/ 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?


. . . put it in your pocket, and save it for a rainy day.

Seeing and hearing fireworks live at a major public display is a great experience because when you are there you are also picking up the smells and the hubbub of the spectators, and the oooh’s and aaah’s as they explode, crackle and dazzle [I don’t mean the spectators]. The loud reports can be a bit frightening for some but with a well-coordinated display it blends into a visual and aural entertainment that is somehow timeless in the way it brings people together reacting in tune with something that is basically so simple and universal.

You can certainly appreciate the difference if you watch fireworks displays on television from the Olympic Games, New Year’s Eve, and other celebrations where, without the live atmosphere, however impressive the display is and amazing the colours and effects are visually, it seems like nothing much better than a screen-saver. But for all their shortcomings there is a role for televised fireworks displays. For those who dislike the bangs and whistles, or who cannot get out to a public display, or who don’t want to pad about in a muddy field late at night, viewing a recording of the New Year’s Eve show or the Thames Festival fireworks display could be an enjoyable proxy – especially since you can stop and rewind and zip through the boring bits; you can also pause while you pop into the kitchen for a quick hot-dog and a bottle of pop [that’s one ‘pop’ too many already]. With the volume down you can also let your pets enjoy the experience.

One of the little-publicised features of double-glazing is that our cat could enjoy the spectacle without being terrified. She would follow the rockets and catch a falling star . . .

Fireworks should only be used at Organised displays. Further there out to be laws preventing their use, save on November 5th., New Years eve/day or other Nationally approved celebrations.

DebbieG says:
4 November 2016

I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun, but when we had a dog she had to be on valium for two weeks either side of November 5th, as there were fireworks every night. The moment it got dark she couldn’t go outside for the loo, so had to wait over twelve hours. It was really upsetting to see her quaking and shivering and desperately trying to get somewhere safe and it was impossible to comfort her. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it was just the one night, but it was weeks of it. We did try to train her as a puppy, but she was just terrified. A colleague has just taken her dog and gone on holiday to get away from the noise – it really is a problem when it’s constant for weeks. I’m sure it must be just as bad for people with babies or autistic kids who hate loud noises – one evening you can cope with, but it’s the extent that gets you down. I remember as a kid just either going to a display or having a few fireworks in the garden (catherine wheels that never worked!) and that was it. I still love the smell of sparklers.

Carol Betteridge-Orman says:
4 November 2016

Every night without fail for the last 10 days and going on until after midnight we have put up with the fireworks. I think that by the sound of them, that they are also ‘industrial strength’. Why do people still insist on having them in the garden when for the price of a small box they can get a big display at one of the many safety checked sites

I have not an objection about fireworks. However the problem is that they are used by some people all the year round, caused by young idiots who do not give a damm. If they were only used on the 5th November night only, and not let off other times of the year, this would be ok. Many People do look forward to Guy fawkes night, and children do enjoy fireworks. However something does need to be done, about these other idiots who use them, and annoy other people, and distress pets which is just plain wrong. The problem is banning them other times of the year would be very difficult to enforce, and getting the police to enforce the law even more harder. I think the British people need a vote to either ban them all, once and for all, or have them run by the councils, where people pay a fee to go and watch them. Its always the few, that screw other peoples pleasure.

The reason that fireworks were limited to just the 5th of November in our younger days was that they were both relatively expensive and their sale was entirely over-the-counter for a limited period only and newsagents [the main outlets] would exercise a degree of supervision over the sale of them, especially to young people, although small fireworks [costing pennies] were generally available to teenagers. Now fireworks are available all year round through the internet and the noise and the power of them has increased enormously, some of them lasting for minutes with a seemingly continuous succession of sharp and startling reports.

Moan, whine, whinge…..
I’m old now and don’t bother with fireworks myself but reading the deluge of negative comments about fireworks was just depressing.

Yes there are idiots who do stupid things with fireworks.
There are far more, far more dangerous idiots who do stupid things with everything from food preparation to motor vehicles.
So why single out for oppressive control fireworks – which the ability to let off for themselves brings a lot of people a lot of joy?

I would say re-read your comments and look at yourselves…… But I have a depressed sense you’d just come away with a smug glow of self-richeousness, uncomprehending where such an oppressively PC, Health & Safety ad nauseum culture is taking our country and culture.

