The Bizarre Brilliance of Bonfire Night

Where To Watch The Best Fireworks Displays in Dorset, Safety Tips, Sparkly Bits and Why Bonfire Night is Bonkers But Brilliant.

The clocks have changed. That pumpkins have been scooped and hollowed. Carved smiles and triangular eyes have begun to soften and droop – more ghoulish in their decay than in their glowing prime. Halloween’s pantomime of costumes, sweets, tricks and treats have been played out, eaten and put away once more. Like a frosted Narnia waiting behind the wardrobe, shop fronts and shelves have begun to sparkle and glisten. Their treasures and displays wink at passers by, glittering their invitations to step into a magical world of Christmas.  But, before we bake or buy our mince pies, crackers, stocking fillers and plan our Christmas dinners, there is another Winter festival to be marked and celebrated first. More of a ritual than a festival, holi-day or holiday and yet we must never forget but instead…

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November

Gunpowder treason and plot

We see no reason

Why Gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot….”

This eerie eighteenth century nursery rhyme was sung by children as they skipped through the streets, carrying a straw effigy of a man and like merry little Artful Dodgers, asked people for, “a penny for the guy?”  These pennies would be spent by the children purchasing fireworks before they promptly burnt their human effigy on a bonfire. This is why I think Bonfire Night actually feels more like a ritual than a festival. There is an ecstasy and a savagery to this night, underpinning it all. There is a hint of ‘The Wickerman’ about this festival and yet, it is irresistible. It feels like a necessary release. A chance to bask and blow up the dark, gather around and feel the heat and crackle of a naked flame, test our fingertips and flare our nostrils with the sweet, smokey scent of dazzling sparklers. In a time when the heavy darkness of the night begins to press upon us as early as 4pm, when the homes are getting colder and the bills are rising higher, we need a night to blow it all up. To cry out our shock and amazement, to “ooh” and “ahh” at the sky burning in brilliant flames and shoots of sizzling starlight. 

The GunPowder Plot of 1605 was led by, “zealous Roman Catholics enraged at King James I for refusing to grant greater religious tolerance to Catholics. They planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster) during the state opening of Parliament, intending to kill the king and members of Parliament in order to clear the way to reestablishing Catholic rule in England.” This terrorist plot failed after poor old Guy Fawkes was discovered and captured in the celler the explosives were being kept. Thus, the would-be murderers were arrested, tried and killed instead and “parliament declared November 5th a national day of thanksgiving”. Every year since the nation has celebrated Guy Fawkes Night / Fireworks Night / Bonfire Night by setting off fireworks, which symbolise the explosions that were never used by the plotters and in the early days, burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes. 

While the disputes behind The GunPowder Plot no longer feel significant and the creepy tradition of burning straw people has thankfully petered out, Bonfire Night is still worth celebrating. For a lot of people and families across the country, it is going to be a hard, hard Winter. The cost of living is increasing, events beyond our control have caused gas, electricity, water and energy bills to increase. The spectre of Covid is still lingering, disrupting and even in some cases, still taking lives. We need a night to not feel so dark. We need to feel the wonder of a spark. We need to rage and roar and cheer, as the sky bursts and glitters into explosions of brilliance and light. We need to feel that warmth magic, even if it is just for one night. 

Here is a guide to some of the brilliant Bonfire Night events happening across Dorset:

  • Lyme Regis Bonfire Night And Fireworks

Date: 5th November 2022

A big bonfire on the beach to keep you warm with a beautiful display lighting up             the sky!

  • Butchers Coppice Family Fireworks

Bear Cross, Bournemouth, BH11 9JW

Date: 5th November 2022

This family event actually does have a ‘Guy’ competition which will begin at 7pm with fireworks setting off at 7.30 pm and gates opening from 5.30pm.

  • Bournemouth Fireworks Display

Littledown Centre

Date: 5th November 2022

Back after a two year hiatus and billed as being “bigger and better than ever”. There will be three displays, at 7pm, 8pm, and 9pm. Please note that this is a ticketed event. To buy tickets visit LittledownFireworks.co.uk.

  • Firework Night On Poole Quay

Poole, Dorset, BH15 1BW

Date: 5th November 2022

With ‘live music, family entertainment and activities’ starting from 5pm, this free event will wrap up with a grand finale fireworks display at 8pm. 

The other thing we need to remember on the 5th of November is fire safety and consideration for our communities. The Dorset Echo have recently published helpful advice and tips from the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Services. They reported that, Safe & Well Manager Vikki Thomas said: “We would always urge people to attend organised bonfire and fireworks events as it’s much safer. In addition, it reduces the potential pressure on the fire and rescue service at a time of year when we can be extremely busy. Watching fireworks at a secured site, behind a safety cordon, is the best way to celebrate safely and avoid injury – plus many such events raise money for the local community or charities. It’s also fairer to pet owners, as they will know when and where displays will be taking place.”  Just as we no longer hand out pennies to children and let them buy and set off fireworks, society has changed and re-evaluated how best to celebrate Bonfire Night. The best way is the safest way. At Dorset Adventure Park you are able to go wild, have fun and race across the water because there are lifeguards to keep us safe. We look forward to welcoming you back to bounce across the lakes or make a summer ritual of covering yourself in mud as you race across the mud trail. Until then, we hope you get to enjoy the wild spectacle and brilliant, beautiful and bizarre ritual of Bonfire Night.

Words by Olivia Lowry.

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