Matthew to headline at British Science Festival Beach Party

Matthew Tosh will be headlining at the British Science Festival Beach Party on 9th September.

Matthew at workIn his most ambitious project to date, Matthew takes over a Swansea beach and a rugby ground to stage a spectacular large-scale demonstration of creative science.

It’s big science and it is guaranteed to thrill.

Add in the beach party atmosphere and this can only be an evening of science communication with a difference.

Up in the air

Matthew will stage live and full-scale demonstrations to explain how chemistry, physics and engineering combine to create firework displays. But this is not an ordinary lecture or stage show with table-top demonstrations; Matthew will be using a nearby rugby ground to physically launch some of his demonstrations hundreds of metres into the air for his audience to see.

And then, in true Tosh-style, he brings the entire ensemble of science, maths and engineering together by unleashing a fully-choreographed musical firework display.Matthew on stage

Matthew’s creation forms the centrepiece of the chemistry-themed Beach Party, providing an energetic finale to the British Science Festival and an exciting opener for the Family Fringe weekend.

Expect to witness the chemistry of colour and light, feel the physical demonstrations of shockwaves and learn how designers use maths to exploit these properties in conjunction with cutting-edge digital control systems.

Matthew is renowned for his dramatic, informative and entertaining stage shows. He draws on over eleven years of professional fireworks and broadcasting experience to present his unique wow-factor shows that engage and inspire audiences of all ages.

Matthew Tosh on stageKeen to reach out to a non-traditional science festival audience, Matthew was quick to rise to the challenge of a beach party when he was first approached by the British Science Association earlier in the year.

“I’ve had a similar idea brewing for a while, not least because I have done several November displays on a beach. So why not create a large-scale science demonstration on a beach instead?”

The event is FREE to attend thanks to generous support by The Royal Society of Chemistry, but you’ll need to register for entry to the party using the link below.

Tickets and registration information:

The British Science Festival, hosted by Swansea University and supported by Siemens, takes place between 6 – 9 September, with events on campus and across the city of Swansea. You can find out more about the festival and what’s on by visiting the British Science Festival website.

British Firework Championships 2015

British Firework ChampionshipsThe British Firework Championships take place this week and Matthew has been invited to be on the crew for the Gala Fireworks competition display.

A regular face at the annual Plymouth event, both as a supporter and participant, Matthew has crewed on several competition shows to date. He is favoured for his logical, calm, focussed approach and attention to detail under high-pressured competition scenarios.

Matthew said: “It is a strong line-up this year and competition is going to be stiff. I’m looking forward to working with Gala Fireworks.”

The teams competing in this year’s competition are:

Tuesday 18th August

  1. Phoenix Fireworks
  2. Spyrotechnics
  3. Essex Pyrotechnics

Wednesday 19th August

  1. Fantastic Fireworks
  2. Gala Fireworks
  3. 1st Galaxy Fireworks

Each company is required to fire a ten-minute display and is judged on various aspects of the display including the artistry, use of effects, timing, safety and even the actual rigging.

The shows are fired from Mount Batten breakwater and the main viewing area is on the Hoe. It’s a free event and more information can be found by visiting

Making a shopping list

20150114_064139A really important part of the visit to Liuyang is to see product demonstrations. Every single night, I have been outside watching demos and you know what? It is bloomin’ freezing when you are sitting still for over an hour.

Some factories specialise in just one type of firework, such as aerial shells. Others produce a wider range of materials and hence the demonstrations for these can be longer. The largest one I went to featured over 70 different fireworks and effects. That’s a lot to take in and remember, and so we are given mark sheets. To a certain extent, it’s like being back in the classroom.

After two or three demos, one’s brain becomes a bit saturated and so the group comes together to review and share thoughts on all of the material seen so far.

We go through our notes whilst watching videos of the demos we’ve seen. The video is a really helpful reminder.

