Tag Archives: fireworks documentary



This week sees a documentary about the love affair of the last Tudor Queen; Elizabeth I, and her childhood friend and beau, Robert Dudley’s attempts to woo her with the power of beautiful fireworks.

Elizabeth I ascended to the crown in 1558, having been recently imprisoned in the Tower of London for ‘plotting against’ the then queen, Mary Tudor. Mary had also incarcerated Dudley, whose father was beheaded for supporting the accession of Lady Jane Grey to the throne, as she believed they were both plotting to overthrow her as the rightful heir. Elizabeth remained in Bell Tower, in relative comfort from March until May 1554 when she was moved to Woodstock.

Oddly, the person who ended up preventing her execution was to be King Philip of Spain, who had recently married Mary Tudor. He was, of course, a staunch Catholic like his wife and believed that taking the life of the beloved Princess Elizabeth would be a terrible decision from a Political standpoint.

In 1558, Mary Tudor died having set the wheels in motion for Elizabeth to be crowned the Queen and her government was already in place.

One of Elizabeth’s first decisions was to offer the role of Master of Horse to her long-time friend and fellow prisoner Robert Dudley, a role which would always force him to be in close contact with her. He had taken to heart her earlier comments about never taking a husband and had married Amy Robsart, daughter of an influential farmer and landowner some years before but he kept his wife and his alleged mistress well apart. Robert Dudley spent a great deal of time in court, in fact having his rooms moved to accommodation neighbouring Elizabeth’s quarters.

Two years after Elizabeth’s accession to the throne, in 1960, Amy Rosbart, who lived in Abingdon and had only rarely seen her husband once the princess was released from the Tower, died in what was a suspected suicide, leaving the now widowed Dudley free to pursue the Queen. However, despite her obvious love for him, she was advised against being seen to do this as Dudley was also under suspicion following his wife’s death and of course, this would add fuel to the fire that being a woman, she was incapable of ruling the country.

Robert Dudley was unrelenting in his pursuit of his beloved Queen Bess and he used the power of pyrotechnics to try to win her hand.

This documentary re-enacts this display following the film-makers to the home of European fireworks in Italy and returns to the Kenilworth Castle for the display. The reality is that from the mid 16th century, the Royal Courts of Europe employed their own ‘Firemaster’ and in fact, the first major display on the Thames was in celebration of the coronation of her mother, Anne Boleyn.

Certain to be a fascinating re-enactment of the relationship and love of two people who had been friends and some say lovers for the majority of their lives.


PASSFIRE – The Adventure Continues

Here at Epic, we have been following the exploits and adventures of brothers Jesse and Jeremy Veverka from the USA, as they criss-cross the globe creating the biggest ‘fireworks’ documentary film ever made.

Their mission is to visit as many countries as possible to document their attitudes and the tradition/religious connotations towards fireworks as possible. The journey started in January 2013 and will continue (funding permitting) until they have visited as many countries as possible for their film and documentary series about pyrotechnics.

In late March, the team left Spain for the sunny shores of Portugal for the next leg of the adventure. Portugal has a long firework history and just love their motor rockets and smaller salutes called ‘bombettes’. The motor rockets are loaded with effects and reach an incredible 200m altitude.

Years ago, the Portuguese, like the ancient Chinese used bamboo type canes and packed them with black powder and chemical stars filled them with effects and then reinforced them with wire resulting in no two of them ever being exactly the same. They also have some unusual and frankly dangerous looking beasties called ‘strong battery’ or BF which unlike a display shell have multiple effects slowly released as they are not under pressure in the loose wrapping resulting in a large but not widespread explosion or spread.

As the second week of April looms large, the Passfire team left Portugal for the beautiful shores of Italy to see their traditional ‘cannister shells’ and ‘ring stars’.

The Italians, of course, are credited with adding the colour and effects to the Art of Pyrotechnics way back in the fourteenth century and of the 60 or so firework specialists around in Europe at the time, the majority of them were Italian descendants.

Around the World, the production of fireworks depends heavily on the burst charge but each country has their own raw material to make it with. Over in China, for example, they use the rice husk (the outer casing on the grain – a bit like wheat bran) in Mexico, they use the cotton seed husk but in Italy, as they are known mainly for grape production for wine, they use cork. It is lightweight, robust and absorbent. They also create star rings rather than individual stars which makes the resultant burst more precise. The rings are then stacked into the tube and the middle packed with burst charge.

Off then to the next destination – Greece. Whilst the Greeks had little influence on the history of fireworks, they have been using them widely in their religious festivals, particularly the Christian history of Greece and its Isles. One of these events is the annual Rouketopolemos or Rocket battle in Chios where two opposing churches fire rockets across the town in an attempt to hit the bell in the tower of the opposite church. All very dramatic and more than a little dangerous and the Veverkas’ certainly had their work cut out filming at the event but they got some great footage and even managed to be interviewed by Greek TV about their visit and film production. Having been a visitor myself to Greece (Zakynthos) in the past at the same time as a similar festival a few years ago, these events whilst dramatic are definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Next stop – Malta

Check out our blog post next month to see what the brothers have been up to on the next leg of the Passfire journey.


Remember Remember Firework Documentary

This is definitely worth watching.

A 30 minute long documentary by Imogen Ogilvie and Lorna Stewart.

The documentary looks at the sad decline of the British fireworks manufacturing in the UK, the advancements of the Far East and talks to firework owners, firework enthusiasts, display team operators through the lens of the firework industry.

You can watch another firework documentary here about the famous fireworks family called Howard & Sons Pyrotechnics from Australia.