How to Organise a Family-Friendly Fireworks Event
Fancy doing something to bring your community together this November 5th? A firework display can be fun for all the family and is a great way to raise money for your charity or organisation.
Some people might be deterred from organising a firework display because of the risk fireworks and fires can present, however, a display can be put on safely and responsibly by following some simple guidelines.
Here we set out the five steps to organising a fabulous family firework display in your town…
Step 1 – Find a site
The ideal site for a firework display is one that is big enough, has sufficient access and is clear of overhead obstructions like power lines. It should be reasonably flat and grassy so the fireworks can be secured easily. If you wish to use a public space, such as a park or playing field, you will of course have to apply to the council for permission.
The space you will need for your display depends both on the amount of people you wish to be able to attend and the type of fireworks you want to use. Consumer fireworks are currently classified as either Category 1 (indoor), Category 2 (garden), or Category 3 (display). If you want to light the display yourself you may only use fireworks within these categories; you will need a professional operator for fireworks in Category 4.
Category 2 fireworks have a minimum spectator distance of either 5 metres or 8 metres depending on the type of firework. Category 3 fireworks have a minimum spectator distance of 25 metres. It’s important to remember that the boundaries must extend around the fireworks on all sides and may need to be extended depending on the direction and strength of the prevailing wind.
It is not necessary for the safety and fallout zones to be clear of buildings, trees or other structures, only people, but do consider whether the fallout from fireworks could potentially cause any damage. Bonfires require a completely clear, 18 metre-wide surrounding boundary.
Draw up a site plan that stipulates where everything will be located, including the firing area, safety zone, fallout zone, spectator area, entrances, exits, car parking, toilets, catering trucks and emergency access points.
Step 2 – Adhere to regulations
If you want to be able to provide alcohol at your event or you think you’ll be playing music or serving hot food and drinks beyond 11pm*, you’ll need to apply to the local authority for a Temporary Event Notice (TEN – this will cover you for up to 500 attendees). A TEN must be submitted at least 10 working days before the start of your event.
Even if you do not require a TEN, it is advisable to still notify the council of your event. They will be able to advise whether you should also contact the police and fire brigade. You should have a robust emergency plan in place detailing things like evacuation procedures and onsite emergency response, which you can make available to them.
In some locations it may be helpful to warn other people about your event plans, e.g. farmers on nearby farms or any other residential, commercial or industrial premises which may be affected.
* Bear in mind that the cut off time for setting off fireworks on Bonfire Night is midnight.
Step 3 – Plan your firework display
Your budget will dictate the number and type of fireworks you can buy for your display, but try to focus on quality rather than quantity. A smaller number of wow-inducing pyrotechnics will have more impact than lots of rubbish ones.
To give you an idea, a near professional level display will cost around £100 per minute in fireworks. This sounds a lot, but your display does not need to be long. Just 5-10 minutes of impressive fireworks will be enough for most people, providing you have other attractions such as a bonfire (with a Guy Fawkes to throw on) and hot food (perhaps a hog roast?).
One way to increase the duration of the show while minimising spend is to choose long-duration devices like fountains, strobes, wheels, and waterfalls. These will typically cost around £15 for 30-60 seconds of sizzle whereas a rocket will cost you £15 for a 5-second pop. Just remember to keep things lively, with a mix of effects, so no one section goes on too long.
You’ll also want to avoid gaps, which break the pace of the show. Do this by building in some overlaps; having the next fireworks starting before the current one’s end. When structuring your display, think about it as a show with a beginning, middle and an end. Will you start quietly and work your way up, or open with a loud bang? A blinding end is a must, so it’s worth reserving 25% of your fireworks for the crescendo.
You can enhance the emotion of your show by adding a musical soundtrack. But if you do, don’t forget to obtain a PRS licence.
Step 4 – Arrange staff
You’ll need a number of volunteers to staff your event; to help you with everything from setting up and firing the fireworks through to entry management, stewarding and clearing up afterwards.
It’s useful to have several people lighting the fireworks so each can be responsible for their own section. They’ll need to be equipped with safety gear such as safety-glasses, hard hats, gloves and hearing protection, as well as port fires to safely light the fireworks from a distance. Walkie-talkies can enhance the communication between the firing team.
You’ll need to meet with all your volunteers before the event to make sure they’re aware of their roles and responsibilities and what to do in an emergency situation or if things go wrong.
Step Five – Promote and Sell Tickets
Set up a free event page for your firework display on Eventbrite and you can encourage people to buy tickets in advance, helping you plan ahead for things like catering.
Eventbrite has smooth integration with Facebook so you can easily promote your event on the platform. Post it on your organisation’s page for free and encourage your supporters to share it, or take advantage of Facebook’s targeting capabilities to run low-cost adverts for people in your local area.
You can still sell tickets on the day, using the Eventbrite Organiser app to register sales made with cash. The app provides the ability to ‘check in’ attendees, including those who have pre-purchased tickets so you can make sure everyone coming on site has paid. Stewards equipped with smartphones can simply scan the QR code on the tickets.
Eventbrite Organiser app updates in real-time with every ticket sale, meaning you can keep tabs on how many people are on site – essential for safety. And when the show is over, you can see how much was raised for your charity or organisation, with the tap of a button!
Fireworks and fire demand respect, but as long as you read up on safety guidelines and take proper care, you can pull off a well-run firework display without the need to bring in professionals.
The UK Firework Review (UKFR) website offers a brilliant resource for first-time display organisers, with detailed information about site layout and safely when setting up your fireworks. With that taken care of, you can be sure of a cracker of a night for everyone to enjoy.