We can go to see the fireworks tomorrow and there won’t be anyone moaning about people moaning. 🙂

Advice on purchasing, storage and use of fireworks is widely available but I have not seen much advice on building bonfires. Household waste is often put on bonfires. It is free, readily available and putting it on a bonfire can avoid the practical difficulty and cost of disposing of it at a recycling site. For example, some plastics produce toxic fumes when burned. Here is an article about the impact of bonfires: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2013/nov/05/celebrate-bonfire-night-burn-toxic-waste-guy-fawkes

When I was a child I went with my father to collect fallen branches that littered a nearby wood for a small bonfire. Happy days.

Had a lovely bonfire the other day. The wind was blowing nicely in the direction of the builder who starts a bonfire at 6pm on a Friday and lets it burn until Sunday evening when the wind is usually blowing in our direction !!!

This comment was removed at the request of the user

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Lorna says:
5 November 2016

I live next to the village millennium field and there is a firework display there every year and you never quite know when it is going to be – this year held on 22nd October! It terrifies my dogs and me since I get rocket parts, etc landing on my roof and in my garden and the irresponsible owners leave cars parked across my gates and block our no through road. I have resorted to going away with my dogs for the weekend the fireworks are held costing me dear but I discovered some beautiful parts of Pembrokeshire this year and my dogs enjoyed running on some wonderful beaches!

When the law was changed in January 2005, the police stated that they would not take action. Mmmm….

Guy Fawkes says:
5 November 2016

I have to put-up with dogs yapping all year round. I also have to occasionally pick-up their mess when gardening and tidying at the front of the property. So do I have concern for pets? No. Sorry. Call me insensitive, whatever you like, there are plenty of us who already have to contend too much with this pet stupid society that we have become. I can’t even go on a walk in the park or local wood without seeing pet excrement wrapped in bright coloured plastic bags everywhere. So I will continue with fireworks in my back garden like I have done for many decades. Pet owners will just have to suck eggs and keep their over needy little pets indoors for a week or so.

Hi Guy – You might upset some pet owners round here. If you focus on blowing up Parliament instead you might get some thumbs up.

I have some sympathy Guy; our neighbour has yapping dogs. But live and let live, I say. We get glider tugs buzzing over our house from time to time, beating helicopters on their way to Silverstone, and whilst thoughts have crossed my mind of making constructive ( surely destructive ed. ) use of firework rockets that anti-feeling soon evaporates.

It’s less than an hour until the bonfire is lit and it’s pouring rain and that is set to continue. ☔️☔️☔️

Beware of misleading generalisations. Clearly a marketing statement from an umbrella salesman. It is dry, clear, hardly any wind and cold. 😉 I have warm coats for sale.

It’s no so good up north, Malcolm, though the forecast is improving. Thanks for the generous offer but I will deploy the ski jacket that I was given at Christmas.

What a night. A strong wind, showers, a temperature of 4°C and a biting wind meant the organised bonfire was quieter than usual and we were able to stand near the bonfire. The firework display lasted less than ten minutes but was continuous and spectacular.

There was a display held in the village some 3 miles to the West, but we didn’t both going. Temps were low and, to be honest, we’ve never seen anything to compare with the displays Disney routinely mount.

This time of year is a nightmare for me, rightly or otherwise I keep two horses at the bottom of my garden. They are stabled and they are not here through the summer months. They are both conditioned to fireworks in the vicinity, however when the locals set off airburst fireworks right above the stables they do get exited.
People wrongly assume that animals experience the world as we do, it seems to me that all animals have far greater acuity of senses than we human beings.

Fireworks or explosives as they actually are , are inherently dangerous in the hands of anyone who is not trained and qualified to deal with them. An outright ban is the sensible and right way forward though in a society that can’t decide on wheather a toaster is allowed in a working office or not that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
So In the abscence of rational thought they should only be allowed in open spaces away from woodland and housing. And be strictly controlled.
The effect on wildlife cannot be accurately assessed but a reasonable person would agree that the sudden light and loud explosions can only have an adverse effect. Family pets inside double glazed houses can be terrified by them.
They have no real benifit to anything other than the amusement of small children and idiots and business people who care about nothing other than their bank balances and tax avoidance.
I would ban the public sale them in a heartbeat but what do I know I’m just a member of the species that created them for the selfish amusement of ourselves.

