It’s one of the brightest and most colourful nights in the city. Norwich’s annual fireworks extravaganza, Sparks in the Park, returns on November 7. EMMA LEE meets the man who ensures that the event goes off with a bang.
It’s easy to tell when the Reverend Ron Lancaster is in the laboratory at Kimbolton Fireworks.
“There’ll be a puff of smoke and he’ll either come back with a smile on his face or go back to the drawing board,” laughs Darryl Fleming, the company’s display director.
Rev Lancaster, who was also a chemistry teacher, set up Kimbolton Fireworks back in the 1960s.
From humble origins, it’s now a top display company which has fired pyrotechnic shows around the world – and is the only one left in the country to manufacture its own fireworks.
As you can imagine, with Bonfire Night fast approaching, it’s a very busy time of year for the Cambridgeshire-based business.
Around November 5 it will be behind numerous public firework displays around the country – including Sparks in the Park at Earlham Park in Norwich next Saturday.
Led by Norwich City Council’s events team, it boasts two firework displays, live music and a fun fair and is one of the city’s biggest family nights out – and literally one of the brightest.
Around 1,800 individual firing cues will set off 2,000 fireworks and launch 16,000 projectiles into the sky. The fireworks will weigh in at 2.5 tons.
And you could say that it’s Darryl’s responsibility to make sure that the event goes with a bang.
“It’s certainly one of the premier displays we do over the November period,” Darryl says.
“The children’s display is 12 minutes long and the adults’ is 15 minutes long. Both of them are set to music and they’re synchronised by a digital firing system. We have a crew of 12 people there for a day and a half setting up the show.”
Firework displays have certainly come a long way since Rev Lancaster founded the company in 1964. He started the business primarily for research purposes, then started doing displays to fund his research.
“Now we fire nearly 300 shows a year,” Darryl says. “We just fired the Legoland show this weekend. We do Hogmanay in Edinburgh, we did the display at the Hong Kong handover, we did the VJ Day 50th anniversary and the opening of the Thames Barrier.”
Darryl was taught chemistry by Rev Lancaster and worked at Kimbolton Fireworks part-time for 10 years, before joining full-time 11 years ago.
Despite now being in his seventies, Darryl describes Rev Lancaster as “very much still the lynchpin of the company.”
“He takes an active interest in the direction of the company and still does a lot of research and development within the firework industry. He’s in most days. And he’s in the factory playing around with the agents and chemicals looking to improve on existing effects. He wouldn’t like me to describe him as a mad professor, but he’s certainly one of life’s eccentrics,” Darryl says.
Helen Selleck, Norwich City Council events manager, says that the aim of Sparks in the Park is to create a traditional family night out.
“Sparks in the Park gets bigger and better every year and it has developed into so much more than a fireworks display. This is a real Bonfire Night celebration that encapsulates the traditional bonfire and a Guy Fawkes with music and a funfair and all-round entertainment,” she says.
SPARKS WILL FLY – WHERE TO ENJOY BONFIRE NIGHT FUN
From huge events set to attract thousands of people to small gatherings on village greens, Norfolk always has a colourful array of fireworks events to choose from.
Over the new couple of weeks, there will be plenty of explosive action, with Bonfire Night celebrations including fun fairs, competitions and processions.
Here are just a few of the exciting events:
- Sparks in the Park takes place on Saturday, November 7. As usual this event at Earlham Park, in Norwich, includes two displays.The funfair begins at 5pm and then at 6.30pm it’s the children’s fireworks display. The children’s fireworks display is at 6.30pm and the lighting of the bonfire and lantern procession will be held from 6.45pm to 7.30pm. The Big Bang fireworks display will start at 8.30pm. Entertainment on the Heart 102 soundstage starts at 5pm and continues until 10pm, including performances from Scratch the Cat and Zoo. There will also be a funfair. Tickets are £6 adults(£5.50 Go 4less), £3 children (£2.50 Go 4less) if bought before Friday, November 6, or £7.50 adults, £4.50 children on the day. Under-4s free. Tickets can be bought from EDP outlets, Tourist Information in Norwich, Sainsburys, UEA Students Union or The Mall, or call 01603 213999 or 01603 772175. There will be no parking available at Earlham Park this year, except for disabled badge holders. Konectbus is providing a service to and from the Thickthorn Park and Ride from 5pm. Return fares £2 adults, £1 children. First Bus will run its 25 and 35 services to UEA from all usual stops, including Thorpe railway station, Castle Meadow and St Stephens. If you buy a Sparks in the Park ticket in advance and show it to the driver, you can get a £1.50 discount on your return fare (£2.50 instead of £4).
- There will be explosive action at Norfolk Showground, on Saturday, November 7, with the Radio Norwich After Dark Fireworks Display and Funfair. Last year’s event was attended by more than 10,000 people and this year the plans are to make it bigger and better with a large international funfair among the attractions, plus fundraising activities by East Anglia Air Ambulance and Nelson’s Journey, as well as the fireworks. The gates open at 4pm. Admission is £6 adults, £5 for children under 12 and under-4s free. The early display will be at 6.30pm and the main display at 8.45pm. There will be a separate car park just off the Longwater roundabout for those with young children attending the early display. Parking for the main display is in Red car park entry from the A 47 is via Easton Roundabout.
- Anglian Windows Social Club also hosts its bonfire night celebrations on November 7. The bonfire at Horsford manor, Holt Road, will be lit at 7.30pm, with two fireworks displays, a children’s display at 8pm, followed by the grand finale at 9pm. Advance tickets £2.50 adults, £1.50 children. Tickets on the night £10 per car (maximum four people).
- The 2nd Hellesdon Scout Group fireworks and barbecue also takes place on Saturday, November 7, at Firside Junior School, Hellesdon, Norwich. The event starts at 6.30pm, with fireworks at 7.30pm and 8.45pm. Tickets are £4 adults, £3.50 children, free for under-fives.
- The annual Corpusty and Saxthorpe bonfire event also takes place on Saturday, November 7, and kicks off with its traditional procession at 6pm. The bonfire will lit at 8pm, followed by fireworks. There will be refreshments and a tombola. Admission and parking are free parking. Collections will be taken during the evening with all profits going to local charities.
- There will be a fireworks display and fun fair at Swanton Morley, near Dereham, on Sunday, November 1. The event includes a hog roast, burgers, bar, teas and children’s disco. The gates open at 5pm with fireworks from 7pm. Ticket are £5 adults, £2.50 children, under-5s free. All proceeds go to the bowls club and village hall.
- Wroxham Football Club is hosting a fireworks display on Sunday, November 1. The event will include a bar, burgers, disco and bonfire. Gates are open from 6pm with fireworks staring at 7pm. Admission is £3 adults and £2 children.
- There will be fireworks at Sandhole Lane, Little Plumstead, Norwich, on Thursday, November 5. The event will also include a bonfire. Food and drink will be on sale. Gates open from 6pm and the fireworks begin at 7pm. Tickets are £3.50 adults, £2 for children.
- Guy Fawkes Night celebrations will be held at Bawburgh Village Hall, on Friday, November 6. The event includes a children’s fancy dress competition and a barbecue. Gates will be open from 7.15pm. The bonfire will be lit at 7.45pm and the fireworks begin at 8pm. Tickets are £3 adults (12+), £1.50 children.
- A bonfire and firework party takes place at Beetley on November 7. Gates open at 5.30pm, with the fire lit at 6.15pm and fireworks at 7pm (admission charge applies).
- Mulbarton Scouts hold their annual fireworks display at their HQ in Common Road on November 7, with gates open at 6pm, bonfire at 7pm and display at 7.30pm.