Guy Fawkes Night is approaching. Why is it such a big occasion? WORDS Natasha Vuckovic
It’s that time of year again when London’s skies are lit up with fireworks displays in celebration of Guy Fawkes Night. Taking place every year on November 5 – although the fireworks tend to linger throughout the month – the annual festivities have been going for a mammoth 404 years.
So who was Guy Fawkes and why the massive party? He’s got a night named after him, so he’s got to be some sort of hero, right?
Gunpowder and treason
No, actually. Back in 1605, there were 13 blokes who wanted to blow up King James I and the Houses of Parliament in a bid to start an uprising so Catholics could seize power. Guy Fawkes was one of them.
On November 5, Fawkes was busted by guards in the cellar of the House of Lords with 36 barrels of gunpowder ready to ignite and blow the place to bits as the aristocracy gathered upstairs for the state opening of parliament.
He was tortured and executed for his part in the Gunpowder Plot, however there are a stack of conspiracy theories suggesting Fawkes and his comrades were framed by the King’s men in a bid to make Catholics out as enemies.
Going out with a bang
While Fawkes met his grizzly end, the people of England celebrated the King’s fortunate escape by lighting bonfires, burning effigies of Fawkes and setting off fireworks – a tradition that continues to this day.
Also known as Bonfire Night, November 5 is an occasion when London’s councils put on a stack of impressive fireworks displays in parks around the capital. Many also have fairground rides, food and drink and family attractions. This year most of the big events are being held between November 5-7.
Households throughout the city also celebrate Guy Fawkes with their own fireworks nights. In fact, investing in a pair of earplugs might be a good idea, especially if you’ve got neighbours with cracker-mad kids.
If you’re keen to set off a few crackers of your own, you’re in luck – because this is one of the only times of the year when you can actually buy fireworks. You’re legally allowed buy them from a registered seller between October 15 and November 10 for Guy Fawkes night (you can also legally buy them between December 26 and 31 for New Year and during Diwali and Chinese New Year).
If you reckon the shop you’re buying them from is dodgy, your council’s Trading Standards office will have a list of registered sellers. There’s also a stack of online sellers.
You can let fireworks off until midnight on Bonfire Night or until 11pm on other nights, but you can’t set them off in the street or in a public place. So rug up in your winter woolies and get ready to watch as London lights up.
Fireworks displays across London
Stalls, music and beer. What more do you want?
» Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, N22 Wood Green. Nov 7, 7.30pm. £4 donation
Love is this year’s theme at Battersea Park’s celebration.
» Battersea Park, Albert Bridge Rd, SW11 Battersea Park (wandsworth.gov.uk). Nov 7, 8pm. £6
Lambeth Council is putting on three fireworks displays.
» Clapham Common, SW4 Clapham North; Brockwell Park, SE24 Brixton; and Streatham Common, SW16 Streatham (lambeth.gov.uk). Nov 5, 7.30pm. Free
An early show for little kids and a late show for big ones.
» Crystal Palace Park, Crystal Palace Station Rd, SE19 Crystal Palace (crystalpalacefireworks.co.uk). Nov 5, 7pm. £5
Lord Mayor’s Show, central London
The big one. You’ll be able to see it from miles around.
» Victoria Embankment, SW1 Temple (lordmayorsshow.org). Nov 14, 5pm. Free
Includes stalls which are open until 10pm.
» Wimbledon Park, Home Park Rd, SW19 Southfields (merton.gov.uk/fireworks). Nov 5, 8.15pm, £7
DIY Bonfire Night
Avoid the crowds by stocking up with your own crackers and celebrating at home.
Food for thought
If you’re doing the bonfire thing then use it to cook up a feast. Wrap some potatoes and corn on the cob in foil and roast in the embers, or get the marshmallows out for some sweet treats.
Keep the cold at bay with some mulled wine. Whack a bottle of red, some sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and an orange on the hob, heat up and enjoy.
Play it safe
Follow the Fireworks Code. Light fireworks at arm’s length, never return to a lit firework, keep any pets indoors and read instructions using a torch – never a naked flame.