It’s that time of year again. England’s least health-and-safety-friendly festival. Guy Fawkes Night. Bonfire Night. Fireworks Night. Whatever you want to call it, it’s coming. Sparklers in one hand, a Catherine Wheel in the other, ready to burst into a dazzling pyrotechnic display at any moment, November 5th is on its way.
When Catholic rebel Guido Fawkes plotted to blow up Parliament in 1605, he probably didn’t expect that (a) he’d fail, big-time and (b) he’d be the cause of an annual £15 million blow-out on fireworks in the UK for centuries to come. In fact, from rockets to rollercoasters, DJs to dodgems, apple-bobbing to laser shows, fireworks are just the start of the celebrations.
This year, London is set to be ablaze with Bonfire Night activities that are heavier on the toffee apples than the treason - more baked potatoes and popcorn than gunpowder and plot. Whether you’re a firework fanatic or want something a little bit classier (and indoors), here’s our rundown of the best the capital has to offer. Let’s hear some ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’.
The award-winning Victoria Park hosts many spectacular shindigs, such as Lovebox festival or All Points East. So we can count on the park to host an equally banging Bonfire Night. One of the few remaining free firework events in the capital, this event actually takes place on November 4th this year. The theme is Monsters, inspired by Frankenstein, the original science-fiction novel, and the display will be set to a suitably monstrous soundtrack. As it’s a free event, except long queues and get there early.
This is Southwark Council’s fifteenth Fireworks Night, so we can trust them to fulfill all our fiery needs. The event will take place on November 5th itself and there will be entertainment, food, drinks, a show synchronised to classic tunes - oh, and you can bring your own sparklers too (unless you’re a child, in which you should also bring an adult to accompany your sparklers).
On Saturday 3rd November, Brockwell Park will send ticket-holders back to the ‘90s with a Time Tunnel Show: fireworks choreographed to those ‘90 anthems we all know and love (sort of). Just before is the kid’s display with a ‘Night at the Movies’ theme. Yes, that’s right: two displays for the price of one. So for fireworks, funfair rides, live performances, throwbacks galore, and delicious culinary treats, Lambeth is a top choice for this year’s Guy Fawkes night.
Attracting thousands each year, this choreographed fireworks display is a bonfire celebration truly deserving of the word bonanza. The theme this year is also 90s (clearly there’s nostalgia in the air) and costumes are strongly encouraged. So don your tiny backpack, choker and pedal-pushers and head over to the Richmond Athletic Ground on Sunday 4th November for live entertainment, the staple candy floss and popcorn, and an after-party at the Member’s Bar.
Old Ally Pally. Never one to disappoint. And this year is no different. The team over at Alexandra Palace understands that the one thing that could amplify the fun of Bonfire Night tenfold is adding a German Bier festival alongside. Oh, and this two-day celebration also features a laser show, an ice rink, DJs and a Take That tribute act. Plus, at risk of totally upstaging the fireworks, there will also be performers from Cirque Bijou accompanied by a choir. Ally Pally: putting the extravagant into extravaganza year after year.
Age-old English tradition meets the Hindu Festival of Lights that is Diwali at Wembley Park on November 4th. At this free Light Up the Night event, you’ll get to enjoy fire in multiple guises - fireworks, fire parades, a fire garden (everything, but on fire, basically). Plus a Bollywood brass band, neon dancers and a mechanical elephant. Over-the-top, yes, but in a good way. Not only a celebration of the death of a political renegade 400 years ago, but a nod to the wonderful multiculturalism of the UK today.
Midnight Apothecary Bonfire Night Special
At the Brunel Museum in Southwark, on Saturday 3rd November, the Midnight Apothecary returns for its seventh Bonfire Night special. This firework-themed cocktail party takes place in The Brunel Museum’s stunning rooftop garden and you’ll have the chance to enjoy explosive flavours in cocktails that use ingredients found in the garden, as well as apple-bobbing and an open fire where you can toast marshmallows.
The View from The Shard
The Shard is Western Europe’s highest building. Which obviously makes it one of the best places in London to watch the fireworks. As well as being saved from cold, damp feet, you’ll be treated to 360 degree views of the capital’s skyline on the building’s 800 ft high viewing platform. Enjoy a drink, or exceptional food at one of the Shard’s acclaimed restaurants, and experience the night-sky exploding into colours.
Thames Bonfire Night Cruise
Sure, watching fireworks from The Shard is cool. But what about from a boat on the River Thames, moored in prime position for optimal views of Battersea Park’s firework display? Setting off from Westminster Pier, you can enjoy a glass of something fizzy as you glide past London’s iconic landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament. Rather than pushing and shoving for a spot in an overcrowded park, sit back and enjoy the fireworks in style from a prime vantage point on a Thames Dinner Cruise.
Up until 1959 it was illegal not to celebrate Bonfire Night in Britain. The only exception was Guy Fawkes’ old school in York, which refused to burn an effigy of their former pupil - fair enough, perhaps. You are now legally entitled to ignore Guy Fawkes night if you wish. But with the promise of such frolicking, fiery fun as this, why would you possibly want to?
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