It's Christmas time at Gt. Yarmouth, the jewel of the East Coast's resorts and on hand with the pyrotechnics to celebrate it were Boots rooftop-regulars Skyscenes Pyrotechnics. Our look behind the scenes at the previous rooftop venue (Dereham) was clearly just a rehearsal because one look up at the building from ground level showed we would be about eight floors up! The good news is that they had a lift. The bad news is that it stopped one floor from the roof and the crew had to carry the gear up two flights of stairs. Still, the view was worth it when the sun set...

The centre of Yarmouth enjoys late night shoppers and the ambience
of Christmas. Views like this made the hard slog worth it.

In the same way that a firework display is the end result of a lot of hard work, the photo above is the result of a long day in otherwise less than comfortable conditions. For the most part the weather was cold, damp, windy, damp and cold. The sort of penetrating cold that you only seem to get on the Norfolk coast.

The venue itself was the rooftop of a central department store next to the main square. As we saw in the previous display to this one, a roof poses few obstacles to a professional team. However whereas the Dereham venue was surrounded by roof space on all sides, this roof was right next to a public area. For this reason, the Yarmouth display was the one most at the mercy of the weather out of all the ones we have covered - quite simply the wind had to be blowing towards the fall out area (the huge roof areas behind) or it could not go ahead.

Back to reality and before the "feel good" view of the Christmas lights we
had to in fact brave a cold, damp roof as you can see here. It's no good Captain,
I cannot see a chip van up here anywhere!!!

- Click on any thumbnail to view a bigger picture -

View of the main roof area. As you can see it was a bit grey and grim. If only it had been in the middle of August and not December! What this shot does not show is the number of bones on the roof. Apparently the seagulls scavenge food and scraps from the market below and the bones are the remains. Yuk!

View over the edge looking down at the main square, and the all important chip stall has been spotted. We flagged this up to Steve as an "urgent issue".

The other side of the square, and a large TV screen has been installed to keep shoppers interested. Good idea.

A view of the market itself. In the distance, you can just about see the coast through the murk. If you've ever been to Yarmouth as a tourist you might only have seen the sea front complete with the expected attractions, the town centre though is very large with a market and an indoor mall. It has come a long way in the last decade.

View further into the distance, looking at the market strip. Loads of stalls and things to do.

Steve gets to work fusing the shells together.

In this picture it looks like Gerry is frantically holding the pyro down to stop it getting sucked into the vent behind!!

Steve at work with the mortar tubes getting them cleaned up and ready for action. Note the angles here to ensure the fallout goes to the right place, just one of many safety considerations in a professional display.

Up close and personal with an aerial shell. Many members have only fired category three (consumer legal fireworks) and will rarely see professional fireworks except in action at organised displays. This is an aerial shell, you can see these are "no frills" fireworks in terms of presentation.

Small bore candles make superb fireworks if you use enough of them. Here a fanned bundle is waiting to be fused. In this case the visco fuse (the slow burning green fuse added for the public's benefit) was removed and will be replaced with quickmatch so they all start together. Re-fusing fireworks is something that only professionals should do, of course.

The pretty Christmas lights in Gt. Yarmouth! For a few minutes the spirit of Christmas touched me. Only for a few minutes though, because I had a date with the hot dog stall that I intended to keep.

Another "night view" of a side street. Despite the cold and damp I really enjoyed this venue, the views were a nice bonus.

Daytime view : View of the main square and market from the roof, filmed during the day. 1.83Mb Windows Media clip.
Daytime view for broadband : Same as above. Higher quality 720x576 video. 4.6Mb AVI file, DivX required.
Site sweep : 360 degree pan around of the camcorder from the roof's edge showing the firing site and the view. 2.3Mb Windows Media clip.
Site sweep for broadband : Same as above. Higher quality 720x576 video. 5.9Mb AVI file, DivX required.
Our first out-take! : Gerry almost goes head first on the roof. Complete with slow motion replay. 494Kb Windows Media clip.
Our first out-take for broadband! : Re-live Gerry's embarrassment in greater detail. Higher quality 720x576 video. 1.28Mb AVI file, DivX required.
Happy shoppers : Shoppers in the main square enjoying the Christmas atmosphere. 900Kb Windows Media clip.
Happy Shoppers for broadband : Same as above. Higher quality 720x576 video. 2.4Mb AVI file, DivX required.
"The Fog" : View of the market and Christmas lights then a sweep of the firing site - with the sun down and the fog coming in. 2.1Mb Windows Media clip.
"The Fog" for broadband : Same as above. Higher quality 720x576 video. 5.5Mb AVI file, DivX required.

After the sun had set and we'd had our fill of chips, hot dogs and tea (you can't go to Yarmouth and not have some chips!) it was time to make the final checks. At this point we noticed that the wind was getting up a bit. Not too strong to display but sadly blowing in exactly the wrong direction. No matter how many bits of small paper we threw up, they all went in the same direction - towards the crowd.

With minutes to go (to see if conditions changed) the horrible decision was made to cancel. This took a lot of guts considering the large and expectant crowd in earshot below. But, I have to say well done to Skyscenes, the risk simply could not be taken. It was a hard decision to make and an even harder one to understand below where the crowd were sheltered and could not understand what the problem was. It was the right decision though.

So, after lots of hard work it was time to dismantle and un-fuse everything, lug it all down the stairs again, and reload the van <sounds of sobbing> but never fear, we'd be back the following week! Apparently it is not unusual for this specific display to be cancelled, as Steve explained, the previous year's took three attempts because of the weather.

The following week we repeated the same process over again. This feature therefore is actually a compilation of two nights, the setting up shots are from the first attempt, and the actual fireworks are from the second - successful - attempt! The weather on the second attempt was perfect in terms of wind but the dreaded fog had come back to haunt us. The fall out all went to the right place and the fireworks looked great but as you will see from the pictures and video, the conditions have played havoc with our equipment. Fog or mist is very hard to compensate for, finer details are lost, and too bright an exposure can result in large glowing balls of light. Still, it will give you an idea of the great display that Skyscenes managed to put on.

Arrghh! The fog! It looked great to the eye but
posed the cameras some problems!

Video stills (click to enlarge):

Display highlights : Only one clip because of the conditions which made filming difficult, an edited clip showing some of the none-fogged highlights! 6.6Mb Windows Media clip.

Many thanks to the team for letting us have a look behind the scenes at another really interesting display, and also a big thanks to the staff at Boots in Yarmouth, who were a really friendly and helpful bunch. Having worked in retail over the Xmas period I know what a strain Christmas shoppers can put on you, so a fireworks crew needing access might have pushed some people over the edge - but they couldn't have been more helpful. Finally a big thanks to the people of Yarmouth for their understanding when the first display was cancelled.

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