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Guy Fawkes Night: What you should know before holding your own fireworks display

Leading licensing solicitors, Poppleston Allen, advice on use the use of fireworks

This week will see many attending firework displays up and down the country to mark Guy Fawkes Night, but those planning on hosting an event might not be aware of the considerations they should be making. 

Leading licensing solicitors, Poppleston Allen, have advised on matters from the type of fireworks that organisers are allowed to use, to assessing whether the space being used is big enough.

Senior consultant solicitor, Andy Grimsey has taken part in a Q&A to answer some key questions around hosting firework displays:

Who is responsible for the display and spectators’ safety?

If you are organising a small local fireworks display, such as one at a sports club, school or village green, the event organiser will normally have responsibility.

If the fireworks display is provided by a professional fireworks display operator, then they will have responsibility for the fireworks – along with the organiser.

Are there any particular licences or insurances needed to purchase and let off fireworks?

Unless you are using a professional fireworks display operator, you are restricted to using Category 1, 2 and 3 fireworks. Check the instructions before purchasing the fireworks. Category 1 are indoor fireworks, Category 2 are garden fireworks (for example selection box fireworks from supermarkets), Category 3 are display fireworks (the largest fireworks on retail sale) and Category 4 are not available to the general public.

Most employers are required by law to ensure against liability for injury or disease to their employees if the fireworks display is a work function. For other types of events public liability insurance, whilst not necessarily a strict requirement, is strongly advised.

Are there particular considerations for holding a display at a premises with alcohol on sale/where guests can bring their own?

If you are selling alcohol by retail then you will need an authorisation under the Licensing Act 2003. This will either be a Temporary Event Notice or, if the location for the fireworks is regularly used for events it may have a permanent premises licence which you may be able to use. If you do need a Temporary Events Notice, the event cannot have more than 499 people in attendance at any one time, including staff and performers. You will need to check very carefully the conditions on the licence and have the full permission of the licence holder. If guests are bringing their own alcohol then there is no need for an alcohol licence.

Ensure the bar is well away from the display site, that under 18’s are not permitted to purchase alcohol and remember that excessive consumption of alcohol and the use of fireworks never mix well.

Do I need to have a certain amount of space to safely hold a display?

You have to consider whether the site is suitable and large enough for the display, including any bonfire you might be planning. Check that there is space for the fireworks to land well away from spectators and also for any overhead power lines or other obstructions. Check the prevailing wind and decide what you would do if the wind direction changed.

Is there a limit on how many people I can have at the display?

No, apart from the safe capacity of the location and the added responsibilities you will have if you have large numbers of people. Larger displays will require a greater degree of planning, stewards/marshals and involvement of the Local Authority, Fire Officer and the emergency services.

Do I need to tell my neighbours I am planning on holding a bonfire/fireworks display?

Although not a legal requirement, this is an absolute must. It will help reduce the likelihood of complaints, and allow people to make arrangements for their pets.

Further helpful advice can be found on the HSE website here: HSE Explosives – Organising firework displays

For more information or queries, contact senior consultant solicitor, Andy Grimsey on A.Grimsey@popall.co.uk or 0115 9487 42307976 844 093

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