A sky full of magic

I’ve just spent a very interesting few days with a professional fireworks company down in Oxfordshire, Illusion Fireworks.

Some fan slices doing their thing for the crowd.

I’ve been doing fireworks displays with various people on and off for quite a few years but, compared to some of the seasoned pros at Illusion, I’m really just a rookie and there was a massive amount to learn. So, I went down to Wallingford to attend Illusion’s company training day and then help out on the display.

The newer members, learning all about fuse.

It was a boiling hot weekend; almost ideal weather conditions for pyrotechnics. On the Saturday, we split into two groups with the more experienced people learning about the electronic firing system and the newer people like me going through the basics of how to rig and de-rig the Illusion way.

A beer outside, after the training.

We learned all about fusing and tools and equipment we would need. We also got to see what happens when fireworks malfunction and the rigourous measures that are in place to ensure everybody is safe should anything go wrong.

Watching demonstrations of various effects.

In the evening, we had an absolutely fantastic meal at Anokhi Indian Restaurant in Wallingford. It was, quite simply, the best Indian food I’ve ever tasted and the hospitality was superb. I’m hoping we’ll go there many more times in the future as a group.

Hooray for Indian grub! This was the best.

Illusion is a member of BPA, the British Pyrotechnists’ Association and provides displays all over the country. Like I said, I’ve worked with a few in the past but Illusion’s standards are incredibly high and its director, Karl Mitchell-Shead, puts heart and soul into his work designing truly memorable displays.

 

Karl, kneeling before the firing site 😀

It might not seem like it, standing in the audience, but professional fireworks displays take an awful lot of preparation and even for relatively small shows, the crew will normally be on site for most of the afternoon prior.

Looking clapped out after raking up.

In the best of traditions, rookies usually get handed the mundane jobs to do. So, I pre-empted this by volunteering to rake up dry grass on the firing site. This meant we didn’t end up taking bags of grass home with our firework debris.

Dorney Court, one of the oldest houses in the country.

The evening display was at Dorney Court, a popular venue for couples getting married. This particular evening, we were putting on a demo night so that they could see one of our pyromusicals and hopefully book up both at Dorney Court and with Illusion.

And we’re off. The demo night begins.

I was fortunate enough to get pretty much a ringside seat. I and another chap were asked to keep an eye on the dry grass so that the lawn didn’t get singed. Thus, we sat relatively close to the action, at a safe distance but out of sight of the crowd.

Gorgeous red crossettes fill the sky.

One thing I can say after that weekend is that I must have got two years’ worth of exercise in about three days! There is an awful lot of lugging about of equipment, hammering in stakes, fusing, running wires and cleaning up to be done. But it’s all worth it at the end when you hear the “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd.