/ Travel & Leisure

Are fireworks a nuisance or an autumn necessity?


Even if you aren’t off to an organised event, the chances are you’ll see some fireworks over the next few days – after all, someone on your road will be putting on a garden display, right?

As we head into peak bonfire season, our Which? Trusted Traders team put together some advice around bonfire rules, considerations and safety.

But when we put it out there on our Facebook page, a common theme started to emerge, and it wasn’t related to bonfires: are our neighbours being as considerate as they should be when it comes to setting off fireworks? It seems that many don’t think so.

Restricting fireworks

And it isn’t just our Facebook comments suggesting there’s an issue – did you know that a petition calling for restrictions on when fireworks can be used gained more than 100,000 signatures after its launch in October 2015? As a result, it was discussed in Parliament back in June, and this was the government’s response:

’We are aware that fireworks can cause distress to animals. Restrictions on the general public’s use of fireworks, and permitted noise levels, already exist and we have no plans to extend them.’

Those restrictions currently include a limit on home-use fireworks to 120 decibels, but you are allowed to use them all year round. The exception? Between 11pm and 7am, when a curfew is supposedly ‘enforced’… it would seem many disagree at just how effective this curfew really is.

Pet hates

While antisocial hours are a problem, it can be an even bigger worry for pet owners, as a dog-owning Which? staff member explained:

‘The world is a scary place for dogs and cats around this time of year. Our two dogs get panicky when they hear loud bangs – their heads shoot up and they tear off to either cower behind us, or find a safe place. They also start panting when they’re frightened – heightened when we take them for a walk in the evening. We tend to not leave them on their own because of this.’

With stress and fear issues for humans and animals alike, you can see why so many people feel strongly.

Of course, for some ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ as colourful pyrotechics light up the night sky on Bonfire Night is a must for autumn, but perhaps there’s an argument to only keep them for organised displays?

So, are ‘antisocial’ fireworks driving you round the twist? Or do you enjoy watching them go off, regardless of the hour or the time of year?

Eric Sanger says:
3 November 2016

Fireworks are basically an explosive and yet we let the general public have access to them at this time of year. Even organised displays have accidents. They are let off well past the so-called “curfew” time all days of the week and now people are using them as weapons to throw at people. The number of “ordinary” accidents and fires put an added strain on our emergency services at this time of year.
It is high time they were banned for sale to the general public who have proved over the years that they are not responsible enough to use them safely or considerately.

Nick Williams says:
6 November 2016

I agree. We should also ban the general public from owning cars, as the irresponsible use of these lethal weapons kills many more people than fireworks do. Maybe ban ovens as well as these cause more serious burns per year than fireworks.

I suppose as a compromise we could use the existing laws in place to deal with people doing something illegal/irresponsible rather than just banning something because a small minority abuse it.

Thanks for adding balance, Nick. I do think that we might be going over the top with the desire to make public displays bigger and better than previous years. I have been going to the same display for many years, albeit not every year. It just keeps getting bigger and this year’s effort must have cost thousands of pounds. I noticed many discarded sparklers (while keeping my eyes open for cow pats), despite requests not to bring fireworks.

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One should not blame a product just because a few people misuse it. Many people use and enjoy fireworks without damaging other people or things. If some misguided people use them to threaten others they will find other ways to do so if they cannot buy fireworks. They may even make their own which would be much more dangerous.

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Fireworks were banned in Canada years ago. Over here I think they support the nationalistic fervour of the British (which has, in truth, evaporated )

Fireworks are like electricity – if it was discovered now there is no way that it would be piped into our homes as it can easily kill you, but it’s too late to do anything about it now….

Nobody would dispute that a good firework display gives great pleasure to the majority of the population but:
a. these explosive devices should not be available to the general public
b. displays and bonfires should not commemorate a barbaric execution in the 17th century but some worthy event in our history.

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John Spick says:
3 November 2016

The Italians have bullfighting too – does that mean we have t take up that barbaric passtime too?????

Peter Green says:
4 November 2016

Don’t you mean Spain?

My dog and I used to go out specifically to watch the fireworks and he enjoyed them without any distress, however now for some reason, youngsters think it a clever idea to place lighted fireworks into letterboxes. Absolutely stupid behaviour endangering life. You see these pop-up firework shops every year and none appear to be checking ages or id unlike the supermarkets and responsible outlets, so does this mean these outlets are selling dangerous or illegally imported stock? It’s taking a great tradition of Guy Faulks night and turning it into a free for all, with life being lost unnecessarily. The organised displays may be the only safe way forward but this then stops individuals being able to have a small private gathering as my family has always done. It should be made law, not to let off fireworks after 10pm. Also only have them sold the day or two before, so weeks of disturbance can be reduced to the day/weekend concerned.

