaver at £15.99. There are six more barrages between £19.99 and £34.99 before The Matrix at £49.99. This is a 110 shot roaming fan barrage with peony and comet bursts. The quick fire 500 shot Devastation is also at £49.99 with its colours, whistles, crackles, mines, comets, peonies and finale salvo of five titanium salutes. The remaining four barrages include two display-in-a-box SIB type fireworks with the 200 shot Guns 'N' Roses topping the range at £99.99 RRP.

The artwork theme is carried through the rest of the Total FX line up. This includes candles, wheels, fountains and sparklers. There's a twin pack of fountain start mines at 5.99. Rockets range from a pack of five category 2 Rainbow Warriors for 5.99 through a pack of four large category 3 Scorpion Kings for 25.99 to the big single rockets called The Big Guns at 15.99 each. The range is completed by four selection boxes. There's one category 2 box, Pluto, at 10.99 and three category 3 boxes going through the planets in increasing size, Mars at 21.99, Saturn at 32.99 and Jupiter at 43.99.

CONTACT: 01844 343366 Web: www.hypostasis.co.uk/totalfx/


"Thank you to all the companies who took a few minutes out of their busy schedules to talk to us. We appreciate trade fairs are hectic at the best of times. At the time of the Spring Fair, many companies are still testing their fireworks in China, so it is always difficult for them to commit to final product specs. This feature is intended to convey the general information given to us by each company at the fair." - Pyro Pete, Editor

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