The conversations are around the blend of effects and the markets that they are suitable for. There are three areas that we are looking at this week: Consumer retail goods, professional fireworks and stage pyrotechnics. The requirements of each are very different. For consumer material, we have to think about the calibre, height and burst diameter. We are also considering mine effects in cakes; stars that erupt from the ground around the main projectile to fill the lower part of the sky. There is a surprising difference in quality and spread – basically, you wouldn’t want to have too large a spread on a firework if it is intended to be lit by hand!

We are also looking for symmetry of spherical bursts and consistency of height in multi-shot materials. This varied quite a lot for some manufacturers, something that I hadn’t really appreciated until now.

Lab testingSome of the more sophisticated factories have introduced detailed testing and analysis of the raw ingredients and finished powder mixtures. One factory that I visited has automated several of its processes, including installing a machine that fills cakes, ensuring that even the cardboard discs are all pushed in to the same level in every single tube. Both of these can have an effect on the performance height of a projectile.

The group has some very detailed discussions about certain fireworks, freeze-framing the video and almost doing a frame-by-frame dissection of the effects. In some cases, we’ve decided to take the mine of one and blend it with the aerial glittering effect of another. This is how much control we have over the fireworks. I can’t give any specific details as some of this is commercially sensitive information; I’ve been sworn to secrecy!

A lot of people ask me if we customise or design fireworks for import – this is exactly what is going on in this meeting.

As this particular group imports shop goods and is the largest importer of professional (Category 4) fireworks to the United Kingdom, what you see in the shops and at many UK professional displays in late Summer and Autumn 2015 will be a direct result of this meeting.

Cool, eh?

Factory visits

My tour of Liuyang is taking in several firework manufacturers and I’ve been whisked away to at least one factory each day already. It may surprise you that this actually is a first for me; I’ve been wanting to go to a firework factory for many years but have never been able to manage (nor afford!) a visit.

As suppliers to the UK market, the manufacturers are keen for industry members to see where and how their products are made, especially if their factory has a new bit of automated equipment or some new facilities.

Powder mills and star rolling lineAs you’d expect, most places ensure we see the showroom areas, award cabinets and certificates, but with a little bit of persuasion, two factories did allow us to visit what we call the powder lines. This is where the powders, the key ingredients such as black powder, are made.

We also saw some stars being rolled in a copper-like cement mixer. Why copper? Easy! It is non-ferrous and is not at risk of creating any sparks.

Sparks, in whatever shape or form, are generally bad news in a firework preparation area. Star rolling and powder milling are the higher-risk stages of manufacturing. As a result, these work areas are often tucked away in the hills, well away from the rest of assembly lines on the factory site.

Earthing ball close-upThe factories do have earthing spheres on poles at regular intervals around the site. The idea is that you touch the balls to remove any residual charge before entering a preparation or storage area.

Finally, you know you’ve spotted something brand new and cutting edge if the Chinese experts get excited when showing it. One such example was a new automatic cake fusing machine. Even our interpreter and agent for the tour had never seen this before. It essentially works like a giant sewing machine, punching holes in the bottom of tubes, threading through string fuse, stacking the tubes and then taping them together to form a cake.

And this is just scratching the surface of firework production. I’ve still yet to see shells being filled with stars and we haven’t been anywhere near a rocket yet…Matthew at the entrance to a firework factory

Hello from China!

Matthew with iPhone 5 firework This is a very exciting week as I am in Liuyang, the home to Chinese firework manufacturing for almost 1500 years! I am here as part of a trade visit – several firework companies are here to view and order brand new materials for the UK display and retail markets.

The visit combines tours of factories to see fireworks being made, followed by demonstrations – a combination of new customised product requests from us and new products that the Chinese are developing.

On day one, I had an opportunity to do a little bit of filming from the centre of Liuyang to give a brief flavour of what this place is like. And yes, several of you on Twitter have already said that I look like a child in a sweet shop!

It is an extraordinary place.