August this year marked the 25th anniversary of the British Firework Championships held in Plymouth. Now styled as ‘Britain’s Ocean City’, the fireworks display is the most popular occasion in the city’s varied calendar of events, with the pyrotechnics being set off from Mount Batten pier from 9.30pm over two days.
The favourite viewing point is Plymouth Hoe, but the displays were visible from all around the iconic waterfront, as six leading pyrotecnic companies showcased their wares in the air in a bid to be crowned champions. Promotion and advertising is undertaken by Plymouth City Council, and if fine weather prevails, crowds of many thousands are attracted. The event is well covered in local and national media as well.
Fairground rides were included as part of the event right from the start, and David Rowland Snr was in charge for 2022, as he was for the first event in 1997. The lesseeship is shared on alternate years with Che Floyd.
“I remember Patrick Burton’s Superstar appearing at the first event,” David recalls. “A big attraction at that time. Many machines not usually seen in the region have appeared here.”
The rides are built up on an area of hard standing on Hoe Promenade, with the iconic landmark of Smeaton’s Tower to the south and the impressive war memorial to the north.
There are positions for ten adult machines, and as the lessees alternate each year there is always a fresh line-up.
This year’s Firework Championships was held over 17 and 18 August, with the fair open from around 3pm and closing at around 10.30pm, and live music starting at 6pm.
Owing to the copious amount of space afforded by the grassed area of Hoe Park, a popular innovation is a separate children’s fair a short walk away from the thrill rides, featuring a good selection of juveniles, games, bungees and a fun house.
The main attractions were laid out in two rows, and with four aerial rides created quite a spectacle. A large number of catering vendors occupied the eastern section of Hoe Promenade, along with a live music stage.
Despite earlier drizzle the weather stayed dry for the first night, but rain set in on the second day and persisted well into the evening. However, this did little to deter youngsters from enjoying the fair.
Two of the machines, the Sizzler and Sky Flyer, were formerly owned by David Rowland’s family. David himself reported that he was pleased with the event, which was well supported on both days.
The main attractions at Plymouth Hoe included: Thomas Rowland Amusements’ Over the Falls Booster and tagada presented by Alan and Michelle Jenkins; Charles Porter’s Miami and Sizzler Twist; William Porter’s waltzer; John Jennings Jnr’s Jump & Smile; David Noyce’s Space Mission Star Flyer; Craig Danter’s Venom Afterburner (new in April 2022); Stanley Reeves Jnr’s Atmos Fear Inversion; Jorden Crole’s Rotor; Charles Deakin’s Super Bowl; and James Squires’ ghost train.
Supporting attractions: Alan Heal’s fun house; Philip Kefford’s fun house; John Lock’s pick; and various juveniles, inflatables, bungees and games.
Main photo: William Porter’s waltzer at Plymouth Fireworks fair