It’s once again time for one – or actually two – of the biggest nights of the year in Plymouth, with the annual British Firework Championships taking place on the 16th and 17th August. Britain’s Ocean City has been the host of the competition since its inception in 1997, with the popular event bringing in huge crowds every year.
Six top firework display companies will be competing for the crown, with each looking to wow the judges with ten-minute displays spread across the two nights. The stunning displays over the Sound are sure to leave you awestruck! This year, the event is sponsored by Brittany Ferries who are celebrating their 50th anniversary of sailing between Plymouth and Roscoff.
We’ve compiled a guide for the two day event covering everything from travel information to the best viewing spots.
And don’t forget, Sutton Harbour and its wide range of bars, cafés and restaurants is the perfect place for pre- and post-event food and refreshments.
With lots of people travelling to the city for the championships, it’s good to be aware of travel information. If you’re local, you can easily avoid the traffic by walking, using public transport or a Beryl bike.
However, if you are driving it’s important to be aware of any road closures which can be checked via this map from VisitPlymouth. Some start from as early as 7am and last until 11pm. There are plenty of car parks in Plymouth with more than 5,200 parking spaces. An extended parking area on the Hoe promenade will be available to blue badge holders accessed via Elliott Street from 5:30pm.
Plymouth’s Park & Ride services are great for anyone planning to drive to the city who’d like to avoid the traffic and having to find somewhere to park.
Three services will be operating from different parts of Plymouth; Milehouse, Coypool and George Park & Ride. They will all be running every 10-20 minutes for both journeys into town and back again. For the full information, visit the Plymouth Park & Ride website.
Railway services should be operating on the night, however, be sure to check before you travel in case of delays or cancellation. Typically, for the championships, GWR aim to provide extra capacity on their trains where possible.
You can also watch the fireworks from the water on your vessel. There is a water safety exclusion zone between Mount Batten breakwater and the Hoe which needs to be kept clear from 8:30pm – 10:50pm so that emergency vessels have clear access.
As well as the main event, there will also be a variety of fairground rides on the Hoe to enjoy from 2pm each afternoon. There is also going to be a stage for live music starting from 5pm until 8:45pm. On Wednesday night, four local DJs performing family-friendly summer jams known as Casa, Mad Dog Mcrea acoustic set and the Andy Quick Band will all be performing. Thursday night will see Casa taking to the stage again, along with Malavita and Land of The Giants.
Down at Sutton Harbour you’ll be able to grab some dinner from any of the various restaurants stretching across to the Barbican.
Boston Tea Party will be open until 4pm if you’re heading to the fireworks a little early. The Harbour and Rockfish will both be open until 9pm if you’d like to tuck into some tasty fish while you watch the fireworks. Cap’n Jaspers and Supha’s will be open until 10pm which is perfect if you’re watching from the harbour. The Stable and The Ship will both be open until 11pm if you were looking to have a drink afterwards as well as various pubs on the waterfront.
Where to watch
All of the entertainment is happening up on the Hoe and it’s also where you’ll see sponsors Brittany Ferries projecting their logo onto Smeaton’s Tower in celebration. You’ll also find a separate children’s fairground, a hydration point, and even a sensory garden and quiet space.
VisitPlymouth have created a helpful map of all of the key points up on the Hoe if this is where you’re watching from. You’re bound to have a great view whether you’re standing outside the Citadel or at West Hoe. If you require an accessible viewing area, there are two on the Hoe. The first is on top of the Belvedere which can be accessed via the Hoe promenade. The second is opposite the main stage on the Hoe’s east side and is great for catching the live music. This will also be helpful to see the BSL interpreter who will be stood stage right on the main stage.
However, you can also view the fireworks from Sutton Harbour and avoid the crowds. Were you one of the lucky people to get a now sold out ticket to view the fireworks from the National Marine Aquarium? As well as getting to spend the evening admiring the underwater inhabitants, they are also offering both indoor and outdoor viewing spaces away from the crowds.
There is plenty of space surrounding the aquarium and Rockfish where you can stand for free and still have a great view of the fireworks. The Queen Anne’s Battery area overlooks the breakwater for a great view and is just east of Sutton Harbour and just less than a 5 minute walk away. Please bear in mind that the lock gates will be giving priority to vessels looking to re-enter the harbour once the fireworks have finished meaning pedestrians could experience delays.
The main event
This year the six pyrotechnic display companies that will be competing are:
- Electrify Pyrotechnics from Matlock, Derbyshire
- Distant Thunder Fireworks from Wiltshire
- Pyrovision from Spalding, Lincolnshire
- Shockwave Pyrotechnics from Dudley, Staffordshire
- Skyburst The Firework Co from Bristol
- The UK Fireworks Company based in London and Manchester
The UK Fireworks Company, Distant Thunder and Shockwave Pyrotechnics will be competing on Wednesday 16th August. Skyburst, Pyrovision and Electrify Pyrotechnics will follow suit the next day. Although times may vary slightly, the times for each display are: 9:30pm, 9:50pm and 10:10pm.
Once all six groups have competed it’s down to the judges to decide the winner. This year, the judging panel will be joined by up to ten care-experienced children and young people to help with the scoring.
Each display is graded on four categories – variety of fireworks and sequences, rhythm, colour, and the wow factor, with the winners receiving the Young People’s Choice Award.