Key points to consider about bonfire night

Banging event: there are a number of considerations to take into account when hosting a fireworks display (image: Getty/Corri Seizinger)
Banging event: there are a number of considerations to take into account when hosting a fireworks display (image: Getty/Corri Seizinger)

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With bonfire night a little over two weeks away, and the weather looking to be cold, but dry over that weekend, the conditions could be perfect to hold an outdoor event and firework display.

You may see this as an opportunity, if you have outdoor space, to attract customers old and new to your premises and to increase trade by advertising a different offering on what may normally be a quiet weekend if customers generally go elsewhere for their firework display. 

If you are considering holding such an event, then you need to consider what exactly you will be offering customers on the night. The event will no doubt involve a firework display, but will there also be a bonfire? Will hot food be being sold outside, for example, from a barbeque rather than from your usual kitchen? Will there be other entertainment such as live or recorded music and where will this take place? Will alcohol be sold and where will this be from, for example, will you be installing an external bar for the event?

If you are holding a firework display, then ultimately you are responsible for the event and you should be clear who has overall control for safety during the event. It is therefore important that you ensure that the event is well planned, both in the run up to the event and during the event itself to ensure that it runs as smoothly as possible for you.

Below are some key points for you to consider:

Do I have a suitable outside area to be able to hold the event?

You may have a beer garden or car park that you have used previously for outdoor events, but not for a firework display, that you think may be suitable. However, there are likely to be additional factors to consider for an event involving fireworks and / or a bonfire.

Is the area away from any buildings, trees, or other obstructions? Is there enough room for the fireworks to be set off and for them to land away from spectators? Is there a space where spectators can stand that will be far enough away from any fireworks or bonfire? Can spectators be managed within that area, so they only access the public area, and it does not become overcrowded?

Unfortunately, you also cannot predict the weather and so you should also consider what you would do if the weather changed on the night of your event. You will need a backup plan if the wind direction were to change for example.

Where should I buy my fireworks from?

Fireworks should only be purchased from a reputable supplier and, if you are planning on lighting these yourself, they should be category 1, 2 or 3 (indoor, garden or display) only. There are category 4 fireworks, but these can only be lit by a professional, and so it is important that you check what you are buying.

You should also check the instructions for the different types and categories of firework in advance of the event so that you can ensure that there is adequate safe distance, as mentioned above, for the spectators as this does differ.

Are there time restrictions when I can set off my fireworks?

Yes, generally fireworks can only be set off in the UK between the hours of 7am and 11pm. However, there are some exceptions to this rule and one of them is 5 November, or bonfire night when you are allowed to set them off until midnight.

Bonfire night is on a Sunday this year and so therefore if you are planning on holding your event on the Sunday evening you would be permitted to set them off until midnight, due to the exemption. However, if you are planning on holding your event on the Friday or Saturday evening prior then you would need to comply with the 11pm cut of time.

Are there any licensing implications for the event?

You will need to check the licensable activities and permitted hours on your premises licence to ensure that they are sufficient to host the event you have planned, for example if you are planning on holding your event on the Sunday your terminal hour may be earlier than on the Friday or Saturday. However, also check the non-standard timings or seasonal variations on your premises licence as they may permit you to trade additional hours on specific days such as bonfire night (be mindful if you are not actually holding your event on 5 November).

You should also check your premises licence conditions to ensure that there are no conditions which would impact on your plans for the event.

If you do not have the required authorisations on your premises licence then the activities could be authorised under a temporary events notice (TEN), which you may have already applied for if you have been considering holding an event.

If you have not already made an application, then by the time you read this, it may be too late to apply for a TEN, which must be submitted to the authorities at least 10 clear working days before the event. However, you may still have time to apply for a late TEN, for which the deadline is five clear working days’ notice.

If you are looking to have a disco, DJ or live band but do not have authorisation under your premises licence or a TEN then there are exemptions under the Live Music Act which you may be able to rely on until 11pm. This area is quite complex and you may need to speak with the licensing officer or seek legal advice.

You should ensure that any external bar is located well away from where the firework display will take place and that all of your usual measures around the sale of alcohol are in place, such as not serving alcohol to under 18’s or to anyone who is drunk – alcohol and fireworks could be a dangerous combination. 

Do I need to limit the amount of people attending the event?

No, although you need to consider the safe capacity of the location of the event. If the event is a large-scale event with a large number of people then there may be additional considerations and the need to involve the local authority, fire officer and emergency services.

If you are authorised for licensable activities under a TEN, then you should ensure that capacity for the area where licensable activities will take place should not exceed 499 people (including staff and performers) as this is the limit under the TEN.

Are there any other considerations for the event:-

  • Food safety​ – if you are providing additional outside catering then you need to ensure that food safety standards are upheld, including food being stored correctly, having clean food preparation areas and having washing facilities available.
  • Insurance – ​you should check both your public and private liability insurance to ensure that you have the required cover; these may need to be updated to include the provision of a firework display.
  • Notifying neighbours​ – legally there is no requirement to tell your neighbours about your event but it would be wise to do so; it will reduce the likelihood of complaints. 
  • Risk assessment – ​you should prepare a risk assessment which covers issues such as safety of the public and staff, medical provision and for example potential noise nuisance.

This is not comprehensive and so if you are considering holding such an event you may want to seek further advice.

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