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Bonfire Night is a big deal in Britain. Why? And where is the best place to celebrate?

The History of Guy Fawkes Night

In 1603 Catholics in England had long been facing persecution, so when James I took the throne, they were hoping for a more favourable ruler. However, James I was unsympathetic to Catholicism and it was decided to respond with violent action.

Thirteen men got together and conspired to blow up the Houses of Parliament on November 5, hoping to take down the king and as many members of parliament as possible.

Allegedly, however, some of the conspirators had second thoughts and word of the plot leaked out.

In the early hours of November 5, soldiers stormed in to the Houses of Parliament to find Guy Fawkes alone with the 36 barrels of gunpowder. Not so easy to talk yourself out of.

Fawkes was taken to the Tower of London, tortured and executed as bonfires were lit across the city to celebrate the safety of the king.

The tradition continues today and is celebrated with burning effigies of Guy Fawkes and the setting off fireworks.

Where to Celebrate Bonfire Night

Bonfire night is a good chance to join in a uniquely British tradition. Here's our pick of the best.

Bonfire night and fireworks in London

Friday November 5, 2010

Southwark Park - free fireworks display starting at 7 p.m. A hodgepodge of drink and food will also be for sale.

Clapham Common - one of the best shows of the weekend and there are plenty of pubs and bars in the areas to catch a drink afterward.  Fireworks at 7:30 pm and admission is free.

Butterflysocial's Alternative Bonfire Night Party - Get out of the cold and see indoor fireworks at The Brill near King's Cross. Sip on firework-themed cocktails and meet some singletons too. Entry is £5 and booking is essential. 

Saturday November 6, 2010

Battersea Park - fireworks and a licensed bar will also be open in the park. Admission is £6 and the show starts at 8 pm.

Southgate - fireworks covered for North Londoners; the show also starts at 8 pm and mulled wine and food stands will be open to keep you warm.

Ravenscourt Park - this is West London's biggest bonfire gathering of the night and there is also a funfair and food stalls. The main show is at 8 pm and entry is £4 advance entry, £6 that night.

Sunday November 7, 2010

Folk and Fireworks - The party at Master Shipwright's Palace includes performances by folkies Spiro, The City Shanty Band, Lady Woodsman as well as lectures on Guy Fawkes, storytelling, food, bonfires and of course, fireworks. Tickets are £15 or £10 in advance and the event starts at 4pm.

Victoria Park Fireworks - The dramatic fireworks show is done up by pyrotechnic expert Walk the Plank and will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Blitz. Admission is free, show starts at 7:30 pm.

Richmond Fireworks Display - A local favourite, the show has mulled wine and a hog roast to nom on during the spectacular choreographed fireworks. It starts at 7 pm and tickets for adults are £10.

Saturday November 13, 2010

The Lord Mayors Show Fireworks Display - the show also includes a lively parade along the River Thames, between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge.

Ottery St Mary tar barrels

Celebrating Bonfire Night outside London

If you fancy a daytrip, towns and cities outside of London are chock-full of traditional bonfire activities.

Ottery St Mary in Devon - On November 5, barrels soaked with tar are lit and carried on peoples' backs down the streets. A tradition dating back to the 17th century, when the barrels were believed to ward away evil spirits.

Leeds Castle will have a fireworks spectacular November 6 and 7. It's known as one of the best displays in the country. The show is set to famous film scores, making it a full-fledged show.

Battle Bonfire - In Hastings there will be a fireworks extravaganza as well as a torch-lit procession, a marching band and an enormous bonfire. See it on November 7.  

 

- Heather Vandenegel

 

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