Life's a bang when you're lighting up the skies
WHO doesn't love a fireworks display?
We all do, and local man Robert Stevenson has dedicated most of his working life to lighting up the skies, and boy has he seen some changes in the industry.
Robert will once again be doing the fireworks at the Ipswich Show, and while he has done shows all over the world, including world championships, he says he always puts in a bit of extra effort for his hometown displays.
"My parents used to run amusement rides on the show circuit and I always watched the fireworks," Mr Stevenson said. "I started helping the man who did them who has since passed away, and I learned how to do the fireworks around 1975. I started my own company in the late 1970s, and my son does it now plus my grandson recently told me he's keen to learn."
Robert has seen many changes over the years, especially where the fireworks come from.
"The changes since then are mainly that China is now the main supplier of fireworks, it used to be England.
"The Chinese have fireworks that can do five or six effects in one, rather than firing off six different fireworks at the same time. We used to have our own plant in Helidon to make fireworks but today it is cheaper to buy them from China than making your own."
Many of the shows are done by laptop, with special software that links a firing board to the program, which sets off the fireworks at specific times, but Robert likes to still do some the old-fashioned way.
"We program how long we want the show to go, usually to music. You try to put a show together by starting slow, and building up so that the last quarter is non-stop fireworks. You're firing two at a time at the start, and by the end it's up to fifty shots at one time.
"We do use computers regularly but at the Ipswich Show we also do firing the old manual way, which gives us more of a personal touch. We want to go the extra mile for Ipswich. It's much better if you do things manually, and you really have more control."
Robert does around 250 to 300 shows as far as Papua New Guinea, and once came fourth at the firework world championships in Macau. Yet it is doing shows in his own backyard that gives him the greatest pleasure.
"The best thing about my job is seeing everyone smiling when it's over," Mr Stevenson said.
"Things have changed over the years, now you put a show together and you spend so much time on paperwork for health and safety, risk assessment and so on. In the old days you'd just fire up and do it, hoping nobody got burnt!
"It's lovely to do the Ipswich Show, you see all your old friends there and we put a special effort in to make it a good show for everyone."