Remember the Bonfire

“Remember, remember! The fifth of November, The Gunpowder treason and plot; I know of no reason Why the Gunpowder treason Should ever be forgot.”

I first became aware of Guy Fawkes while reading Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, probably how many people outside of Great Britain became familiar with him. Guy Fawkes was one of many conspirators who sought to blow up the Houses of Parliament and was arrested on November 5, 1605.

In commemoration of foiling the plot Great Britain started celebrating Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night. Earlier celebrations, and some current, involve burning effigies of disliked public figures. Though the years Bonfire Night has changed and has become more of a nighttime celebration with a bonfire involved.

Most festivities for Bonfire Night are held by charitable organizations and require a fee to enter parks, where there are additional activities beyond the bonfire and the now standard fireworks.

I opted to go to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens for Bonfire Night, since admission is free there. Their celebrations are tied to their Fire Festival, which includes flame dancers and ‘Halloween’ themed events. There were also food trucks around the area, though thee wasn’t much time to wander around, since you wanted to find a good standing spot for the bonfire. And it did involve a lot of standing on uneven ground.

The festivities started with the lighting of the bonfire, which even far away you could feel the heat. Then came the customary reading of the Guy Fawkes poem (Remember remember the fifth of November), which is much longer than you would think. During this time there were also some fire dancers and other performers that you couldn’t see well unless you were standing near the front. The night then concluded with a fireworks display over the park.

As an American, Bonfire Night was definitely an experience and I am glad I did it. If I did it again I may splurge and go to a paid admission event to see if they are different.

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