I am astounded that fireworks are sold to the general public. Their are an enormous number of instances of their misuse – I really cant understand why their use can’t be restricted. Apart from fireworks being thrown, let of in public places so many people struggle to cope with the disturbance and chaos they cause – not just on Bonfire Night but now its seems for weeks at a time. People with small children, elderly people, people with mental illness or suffering from PSTD are all affected by fireworks going off at random times. The stress levels and associated suffering is a major problem for many. Thats before we get onto the trauma many animals are put through due to the noise of fireworks.
Why not limit fireworks to organised licensed displays only – surely everyone woudl be a winner then?

Out nine year old West Highland terrier is terrified and barks none stop for hours on end. Last night (November the 5th) we genuinely thought she might have a heart attack. The fireworks started during daylight hours and continued till 11 pm. and they are so loud! It’s not just one night either but can last for weeks!!!!!

I live in west London Curfew? Consideration? I don’t think the local residents know what it means. Due to the vast number of religious events running throughout the year it is a constant annoyance running well into the early hours of the morning sometimes going on until 3 or 4 in the morning, mainly starting just before midnight. I was talking to a neighbour three or four doors down from myself who I think is a Hindu and she explained that the fireworks seem to be quite a new thing during Diwali. She just puts out a few candles showing a token gesture for the night of lights, so it would appear that some care about their neighbours and other could not care less. Living during times of political correctness there has been no curfew or any law enforced because law enforcement have been told to be tolerant?. The idiots rule and if anything is said I must be a party pooper. Not wanting a nanny state, but come on guys think about other people. Being a single hard working dad of two girls who are hard studying, have to go to school and I have to go to work getting up at 4am. Its a bit more than an annoyance, its taking the Michael!

23 Sep 2016 – The law says you must not set off or throw fireworks (including sparklers) in the street or other public places. You must not set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, except for: Bonfire Night, when the cut off is midnight. New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, when the cut off is 1am.

David Spicer says:
7 November 2016

I agree fireworks should be panned from general public sales. Many are irresposible users very dangerus In our area Waltham Forest London Our council put on a free display. All go to that

I do not agree with stopping families from holding their own little Bonfire Night gatherings in their own gardens by banning the sale of fireworks. The fireworks on sale in the supermarkets are suitable and safe enough for this sort of activity and they are pleasurable occasions bringing the generations together. Where it goes wrong is when pop-up shops and sheds on the ring-road start selling mortars and shells that have all the appeal of Katyusha rockets but with twice the disturbance. It should be possible to control the sale of such items without affecting family fun [they should be placed in Category 4 for sale to professionals only but they are probably available to anyone via the internet as well as under the counter]. It is probably impossible to enforce the curfew but there should certainly be more respect for the law which says that you must not set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, except for Bonfire Night, when the cut off is midnight, and New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, when the cut off is 1am.

There are plenty of legal restrictions around fireworks including on the periods during which they can be sold, who can sell them, what you mustn’t do with them, and so on. The distress caused to pets is much more difficult to deal with and relies on public cooperation in keeping within the time limits and going for colour and effects rather than noise. I was surprised this year how many people got the date wrong and spoiled Sunday night.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

That explains a display on a nearby house last Christmas. I thought the effect was rather nice but I could not see the light source without entering the garden and I had no idea they were lasers. It had not occurred to me that cats might stare at them and that even their incredibly reactive irises could be harmed; I would expect dogs to c**k a leg at them. Owners should be careful and put a cage around the light source if at low level.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

1. One can legally let off fireworks up to 1am at New Year, Chinese NY and Diwali. In light of the gvt’s ruling against the 100k-signatures plus petition, I am thinking of organising my own display of mortar bomb-like fireworks outside Theresa May ‘s house from midnight next year.

2. People celebrating Diwali are of various different religions: a ‘one size fits all’ organised display wouldn’t work, so a petition for silent fireworks would be more apt.

3. The effect on domestic and wild animals is disproportionate to the enjoyment of individuals.

4. Don’t even start me on the metal particulate pollutants from fireworks. Bonfires are even worse.

5. Our local fireworks display (Slough) was a fabulous, safe, well organised family occasion, (even if the pollution and waste of thousands of pallets did bother me!).

To conclude, I think that there should be a limit on noisy fireworks, and display limited to a much shorter window, no than 10pm

Your No. 1 – Good idea, Mrs H. It’ll be drowned out in the usual New Year celebrations.