It IS law not to let them off after 11pm

I’ve witnessed kids shoving fireworks through letterboxes in the 50s …. My Granpa told me kids did when he was a lad … and that was in the 1890s.
It may be unwise – OK its b*****y stupid – but its NOT a new phenomenon.

Incidentally it ALSO used to be law not to let them off other than on 5th Nov (other than with a permit – to enable displays etc)..
Then other cultures pointed out, not unreasonably, that it has always been their tradition to let off fireworks to celebrate events such as Diwali. And the date restriction was removed.

Oh yes; kids did that around our place, too. A great British tradition, perhaps?

Although a well-organised public firework display can be pretty as it’s designed to be a ‘display’, the kind of fireworks the general public get seem to concentrate on imitating the gunfire and explosions of a nearby terrorist attack! Some people seem to enjoy this mimicry but it sadly reflects a very sick community spirit. Fireworks should be banned for use by the general public and not sold over the counter to all and sundry.

Shirley says:
3 November 2016

Really annoying. My dog is very distressed when they go off. He tries to climb in cupboards and on my knee. He is a German Shepherd and I am almost 80. With different nights having bonfires I spend about 3 to 4 days trying to pacify my pet.

Cal Murphy says:
3 November 2016

Around where i live there are a lot of old peoples bungalows and every year these seem to attract the youths and yobs who seem hell bent on getting the loudest bang go off outside these bungalows, its time we either stopped the general sale of fireworks to the public or we only sold them on the 4th & 5th of November.

Many people, including children, enjoy having their own display. When I was young a 5/- box of Standard fireworks gave a lot of entertainment. Our cat sat at the window watching intently.

We have noisy air displays, outdoor concerts, fairs. people have parties, wedding receptions in their gardens (one of our neighbours gave a note to all local residents advising them there would be a live band). We have to tolerate what our neighbours do just as they tolerate us – mowing the lawns, banging in our workshops, tuning our car engines……….
Let’s not be a no fun country. 🙂

mowing the lawn, banging in workshops etc doesn’t cause physical harm to others. Fireworks do – because people don’t see the need to notify neighbours of their intentions. The harm done to grazing animals by spent fireworks can be awful.

michael cullen says:
3 November 2016

The bangers no longer go bang but are more like an armed invasion.The chap down the road has an endless stock of loud rockets and takes joy in setting them off at about 20 minutes intervals until way after 12pm.I can not see any reason to continue to remember a failed attempt to wake up the houses of parliament by letting fireworks off at great expence.

Fireworks go off throughout the year/day/night so there is no novelty to them, apart from being a waste of money and dangerous. If they only went off on firework night and New years eve there would be a point to them perhaps. They cause a lot of misery.

When I was young, there was a code that said no fireworks after the fifth, and there were few before then. I used to really enjoy the bonfire, the fun and letting off fireworks. I am very sorry that this innocent pleasure is past and part of me wants all children to have that experience, without being like the present ‘me’, that finds this time of year noisy and disturbing sleep. We used to watch to see when it was getting dark “Can we go out now?” Presently things seem to go on until it is well towards the next morning. And who, in the name of all that’s daft, decided it would be a good idea to let off loud bangers to bring in the new year? Not just a few either. Our personal fireworks were much more immediate and exciting than those huge monsters that lit up the neighbourhood and cost hundreds of pounds each.
So we come to today and I reflect sadly on things as they are. I shudder in horror at the thought of children loose on the street with fireworks. Surely even the stupidest among them realises that letterbox fireworks can burn a house down and kill people. If they don’t, they and their parents need to learn that society can, and should, lock them up. Then we come to the terrorist threat. What a wonderful cover for mayhem if there is one bang too many. Who is going to know immediately that this celebration of evil has nothing to do with Guy Fawkes? Maybe we should have organised displays only and maybe these should be bright and cheerful rather than loud and explosive. The bonfire, the food and drink and the camaraderie make for a festive evening on their own and perhaps we can get away from the act of burning an effigy to commemorate an evil event. Some might even argue, that with some of the politicians in the world today, Fawkes was on the side of the angels, but, of course totally mis-guy-ded in using explosives for his purpose.

I can see an argument for a ban on personal use where there is higher population density and it’s likely to cause more disturbance, much like we have smoke control areas. Most in these areas opt for displays already, as fewer have gardens.

That said, for those who live in sparsely populated countryside or villages I don’t think there’s a good enough argument to have an outright ban, and I doubt one would be as easily enforceable anyway.

Michelle says:
5 November 2016

Sadly, those of us who live in the countryside know how much distress fireworks cause to livestock and wildlife. During the October half term, a horse in the North East , was killed by tourists letting off fireworks in the holiday let they were renting next to its field. The horse owner is distraught and now campaigning against non organised fireworks.

We have also known a barn owl to abandon one of our outbuildings due to a neighbour having fireworks.

