A Big Year For Star Fireworks



First appeared in Fireworks Magazine.

Well, what a busy year 2013 turned out to be! The year started with issues surrounding the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2010, finished with issues surrounding the Pyrotechnic Articles Regulations, and inbetween, more of the same plus a competition winfor my own company, membership discussions at the BPA and we mourned the loss of a dear friend at Phoenix Fireworks.


2013 champion of champion's display


The regulatory issue we started the year with was largely resolved (see the previous issueof Fireworks Magazine). The problem back then was to do with the transitionalarrangements from the British Standard to the new European Standard which had threatened to send a whole wave of UK companies under who could potentially have been left with a load of unsaleable, perfectly good, safe stock. Back then, we had meetings with the British Consumer Affairs Minister at the Palace of Westminster and various heads of departments in Government and a workable solution was found.

The issue that took me back to Westminster in December 2013 is altogether different. The current problem we’re working surrounds category 4 fireworks for professional use. It has been the understanding of the British professional display industry that category 4 fireworks imported that would be placed on the market (ie: sold/supplied) would need to be CE marked and tested, but category 4 material imported for use in your own shows would
not. The question today surrounds the interpretation of the section in the law that provides that exemption. The wording actually says product manufactured for your own use [need only comply with the essential safety requirements and does not need to be CE marked]; and elsewhere it links the act of manufacture with importing.This one will take some time to resolve, maybe another year, but resolve it I hope we will - because the impact on UK small and medium enterprises, which the EU believes should be protected at all costs and which no doubt all UK firework companies fall within, will be massive. At worst, we could find some firework display companies no longer able to economically operate. We believe that the majority of European display companies share the British view and hopefully in time we will be able to demonstrate that.

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At the BPA we’ve been looking at criteria for membership, prompted by a growing list of companies that wish to join our organisation. It’s an important thing to get right, the membership have the right to set the criteria that must be met before a new company is allowed to become a member. To date, criteria have never been formally written down and
although that may sound like ‘anything goes’, it has been far from that. The Association has always sought to attract members who have a trading history with references from
current members and a decent turnover to demonstrate that they aren’t firing a small number of shows and appropriate storage and insurance. Now though, the BPA is seeking to formalise requirements so that it will be quite clear whether a prospective member qualifies for membership or not. We realise this needs proper discussions and so we have no time limit currently set to make these decisions.

Back in August I was delighted to find myself having the immense honour of lifting the trophy for British Firework Championships ‘Champion of Champions’ competition. I’ve been visiting the competition in Plymouth I think almost every year since 2000 and for our fantastic team of hard-working men and women who share a common love of fireworks to 

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win that ultimate title I think will last with me for a very long time. Standards at Plymouth this year were extraordinarily high - every team competing put on a stunning show with
those on the second night contending with some pretty miserable weather conditions for the first five hours of set-up. Following the competition, The Event Services Association (TESA - the organisers) started a consultation on changes to the judging system for futureyears together with a competition move to the weekend (although 2014 remains the regular Tuesday and Wednesday). New judging proposals have since been released and I think this is a really good, positive move and long overdue. I can't think of a single one of us on the teams that competed at Plymouth in 2013 that hasn't experienced both ends of the spectrum in terms of emotion to do with competing at Plymouth over the years. At my team we've said in the past we'd never compete again due to bad experiences, thank goodness we did, but hopefully this new openness will go some way to giving some confidence to all.

The year ended with a little sadness when we learned of the untimely death of the displays director at Phoenix Fireworks, Alex Selby, who was taken ill following the November 2013 season and later diagnosed as having suffered a major stroke. Alex was one of the loveliest people you'll ever meet, a true gentleman whose skill at designing displays was second to none. I've been fortunate enough to work alongside him on several occasions and to enjoy a beer or two with him and the Phoenix crew after a show. Alex's mere presence was enough to make an event or display go well, he was a fantastic character and I know that after twenty years with the company, he will be sorely missed by Martin and the team at Phoenix Fireworks.