I'm a freelance writer based in South West London, but i'm frequently travelling. Stay tuned! I pop up in the strangest places.
"Remember, remember the fifth of November, Gunpowder, treason and plot, I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot…"
Bonfire night, for those who don't know, is the tradition of lighting bonfires to remember the failed plot to blow up parliament. Dubbed, "The Gunpowder Plot" it involved a group of Catholic men who plotted to assassinate King James I by blowing up the House of Lords during the 'State Opening of Parliament' on the 5th November 1605. The plot failed when an anonymous letter was sent to the authorities, and during a sweep of the building they found Guy Fawkes in the basement with 36 barrels of gunpowder (which was enough to destroy the entire building). Guy Fawkes was arrested, tortured, then eventually hanged, drawn and quartered alongside other conspirators.
The people of London were so relieved that their King was safe, that they joyfully lit bonfires in thanksgiving and in the following years built straw men to look like Guy Fawkes and burned them as a remembrance.
Forgetting for a moment the grizzly events that began the tradition of Bonfire Night, I really love it, and look forward to it every year. There's something about gathering around a large bonfire, burning a straw man dressed as society's most hated person of the year, and watching a fabulous fireworks display that makes me really excited. 'Pointless', many people say, others have called it 'stupid', 'prehistoric' and 'barbaric' but whatever else it may be everyone agrees that it's also a lot of fun!
It's the one night of the year that most of us who live in the modern world actually get to see such as large open flame and feel its alarming warmth radiating out towards us. But there's also something ancient about an open fire that just captivates and draws large numbers of people together on a cold night. Dare I say it… might it be community spirit?
A few tips for going to bonfire night: wear very warm and dry clothes. Wear wellies, a rain coat and bring an umbrella if you can. Bring lots of money as there are loads of charity, food and drink stalls that wont take cards, and prepare for long waits, lots of people, loud noises and lots of smoke. If you are bringing small children, make sure you keep a close eye on them and just in case they get lost, make sure you, and they, know where the meeting places are.
There are many Bonfire events that you can go to as England is full of them! But if you go to the right festival, you get the perfect blend of tradition, pageantry, show, bonfire, fireworks, food and drink, music and fun that will make it a great night out with friends and family. Below are just a few of my favourites. Some are a little challenging to get to, but trust me, they're well worth the trouble.
Battersea Park On Saturday 3rd November, one of London's all time favourites, the Battersea Park Bonfire and fireworks display, is a must go-to event for everyone. I go almost every year and it's a fantastic location for families and kids of all ages. You pay £6.50 for tickets online before the 28th October, and £10 to enter at the gate and once you're inside you get access to some fantastic food and drink stands. Everyone dresses up so come along with a costume. The gates open at 6pm, the bonfire is lit at 7.30pm, and the fireworks display starts at 8pm. The fireworks display lasts for about 20 minutes and is choreographed to music. The place gets packed, so it's advisable to get there early to stake out a place to see the bonfire and fireworks display. It's a lot of fun and most people start dancing as if they're in a nightclub! To book tickets and to read further information, take a look at its main website www.wandsworth.gov.uk/info/463/events/288/battersea_park_fireworks_display
Held on Blackheath Common, the Blackheath Fireworks Display began over 400 years ago and is rated the best in London. Over 100,000 people flock to south London to see this event and it never disappoints. The gates open from 4pm, with food stalls and bars opening at 5pm, and even better, there is no entry fee. However, the council asks for a donation towards the cost of the event, which you can give on the day or online. It's advisable to get there early to stake a claim on a good place to watch the fireworks as this event gets really full. Unlike other events, this one has no bonfire or Guy, but the fireworks will definitely make up for that. They start at 8pm and are entirely choreographed to music.
For more information please see the website below www.lewisham.gov.uk/inmyarea/events/whats-on/fireworks/Pages/default.aspx
Battle, East Sussex
Arguably the oldest and by far the most fabulous of all bonfire nights, this 400 year old celebration is set on the old battle ground where William the Conqueror fought King Harold for the English Crown in 1066. Thousands of people make the pilgrimage every year to take part and to witness this magnificent spectacle. On Saturday, 3rd November, the evening starts at 7:45pm with a short fireworks display and the lighting of a small 'token' bonfire. Then at 8pm a procession weaves its way through the streets and up to the Battlefield where the bonfire has been built. It consists of people carrying 1,066 flaming torches, and dressed in costumes from the1930's and 1600's (medieval knights and court jesters), along with a specially made Guy. The Guy, made in the form of a celebrity or politician (Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Sarah Palin among others have starred in previous years), is then tied to a stake on the main bonfire. At 9:30pm the main bonfire is lit and the main fireworks display starts.
For more information about the event please visit the following website: www.battlebonfire.co.uk