Guy Fawkes Firework Displays

Bonfire Night – November 5th – is the highlight of any firework enthusiast’s year. It’s the time when fireworks are traditionally used – and expected – in the UK and generally the one night when you can have a really good blast.


Getting started

If you haven’t already done so, read the General Advice article first which runs through the basics of having a display. This article assumes you are doing your own display with consumer fireworks rather than using a professional service.


When is Guy Fawkes?

Guy Fawkes Fireworks

A big display using just consumer fireworks

That might sound a strange question – everyone knows Guy Fawkes night is on November 5th. But, unless you’ve been living on a remote island for the last decade, you can’t have failed to notice that fireworks are generally let off over a much wider period – sometimes several weeks before and after.

This spill-over from the 5th is in part due to major public events – organised displays by charities, clubs, schools and other organisations. If Guy Fawkes falls mid-week, it makes more commercial sense to have the event the preceding or following weekend. And doing so can help prevent clashes with other local events.

However, if you’re following suit and displaying in your garden on any date other than the 5th itself, please take steps to advise your neighbours. Public events are well advertised in the press, but the UK public is only conditioned to brace for fireworks (and make special considerations for pets) on the 5th. This advice is particularly pertinent for displays after the 5th. Your neighbours might have thought it was all over once the 5th itself had passed.

Be responsible with your use of fireworks and advise neighbours if you’re having a display – even on Guy Fawkes.


What fireworks to use

This is the one night you’ll be excused, where appropriate, for making a lot of noise. Get hold of a nice mixture of colour, noises and effects. Some tips for you:

  • Everyone loves sparklers and they make a nice icebreaker before your display. Consider glow sticks too as a safer alternative to these.
  • Include traditional items such as catherine wheels and fountains.
  • Keep a nice mix of ground based effects (fountains), medium level effects (cakes and candles) and high effects (rockets).
  • Have a nice opening or finish and pair up some bigger fireworks for added impact.
  • See the other Choosing Fireworks sections for more help if you have a quiet theme or are displaying in a small garden etc.
  • A combined Halloween and Guy Fawkes party creates a great atmosphere with both fancy dress and fireworks too! But make sure you’re neighbours are aware and expect the fireworks.
  • Larger cakes (often called single ignition boxes or “displays in a box”) can provide a hassle free way of making saturated, near professional effects by lighting one fuse, ideal for less experienced firers, or if you don’t have time to set a full display up.
Firework Fountains

Traditional items like fountains can be used in multiples for even greater impact

Remember that although Guy Fawkes is your best excuse to use loud fireworks, they must still be appropriate for the audience. Displays for mixed ages including younger children would benefit from quiet and pretty sections in addition to noise. Too much noise for too long in a built up area may not go down very well.


If you are stuck for space

You can still have a good display with garden fireworks. See the Garden Fireworks display article for more help. For very small gardens or budgets consider boxed display packs which offer a lot of smaller items and are suitable for small spaces or very young audiences. Remember to get some sparklers too and you can beef up small selection boxes with packs of garden class rockets.

NEVER use fireworks that are too big for your venue or garden.


Bonfire advice

As if letting off loads of fireworks wasn’t enough, there’s nothing like a good bonfire too!

Stop and think first! Do you really need to have a bonfire? Don’t be pressurised by the occasion to provide one if it is unsafe to do so. Unfortunately, fire and explosives do not mix, so you have to be very careful. Here are some “hot” tips:

  • The safest approach is to start your fire after the firework display itself.
  • If you have to display while the fire is going, do not situate the audience between the fire and the firework area. Aim to have the fire at least 30-50m from the safety zone (the safety zone is the buffer area between the fireworks and spectators.
  • In any case keep the fire downwind from the firework site.
  • Its not really practical or sensible to try and have a bonfire and fireworks going at the same time in the back garden.
  • Never use flammable materials (or fireworks) of any kind to try and light the bonfire.
  • Always turn the fire over before lighting it to dislodge any sheltering animals. Stick to roasting nuts, not hedgehogs!
  • Your local fire brigade are always very happy to give you more advice. Look for your local office in the telephone book.
  • Tell the fire brigade too if you’re planning a large or public bonfire so they are aware and take a mobile phone with you in case of any problems.
Bonfire Night

Garden incinerators are a great way to have a back garden bonfire a little more safely

Never, ever, dispose of spent fireworks on a bonfire. It’s a really bad idea. Multishot cakes and candles sometimes contain a leftover unexploded shell or two. Clear up all spent casings after the display to prevent temptation and put them somewhere safe before disposal.


A final word

For many people this can be their only display of year. It’s VITAL that you take care and be safe even if this is the case. Be remembered for your cool display and great fireworks, not for blowing someone’s fingers off.

Remember that safety must always take precedence. Don’t get carried away just because it’s Guy Fawkes or your once a year display – don’t use fireworks too big for your display area or large display rockets in a built up area.

It is illegal to let off fireworks after 11pm on any date around Guy Fawkes except the 5th itself, when a midnight limit applies. Read more about firework laws.


Further information

If you need any further help feel free to ask in the busy UKFR Fireworks Forum. You might also find the other articles in this section useful if your display falls into any other category such as quiet or for a small garden, so do have a look at those too.

When you are ready to buy your fireworks, always give priority to UKFR advertisers and those listed on the Buy Fireworks page (find out why).  Once you have purchased your fireworks head over to the Using Fireworks section for expert advice on how to set them up and let them off.

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