Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Bonfire Night or sometimes Fireworks Night), is a celebration that’s held on the 5th November every year in the United Kingdom. Depending on where you are, you can expect to see any combination of huge bonfires, dramatic parades, dazzling fireworks displays and even fairgrounds and street food.
So, what exactly is Guy Fawkes Night all about – and where can you see the best firework displays?
Remember, remember, the fifth of November…
Guy Fawkes Night is a British tradition that goes back to 1605, when a group of people planned to use gunpowder to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I. This was because King James I was a Protestant king, and the plotters hoped to make England Catholic again.
The plot was unsuccessful; a man called Guy Fawkes was caught guarding the piles of gunpowder and was arrested before any damage could be done. In celebration of this failure, people lit bonfires all over London.
This tradition continues on the anniversary of the event, usually with impressive fireworks displays that represent what could have happened if the plot had been successful!
You might have heard the rhyme:
“Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot;
I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason, should ever be forgot.”
What happens on Guy Fawkes Night?
On the evening of November 5th, people in the UK celebrate with fireworks and bonfires. Some people hold parties in their gardens, and most villages and towns will have an organised display in a public space.
At big events, you might even find fairground games and food stalls. Look for seasonal snacks like toffee apples and roasted chestnuts, as well as hot food and sweets.
If it’s safe to have a bonfire, you might even see an effigy (a kind of straw puppet) on the top. Traditionally, the effigy is made to represent an unpopular political figure – often Guy Fawkes – but this is becoming less common.
Where to see the best fireworks displays in the UK
The weather in November can be unpredictable, so please check local listings before travelling.
Near BSC Brighton
The Lewes Bonfire celebrations are legendary. Known for being chaotic and politically-charged, people in historic costumes parade through the streets with flaming torches, burning barrels, firecrackers and huge effigies of current cultural figures.
The celebrations also honour Lewes residents that were burned for being Protestant in the 1500s. The parade often includes burning Catholic crosses and figures that represent the pope – definitely not for the timid!
Students at BSC Brighton can take a bus or coach to the Lewes Bonfire event.
Near BSC Edinburgh
The people of Edinburgh like any excuse for fireworks, from Hogmanay to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Guy Fawkes Night is no different, so if you’re studying at BSC Edinburgh or visiting the city, make sure you don’t miss out.
The Dobbies garden centre display is always popular, and Hopetoun fireworks and bonfire are particularly spectacular.
Don’t worry if you can’t choose one display – walk up Calton Hill or Arthur’s Seat for an amazing view of fireworks happening all over the city.
Near BSC London
London takes Guy Fawkes Night very seriously, and there are unbelievable fireworks displays all over the city.
However, the best show has to be at Alexandra Palace. The event usually lasts two days and has all kinds of entertainment. Cinema screenings, delicious street food, German bier tents – plus a breathtaking fireworks display.
If you’re studying at BSC London in November, you can’t miss it.
Near BSC Manchester
If you like thrills, Blackpool Pleasure Beach stays open later around Bonfire Night, so you can watch a dramatic fireworks display from the top of an intense rollercoaster. There is a charge for entry but you can ride all evening until 10pm.
Ideal for students at BSC Manchester, the train from Manchester to Blackpool takes just over an hour.
Near BSC York
The Skinningrove Bonfire is famous for having a huge wooden centrepiece, which gets burned in the fire. The impressive sculptures have included castles, dragons, giant birds, and ships – every year has a different theme. Once the bonfire has started, a stunning fireworks display begins.
Driving to Skinningrove from BSC York will take about an hour and a half. It’s a long way, but the trip is worth it for this unique spectacle.
If you’re interested in learning English, why not find out more about British culture at the same time? Our English Courses for adults and fun summer camps for Young Learners are a great way to practise your language skills and discover the history of an amazing city in the UK or Ireland. Contact us for more information about courses and locations.