You can buy Mutt Muffs for your dog to deaden the firework noise but they apparently don’t cut it out completely. The Blue Cross animal charity has a website which contains some useful information on how to protect your pets @ bluecross.org.uk – Pet advice – How to look after your dog, cat and pet during fireworks.

The main problem with fireworks is being forced to suffer the noise without being able to actually watch them going off. Both need to be experienced together to fully enjoy them, especially when you know exactly when to expect the bangs!

I will be sitting wearing my own Mutt Muffs listening to some of my favourite music on 5th November until 11pm so if Guy Fawkes decides to return and attempts to finish off what he once started I really won’t know much about it until it’s all over 🙂

Handel’s Royal Fireworks is very pleasant Beryl. In view of the precarious fabric in the H of P Guy Fawkes’s descendant might do the nation a favour.

Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture (complete with cannons) may create a little more refined entertainment Malcolm?

I’m not a great Tchaikovsky fan Beryl I’m afraid, but the 1812 is fun. It amazes me how so much diversity can be produced from a relatively few notes. Eric Morcambe was quite right when he referred to “the right notes but in the wrong order” which is effect what we have.

It seems to be the higher frequencies and possibly just a narrow range of them that really upset animals. Interestingly, bangs themselves don’t seem to affect them that much. The whistling, however, is very different.

Malcolm: the 1812 was not one of Tchaik’s most qualitative hits, but still demonstrates his orchestral mastery. But he was certainly one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era.

If Handel had lived in a modern urban area he might have composed music for two fire engines and an ambulance. 🙁


They once announced their presence with a solo performance on a bell. then a duet with a blue light added. Now we have an ensemble with a variety of tuneful sirens and a blue and red light show. Reminiscent of The Police – De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.

While the fire brigade are on horns and the ambulance on strings, the police prefer percussion.

fireworks should be limited to organised displays. Little thought is given to how frightening they are to animals and some people. Or the fire risks. Same goes for Chinese lanterns – so dangerous .

Bob Lowe says:
5 November 2016

Yes, a ban on the so-called chinese lanters would be a good idea. Locally a young horse out in the fields had one wrap around his head, leaving him with very painful and dangerous burns. How many rick fires and the like have they caused, too? Ban them!!

Colin Nicholson says:
3 November 2016

Why do we have to put up with fireworks that just emit a loud bang? What is the fun in that?
The lesser noise of exploding rocket displays is far less stressful to pets. Personally I would limit their use to the one night and preferably only an organised display. This would also be more spectacular and less expensive for people.

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I saw some incredible fireworks in Spain not too long ago – some the best I’ve seen. They went from about 9pm until 1am… constantly. And the point of them was to be loud – indeed some where just loud bangs with not much light.

The whole town was involved, with kids and parents in the street lighting of tons of fireworks by cars etc. It was quite frankly madness and I’m sure there were injuries but it was a religious festival tradition that all ages enjoyed taking part in.

As a child I was dragged up in an inner city area where bangers being thrown at people were regular events, Delius’ work was renamed to ‘On hearing the first banger in Autumn’ as they started around September 1st and – come the big night itself – bonfires were lit in every street in the middle of the road.

The bangs terrified me, as did the fireworks at the first big displays, when I clearly remember my terror as I thought we’d be hit by the debris as they exploded above our heads.

Where we live now we never hear a single firework until November 5th, and nothing thereafter. But I sympathise with those who are terrified by the sudden bangs, and that’s something it’s comparatively easy to stop. Fireworks do need explosions to eject the various pyrotechnics once in flight, but most small fireworks of the sort easily available don’t achieve great height and rarely need much in the way of explosive power.

The other side of this is that children enjoy them, and need to learn how to set them off, handle them and use them safely. This is part of growing up and if we protect children from everything potentially dangerous we’re not equipping them for a dangerous world.

I usually visit a large public display run by a charity and is funded by donations on the night. I recently realised that having moved nearby it is a walk of about a mile and no problem with parking. The cows are moved and the event is far enough away from housing to avoid upsetting animals. Our village is having a display on the following night, which I might go, mainly to meet the locals.

I wish fireworks were restricted to one or two nights a year.

When I was little, films were black and white and sweeties on ration, November 5th was bonfire night. No other day – it didn’t matter when it fell. So it was something to look forward to. Make toffee, jacket potatoes. Jumping Jacks, Little Demon 1d bangers, Mount Vesuvius, sparklers – alI quite small and basic. Somehow I miss that. Now people seem to choose any day within a couple of weeks of Nov 5th.

Public displays are held to celebrate anything and everything. During the Dartmouth Regatta week there are two half hour displays from pontoons moored in the river. Noisy and spectacular, with the water providing wonderful reflections. It attracts thousands of people so for many is clearly a popular, if brief, entertainment.