Former sports journalist Jon Culverhouse celebrates the 25th anniversary of his £1.4m business Fantastic Fireworks this month, but it was a chance purchase in 1980 that set the ball rolling.
Spotting that Chinese-imported fireworks were far more exotic and superior to the UK-manufactured "damp squibs" he'd always known, Culverhouse began selling them and then organising displays. When annual turnover grew from £4,000 to £100,000 by 1987 he was convinced that the business "had legs" and he left his job at the sports desk at the Daily Mail to concentrate on pyrotechnics.
His proudest moment was putting on a £250,000 display for the city of Liverpool's 800th birthday in 2007: "We had everything going for us that night. It took place on the rooftops of two cathedrals, on a barge on the Mersey, and in the Albert Dock. Four simultaneous displays all wirelessly went off and were timed to perfection," recalls Culverhouse.
He says the fireworks industry has changed beyond recognition. "In the early days you'd put a box of fireworks in the back of your car, drive to a site and let them off. Now you've every bit of legislation under the sun to comply with."
And technological advancements mean the "light-the-blue-touch-paper-and-retire" method has been overtaken by hi-tech computers that can match fireworks to a music beat within a millisecond. "That's revolutionised how fireworks are synchronised and the way they look in the sky," he says.
While it's a fun industry, it can be hard work. "Not everybody has a yen for it and it's demanding. At the sharp end, you're often sitting in a damp field in the middle of nowhere for hours on end."