Night to go with a bang for firm behind 130 displays
WHILE most of us will be out enjoying the firework displays on Saturday night one company in Bristol will be having its busiest night of the year.
What started out as a childhood hobby for Alan Christie has turned into a national success story. Mr Christie is the boss of Bedminster-based Skyburst and under his management the company has grown into the biggest organiser of firework displays in the country.
This weekend the firm will be staging 130 displays from the Shetland Isles to the south coast. But the company, which has even organised fireworks for the Prime Minister, is proudest of being asked to organise the annual Bonfire Night spectacular at Downend.
Mr Christie, who was bought up in Frome, is the son of a quarryman and his love of explosions was triggered at an early age by his grandfather's work.
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These days he has graduated to managing teams of pyrotechnic experts who use digital-controlled technology, choreographed to music to create spectacular shows.
This weekend the firm and its 240 trained experts will be firing around 20 tonnes of gunpowder at displays the length and breadth of the country.
According to Mr Christie the recession has done little to dampen the UK's obsession with fireworks.
He said: "It has been an absolutely fantastic year for us. Despite the economic climate, people's desire for fireworks remains undiminished.
"This year alone we have done almost 300 displays including – the Tall Ships, the Battle Proms concerts, the Firework Champions."
He added: "The beauty of pyrotechnics is everyone enjoys them, no matter what age you are. Even though times are hard at the moment fireworks always cheer people up and make them turn out on the coldest night."
Skyburst has been based in Nelson Parade in Bedminster since 1982 and is the largest supplier of professional displays in the UK.
The company has staged 8,000 major national and international displays in the past 29 years.
"This year we're firing Downend Firework Show for the first time which is a great honour," said Alan.
"It's Bristol's biggest charity display and we are looking forward to creating a really spectacular evening for them.
"We're going to be bringing along our chromotropic wheel we built a few years ago for the British National Championships which always gets a really nice gasp from the audience. It consists of two counter-rotating wheels almost five feet in diameter. Once lit, it draws a fabulous flower petal shape and as it speeds up the petals seem to pulse.
"People's favourites are probably aerial shells, which create a very large explosion at ground level and then rise up into the air in 2.4 seconds and burst into giant pom-poms of colour. I'm going to be firing this show myself which I'm really looking forward to. No matter how many times we organise a display it's still a thrill for us. It never gets boring. It's the best job in the world."
Alan's love of explosions dates back to his childhood. "My grandfather would often take me down to the quarry and from a very early age I would push the plunger to set off an explosion."
Alan's sons Jay, 26, and Luke, 21, are also involved in the business.