Step-by-step: fireworks display

A bonfire and fireworks event promises a big audience and big returns. This guide aims to make sure your night goes off with a bang!

A PTA bonfire and firework event can make a spectacular family fundraiser, but having the support of the school is essential. Offer them the reassurance they need by making sure that your event adheres to all health and safety requirements, and by having a team in place to thoroughly clear the field the next day.

Safety considerations

  • Review your insurance cover and contact your current provider to address any stipulations.
  • Ensure you have enough space. Both the bonfire and fireworks display should be a minimum of 100 metres from any third party buildings (this includes the school). Spectators need to be at least 25 metres from the firework area. More details on 'Organising a Firework Display', can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.
  • Decide whether to use a third party firework display company. Check with your school what level of public liability insurance they need and ask to see a copy.
  • If running the event yourself, only use fireworks supplied by a reputable manufacturer and adhere to all instructions. You will need to appoint a fully-trained health and safety officer.
  • Specify that no sparklers are to be brought on site.
  • Consult with the police and fire brigade authorities at least seven days before the event.
  • You will need qualified first aiders on site. Enlist the support of St John Ambulance. Let them know how many people you expect to attend - they will provide the required number of first aiders. Read our first aid FAQs.
  • You are required to have one steward for every 250 spectators.
  • You will need to complete a risk assessment - your Local Authority can provide guidance.
  • Inform neighbours to ensure that pets are kept safely indoors.

What you'll need

  • Ask families and businesses to donate wood* for the bonfire.
  • As a minimum, provide your medics, lead steward, gate security and firework provider with two-way radios.
  • Have a PA system or loud speaker in case safety instructions need to be given.
  • All stewards should be wearing high-visibility jackets and have torches.
  • You'll also need safety items such as fire extinguishers, site lighting and barricade fencing.

*Note: Please be aware that pallets or other wood that has been marked/branded with the letters MB should not be burned, as it has been treated with Methyl Bromide, which when burnt, releases toxic smoke dangerous to you and the environment.

Costs and profits

  • Sell tickets in advance and adopt a ticket-only policy on the gate. Keep queues to a minimum on the night by having printed wristbands as tickets - ask guests to wear them on arrival. Research the cost of other displays in your area and price tickets accordingly, ensuring you cover your costs.
  • Have stalls selling glow sticks and include a BBQ. Tea, coffee, beer and mulled wine will all be welcome, but a licence is required if selling alcohol - read our FAQs feature on TENs for more details.

Volunteers needed

  • You'll need around 10-15 stewards and many more volunteers to staff the gate and to run stalls.

Publicising the event

  • Publicise the event well in advance around the school as well as in local shops, libraries community centres, etc.
  • Issue a media release to local papers and radio stations.

Success story

'The event was started by a parent mum whose husband did the training for firework displays and he had a group of friends who always helped. It has always been a school event, although we have had valuable support over the years from our local Rotary and also from the Lions, who regularly provide marshalls. We often have teachers helping, and governors and the head teacher on hand to support the fundraising. On the day we have around 10-15 marshalls and another 20-30 people on the stalls and gates.

We are very lucky and grateful to have a parent dad who has trained and run the display for us from the start. We get lots of compliments every year and the display usually lasts 20-25 minutes. We spend around £2000 each year on professional grade fireworks. St John's Ambulance cost around £200 per event. £20 diesel to light the bonfire. These are the main costs as we are very lucky to own a lot of equipment allowing us to host and run these events in school.

We have a large bonfire which is usually lit 30 minutes before the fireworks and has to die down before the fireworks can be lit. Once the event is established the wood tends to just arrive. Families, businesses with wood and pallets* all come forward - we have had whole Sheds, you name it over the years! We try to just get the wood delivered as late a possible/on the morning of the event, however, it never works that easily and we always have to move it around. Takes around 3 hours to build the bonfire and the Brownies or Guides often supply a Guy to go on the top! The biggest thing with a bonfire on the school site is clearing the debris the next day when the embers have cooled down. All the ash/metal workings needs raking and removing from the school field and putting into bins. This can be a very long job depending on how many volunteers come on the day after the event. Luckily the grass does recover in time for Sports Day!

Our barbeque is very successful and we sell West Berkshire Beer each year, mulled wine and soft drinks which go down well. We did try selling jacket potatoes one year, however they were difficult to eat standing up, need cutlery and were generally less successful. Glow toys and a Tombola contribute towards profits too. We run some games for kids to keep them entertained before the firework display and last year we also had a Fire Spinner demonstration, which went down a storm!

We started off selling paper tickets through school and in 2 local shops, however 2 years ago introduced Paypal and payments online which has made the ticketing and payment process much easier. We have always made tickets in advance cheaper than payment on the day - £10 for adults, £7.50 for age 12 and over and FREE for children under 12. We make roughly £5,000 profit each year'

Karen Ward, secretary, Friends of Pangbourne Primary School, Berkshire

For more information

The above is intended as guidance only. We recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a PTA, based on the guidance provided.