Sunday, 7 November 2010

Not just fun for guys

The villain of Bonfire Night, now caricatured in a Guy Fawkes mask

What I remember from my childhood as Guy Fawkes Night on 5 November tends to be called by other names in Britain nowadays. Maybe the thought of a 17th century terrorist caught in the act of trying to blow up Parliament for religious reasons is something that we feel is a bit too close for comfort, although the town of Lewes resolutely maintains the old traditions. It has no fewer than seven Bonfire Societies states the Lewes Bonfire Council at described in a fellow-blogger's words as "a weird website that warns off outsiders from trying to attend."

And in this Sussex town only an hour's journey from London they burn not only an effigy of Guy Fawkes himself, but even one of Pope Paul V, leader of the Catholic Church at the time of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605.

Maybe they do feel genuine rancour even after more than five centuries for the cruel burning of 17 Protestant martyrs from the town during the reign of Mary Tudor, but it's fair to say that Bonfire Night in Lewes is noted for being a very un-pc affair and effigies of many other figures of public hatred end up in ashes to amuse the crowds.

And that's not just in Lewes. Last night saw an effigy of the 24-year-old England football captain Wayne Rooney being burned at Edenbridge in the next-door county of Kent where he is still blamed for disappointing fans at the World Cup.

Interestingly, across the Atlantic in New England they do remember Guy Fawkes at Misquamicut Beach, Rhode Island with a Bonfire Night, live music and a reenactment of the unfortunate man's trial. The event tales place in October rather than November. All are welcome and the event is free of charge.

Whoever or whatever gets burned on 5 November, Bonfire Night is celebrated in Britain with ever bigger, more spectacular and more costly bangs and flashes. Devon is noted for some nationally known celebrations like Ottery St Mary's flaming Tar barrels and the Fireshow at the charmingly named Dartmoor village of Sticklepath

We didn't feel like a long drive across the county and we certainly didn't want to see anyone being burned. No local events were advertised on the very comprehensive Fireworks magazine website at But we remembered that Budleigh Salterton Lions Club in conjunction with Pinewood Nursing Home had organised a firework display to celebrate Bonfire Night in the past.

We'd seen some posters in the town and the event was mentioned on both the Lions and Pinewood's sites at and so off we went, expecting maybe a few Catherine wheels and other traditional fireworks like Roman candles for the entertainment of Pinewood's elderly residents.

What we found were crowds of families with children - so much for Budleigh's reputation as God's Waiting Room - burgers and toffee apples, followed by an amazingly spectacular and very noisy pyrotechnics show which kept us entertained - and just a little apprehensive - for a good twenty minutes. We'd got there early and wanting a good place found ourselves somewhat in the firing line, directly underneath the multicoloured cascades exploding in the night sky over our heads.

The show took place on Jubilee Field, next to the nursing home and only a few yards from the coast path. And I wonder whether next year we might enjoy it even more overlooking the sea, where this brilliant display might have been reflected.

Entry was free, but there were plenty of Lions Club members rattling buckets to raise funds for local charities and we were more than happy to make a decent donation for a good cause and a great evening's entertainment. It certainly deserves a mention in Fireworks magazine.

No comments:

Post a Comment