Column: Why firework displays have lost their sparkle

Pic:  Michael Gillen.
Pic: Michael Gillen.

There was a time when firework displays were magical, simply because they only used to happen around November 5.

Now, every major festival, gig, sporting event and anniversary isn’t complete until the pyrotechnics have been set off.

And the desire to stage the biggest, most spectacaular show is starting to take its toll.

The magic has been dulled as the shows get more ambitious – be honest, one massive exploding rocket is much the same as the next one.

We’ve gone beyond saturation point, and need to scale the whole darn thing back.

The fireworks season has changed from a clearly defined day in the calendar to pretty much any time you fancy staging a show, with barely a check to see what local bye-laws may state, or the courtesy of considering the effect on your neighbours.

And they seem to be happening later at nights too when the noise can travel a huge distance, impacting on people’s peace and quiet.

I’ve lost count of the number of times fireworks have suddenly gone off in Kirkcaldy for no obvious reason.

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The evidence for curtailing them is overwhelming.

Pet owners despair trying to calm distraught dogs.

We also live in a society of constant noise which impacts on people’s mental health – so maybe all those woosh-bang sudden explosions aren’t such fun any more.

Sainsbury’s decision not to sell fireworks this year got a warm welcome, and perhaps marks a turning point which will lead to the demise of everything exc ept organised displays.

The days of wee fireworks displays in your background have been supersized beyond recognition and have to be reined in.

As a kid we had a few catherine wheels, some rockets which flew out of empty milk bottles and sparklers to write our name.

It sounds positively antiquated compared with the box of pyrotechnic bombs that can be bought across the counter in 2019.

If they were all removed by legislation, we wouldn’t miss them at all.

As for organised displays, the move to ‘silent fireworks’ sounds good, but it isn’t quite as good as it sounds.

For a start, they aren’t silent – noise levels are only reduced, and they don’t work for those big set-piece aerial explosions beloved of all pyrotechnic experts who seem to want to be tasked with delivering something bigger and better than anywhere else.

But they do offer organisers the chance to stage a more sympathetic, possibly even a more entertaining show.

Add in a fantastic musicsoundtrack and you’d still get the full sight and sound experience – but one that was much more inclusive and significantly less intrusive.

With Bonfire Night now, hopefully, over for 2019, the challenge is surely to all event organisers in Fife to think out of the box for 2020 and deliver shows which acknowledge the negative impact fireworks can have, and explore new, imaginative ways of staging a show that recaptures some of the magic they can also bring.