Interview with Team Howard & Sons Fireworks

I met with the team from Howard and Sons on their first day of pre-montage. Since this was the first week of the competition with two displays in the same week, the Australian team were working in the second pre-montage workshop. This allows one team to be doing pre-montage whilst the team who’s display is imminent is out on the ramps doing final setup.

Howard and Sons

Andrew Howard (front left) and Stuart Bensley (front right) with team Howard and Sons

Stuart Bensley, the main designer of the show, noted that this would be their 3rd participation in Montreal, the previous time, in 2008, winning the Silver Jupiter. Found 89 years ago, Howard and Sons was a manufacturer of shells but now focus on close proximity effects and some mines and fountains.

The material for their upcoming show in Montreal is sourced from 6 or 7 factories in China as well as two from Spain. Other technical details are that it is being fired using 202 32-cue FireOne firing modules, making for a total of over 6000 cues, the most complex display cue-wise to date in the 2011 competition.

Stuart said that they had started planning the show back in September last year, spending the time between then and January brainstorming the idea and really working in earnest from February onwards. He said that they were taking quite a different approach compared to their 2008 entry and would present an untraditional display without clichés.

One very interesting aspect of the display is the soundtrack. For only the second time in the competition’s history, the display will be fired to live music. the group eMDee will play live didgeridoo and drums in three sets and this will be mixed into the rest of the soundtrack that’s pre-recorded. Stuart noted the music had been arranged especially so suit pyrotechnics, rather than taking conventional music and trying to make the pyro fit to that.

The national park of Kakadu is used as the heart of the theme, the park, in the Northern part of Australia near Darwin is renowned for having 13 seasons and these will be represented in the display with colour and rhythm. The natives of the park of very in-tune with the environment and Stuart is hoping this is reflected in the display too. When asked which part he was looking forward to most, he replied the middle section of the display, representing monsoon and wind as there would be lots of noise and interesting patterns used.

The Howard and Sons team have tried out parts of the display in other venues to hone the concept of firing with the live group eMDee but noted that this display has “never been seen before”. There won’t be any use of pontoons but great use of interesting angles will be made on ramps 3 and 4. The weather forecast looks good so the risk of using a live performance could well pay off for the team. Definitely a display that is best witnessed from the grandstands at La Ronde! When asked why people should come to La Ronde, Stuart said “What we want people to feel is a pyromusical experience of a trip to Kakadu. It’s fun, it’s crazy, it’s scary, it’s an amazing experience”

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  1. [...] Interviewed on the Montreal International Fireworks Competition website, main designer of the show Stuart Bensley “noted the music had been arranged especially to suit pyrotechnics, rather than taking conventional music and trying to make the pyro fit to that”. [...]