How to plan a fireworks display

The Purple Guide has become very much the ‘bible’ for event organisers, providing advice on everything from venue planning to the numbers of toilets you need on a site. One key chapter covers fi reworks and it is essential reading for anyone planning a display.

The popularity of firework displays is unquestionable. Whether organised in their own right as an event or designed to provide a spectacular finale to a concert or show, they not only add glitter and a wow factor but they also help to draw in the crowds.

While we all have a vague idea about the smaller items used for 5th November parties, when it comes to big public displays they become an entirely different ball game and it is essential that event organisers are aware of this and take all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

It is almost always possible to use fi reworks at an event in some way and, by suitable choice of site and the use of appropriate fireworks rigged and fi red by competent people, the risks are extremely low. Nevertheless it is important to appreciate the potential risks at an early planning stage and to ensure that they are not increased during the display by a breakdown of the control measures that have been put in place.

At very small events, the organisers may rig and fire the display themselves but it is still important that good planning is undertaken to minimise the risks of something going wrong. There are also restrictions on the types of fi reworks they can use without proper training. Even for smaller self-fi red displays some training is needed if organisers are to be able to demonstrate due diligence and most reputable firework companies off er this as part of their service. However, for larger public displays it is advisable to bring in a professional display company to plan and fire the show.

However, as the event organiser has responsibility for the safety of the event overall, it is also advisable that they understand what to expect from contractors and the Purple Guide is a good starting point for this and, indeed, for planning any display.

While not being prescriptive, the Guide takes organisers through the stages of putting on a display from selecting a suitable site to the elements that should be considered in drawing up a risk assessment.

It also covers environmental considerations; how fireworks should be stored on site; how to plan for fallout from the display; as well as issues around rigging and what to do in case of something going wrong.

While the event organiser may rely on the professional display company to do all this, a basic understanding of what’s involved is essential if risk assessments are to be fully understood.

It is also helpful if organisers understand the risks to avoid conflicts if conditions result in displays having to be curtailed or even abandoned. Fireworks are one area of an event where it is not the case that ‘the show must go on’ if that means putting people or property at risk.

The Purple Guide is published by The Events Industry Forum and is available on subscription as an on-line publication at