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24 October 2019

The best way to celebrate Bonfire Night

On November 5th, the UK celebrates Bonfire Night. Discover where you can see some of the best bonfires and firework displays in this guide.

Bonfire with silhouette of trees in distance

Every 5th November, people across the UK come together to celebrate Bonfire Night - the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot in which Guy Fawkes and 12 of his friends planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

After the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Catholics living in England hoped that their new leader, King James I, would be forgiving and tolerable to their religion. However, they found the new King to be discriminatory towards them, leading a small group of men to plan to assassinate him. Placing 36 barrels in the cellar of the Houses of Parliament, they intended to blow up the building, killing King James I in the process. However, many of the men in the group began to doubt their decision, with a member of the group anonymously informing his friend, Lord Monteagle, to stay away from the building, alerting people to their plan.

Despite the Gunpowder Plot not successfully going ahead, the King’s council decided to celebrate the group’s failure, with bonfires lit across London. Today, explosive fireworks transform the sky into a multicoloured wonder, with displays put on across the country. With so many events taking place over Bonfire Night, finding one in your local area should be easy. Read on to find out more about some of the best firework displays in the country.

Time lapse photography of fireworks at night

Kenilworth Bonfire and Fireworks Gala

The Kenilworth Bonfire and Fireworks Gala is arranged annually by the Kenilworth Round Table. Expecting to draw in a crowd of spectators from around Warwickshire, all money raised goes towards local charities and causes that the community can benefit from. With an exceptional array of fireworks featured in the display, you can expect the sky to transform into a kaleidoscope of colours and, once the fireworks have ended, you can grab a bite to eat or enjoy the warmth of the bonfire.

The display is the largest in the Midlands and lasts for around half an hour. Set to an exciting soundtrack, this year’s theme sets to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our first steps on the moon. Kenilworth Bonfire and Fireworks Gala opens its gates at 5:30pm and ends around 9:00pm, making this the perfect evening activity.

Tar Barrels of Ottery St Mary

If you’re looking for an alternative event to head to this Bonfire Night, The Tar Barrels of Ottery St Mary could be just what you’re looking for. This dozy Devon town comes to life on November 5th, with people gathering to watch the old tradition of barrel carrying. Celebrating the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, it is unknown when the event first took place; however, the torchlit processions and burning barrels draw in large crowds each year.

87 barrel rollers and 30 tar barrels make their way through the streets of Ottery St Mary followed by a bonfire at St Saviours Meadow. The streets will get busy for this event, so it is best to head down early to claim a space. Alternatively, head to the meadow to watch the crackling bonfire set against a backdrop of a fairground.

Ally Pally’s Firework Festival

Taking place over two days, the firework display at Alexandra Palace is one of the biggest in London and provides spectators with the opportunity to see a fantastic firework display. The annual event has been taking place for over 150 years, drawing in large crowds, and this year is set to be no different.

In addition to the firework display, which is set to a soundtrack provided by Radio 1 and Rob Da Bank, a BBC 6 Music presenter, there is a German bier festival and a family area, offering respite from the cold. The lighting of an impressive bonfire with a 30-foot effigy is also set to take place and a disabled viewing platform is available if necessary, although tickets must be purchased before the event.

Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations

The world’s biggest Bonfire Night celebration takes place each year in East Sussex. The Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations consists of events held by various societies within the Bonfire Council, so you’re never too far away from a procession, firework display or party. According to the Lewes Bonfire Council, “there are no fewer than seven societies” that commemorate the event, each offering something slightly different. From the Nevill Juvenile Bonfire Society which puts on child-friendly displays to the Lewes Borough Society and their traditional events, there is something for everyone.

Lewes is a great option to consider if you live locally, as the whole town will be celebrating the occasion. However, with limited parking around the town, it is not suggested for those that are considering driving. Information about the societies and their events can be found on the Lewes Bonfire Council website.

How can you celebrate bonfire night safely?

Close up photo of sparkler

As Bonfire Night is celebrated in November, you can expect cold temperatures if you’re planning on heading to a display. Often held in open airfields that are unsheltered from the wind, you need to wear plenty of layers, including hats, gloves and a scarf, to retain your body heat. Due to the chilly weather conditions, the floor underfoot can often be slippery. Plus, the terrain can be uneven underfoot, something which is hard to navigate in the dark. This means that extra care needs be taken when wearing your wider fit shoes to prevent falls.

If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the fireworks but think attending the display may not be manageable, there are plenty of other options. Sparklers are great fun for people of all ages and can be used safely at home; however, they can be dangerous if misused, especially considering they can reach temperatures five times hotter than cooking oil. If you’re planning to use sparklers to celebrate Bonfire Night, make sure you are outside and have plenty of space around you, holding them at arm’s length. Wearing gloves will help protect your hands and lower the risk of burns and a bucket of water should be kept nearby to help extinguish them.

Alternatively, scout out vantage points across the town, such as car parks on top of hills or the window of a friend or family member’s house where you can still watch the show whilst staying warm. Alternatively, why not think about arranging your own fireworks display?

In order to have your own show, it is essential that you have enough open space and have alerted homeowners nearby who may have pets. The period around Bonfire Night can be a stressful time for animals as the noises can give them a fright. Neighbours should be notified, as well as any paddocks nearby, before the day you plan your display on, as this will give them plenty of time to make arrangements. Likewise, if you have a pet who could be frightened, consider letting a relative take care of them or stay with them throughout the night, providing them with company and reassurance.

If you’re planning a small display, it is important that an experienced individual is in charge, such as a family member. They should also adhere to safety regulations such as spectator distances and wearing inflammable clothing.