Cromer’s big bang
It has quickly become a Norfolk New Year institution – what better way to embrace 2018 than lining the sand to watch Cromer’s spectacular seaside firework display
How a Millennium one-off has become a calendar fixture
SHOWERS of iridescent light fall like waterfalls from the pier; crackling fountains of fire burst from the waves and the sky above the shoreline is alive with a mesmerising show of colour and noise, reflecting magically in the water below.
There can be few better ways to wave goodbye to one year and welcome in another than huddling side by side on the beach with a hot chocolate or mulled wine in hand to watch Cromer’s annual New Year’s Day firework display over the sea.
Since it began 19 years ago, the event has become a Norfolk must do. More than 10,000 people headed for the town last year, braving the wintry conditions to soak up the atmosphere and watch the spectacular display on the pier.
Jim Bond, chairman of the firework committee, says the event has grown beyond all expectations.
“It was set up as a one off to celebrate the Millennium and it wasn’t on the pier, it was on the meadow. Initially it was a local firework event for the town, but it just became bigger and bigger.
“The idea has always been to bring people up to the coast for a breath of fresh air, something to eat and drink, and then the fabulous firework display over the sea. In the early years, not much else in the town opened, now, lots of business open specially to cater for the crowds and the cafes, fish and chip shops and pubs are always heaving. It is great for the town and adds another dimension to the tourist offering – we know people who now come for a short break over New Year because of the fireworks which benefits the local economy hugely.”
Mulled wine is served outside the museum; tea, coffee, and hot soup is available in the church and a number of vendors will be providing additional refreshments.
Jim says it is essential to leave plenty of time to get to the town as traffic builds up and parking spaces are at a premium.
“We’re delighted it’s become such a successful annual event but come early, we don’t want anyone to miss it. People are always surprised about how busy it is when they come for the first time, but thousands of people head to the town and inevitably the traffic builds up, so give yourself plenty of time.”
The committee meets throughout the year working closely with a number of local agencies including the town council, fire service, police, RNLI and the coastguards.
The team behind the pyrotechnics – Titanium Fireworks – are responsible for the London New Year’s Eve show and they arrive in Cromer at 8am, ready to spend the whole day setting up the complex display.
“Obviously we never had someone running around with some matches lighting individual fuses,” laughs Jim, “but in the past two decades the technological advancements have been huge and it has become incredibly sophisticated, which is very exciting to watch.
“This year the team at Titanium are looking to make more use of the seaside location, including waterborne pyrotechnics. A lot of people in the past ask about the fireworks which appear to go off in the sea itself and say they can’t see any boats or platforms, but all I can say is there is a very clever element of illusion.”
The event is free, but bucket collectors will be out in force among the crowds, which last year raised £9,000. The proceeds go to a number of local causes and help fund future displays.
“Everyone’s aware that budgets are still tight, but we do ask people give as generously as they can”, he says. “Just a few coins can make a lot of difference to local charities and good causes – and without everyone’s help we couldn’t continue the annual display.”
For the first time in its history, last January’s display was postponed for a week due to poor conditions.
“As you might image, planning a display on the coast comes with certain challenges, some of which can be very unpredictable. We definitely made the right decision to postpone though as the conditions were awful and the wind blew straight onto the shore which had real safety implications. We made the decision on New Year’s Eve to give people plenty of notice and it was amazing how quickly word spread once we got the news out there via social media and local media.”