My Way: Pyrotechnician Andrew Fielder gives his tips for success at work

'You need initiative and technical skill'
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The Independent Online

Andrew Fielder is the director of Dragonfire, the firework display company that has performed for state occasions. He will be choreographing the firework spectacular at this year's Tatton Park Picnic Concerts on 2 August.

What did you want to be as a child?

A train driver. I remember aged five being lifted on to the driver's platform of a steam train.

What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?

What I did, which was to work in theatre, film and television.

You studied English and history at York University. Was it worth it?

Yes, because of what one could do other than the degree. I did my first big outdoor theatre pyrotechnic project at York when we took over the administration building and did a four night son et lumière.

Had you always loved fireworks?

As a boy I put on a firework show for the family. I had no idea I could make a living from it.

What did you do after university?

I taught technical English at a petrochemical plant in Algeria, came back to Britain and got a job at a TV facilities house. I spent the next 10 years in the TV industry, based in Paris.

Then what happened?

In my early thirties I wanted a change. I rang a pal with a firework company and asked if I could work for him for a few months, without pay, just to learn. I made up my mind to start my own company. I found a cottage with outbuildings; an explosions inspector looked at it, and we got planning permission. It took nearly four years to be up and running.

Do you consider yourself successful?

We've kept the business going for 24 years and that's an achievement. This is not an easy way to make a living. It's an anti-social, demanding job.

Your interview tips?

I look for initiative and technical skills. The work has a lot to do with improvisation and it can be hazardous, so you need common sense and confidence.

CV tips?

Literacy! If it hasn't been spell checked then it's straight to the bottom of the pile.

How do I get to be where you are?

Most successful firework companies belong to the British Pyrotechnists Association (BPA), which has a training syllabus and a manual covering safety and legal implications. So contact a firework company, ask if they're running a BPA course, and if there are job opportunities afterwards.

Best perk of your job?

Having a symphony orchestra at your disposal, playing what you've chosen, while you light up the sky.

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