Though tradition dictates his burning, it feels increasingly easy to extend a sliver of sympathy for Guy Fawkes’s desire to overthrow those in power — although, granted, while gunpowder, treason and plot makes for a snappy little rhyme, it’s probably for the best that we’re in the age of soup-throwing and paint-spraying instead.
Still, Fawkes’s failed parliamentary ignition continues to be marked across London, even if this year the celebrations are somewhat muted.
Council budget cuts, inflation and the rising cost of living have poured water on the fireworks at Victoria Park, Clissold Park, Ravenscourt Park, Bishops Park, Southwark Park, Crystal Palace, Arnos Grove, Kingston’s Kingsmeadow Stadium and on Blackheath.
But plenty remain, and there are a few other ways to mark November 5 that don’t involve explosions and lights and ooooos and aaahhhhs. Here’s where to go out with a bang.
Up in smoke
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the enormous pyrotechnic festival at Alexandra Palace has sold out, though much of it can be seen by those nearby. Similarly, the Chiswick “fireworks extravaganza” and the rather more modest offering at Barnes sports club both have no tickets left. Remember, remember… to plan your journey well; train strikes will cause disruption.
Wimbledon Park and Morden Park
Listed together as the council runs both, these are unsurprisingly popular. Both run two displays: an early show for families at 6.45pm, with chilled pop playing — there’s also a funfair — while from 8.30pm there’s the main show, with a theme of kings and queens. Wimbledon goes first; the whole thing is repeated the next night at Morden. Tickets are £6.50 for children, £9 for adults.
November 4 at SW19, November 5 at SM4, merton.gov.uk
Perhaps Ally Pally’s truest rival, this south London favourite only has tickets left for Sunday, which is more family oriented — expect sweets for the kids and mulled wine for the parents (and children under 10 go free; tickets are £11.50 otherwise). Those who have Saturday tickets should remember the Bierkeller festival nearby at Evolution London.
November 5 and 6, Battersea Park, SW11, batterseaparkfireworks.com
Seventy-something and still going strong, online tickets are sold out but organisers hold some back for the gate. At 6pm, expect “small bangs” with the children’s display (under-10s go free); the main event gets going at 7.45pm. Ticket prices vary, but a family of four can get in for £30. Look out for the jerk chicken and Bailey’s hot chocolate, too.
November 5, Croydon Road Recreation Ground, BR3, beckenhamfireworks.com
Given some 10,000 people often show up to these, it’s probably the most attention this cricket ground gets all year. It’s reasonable — £6 for children, £9 for adults — and beside the hot food, real ales and mulled wine, circus performers are promising to keep crowds entertained when the fireworks themselves aren’t on.
November 5, The Walker Ground, N14, thewalkerground.co.uk/fireworks
Something of a two-for-the-price-of-one offer: the firework display in Harrow double up as Diwali celebrations. Things begin at noon with a fun fair, face-painting, henna sessions and plenty of live entertainment, and the fireworks then begin at 7.30pm. For adults, tickets are £5 in advance, or £8 on the cash-only gate before 7pm; £10 after. For children, it’s £4 in advance, £6 on the gate.
November 6, Byron Park, HA3, harrowfireworks.co.uk
Expect a musically-choregraphed display from around 7pm but there’s plenty beforehand (doors open at 4.30pm), with a fairground vibe going on: funfair rides, candy floss and popcorn stalls, and live entertainment. There’s an after-party too. Tickets start at £11 for adults and £6 for children and teenagers (under-fives go free).
November 6, Richmond Athletic Ground, TW9, the-raa.co.uk/fireworks-night
Plenty for children (£5 entry) here: glowing displays, candy floss, fairground rides. But adults (£9 entry) have bars and street food. The display is from 7.45pm, and tickets can also be bought on the card-only gate.
November 5, Ealing Cricket Club, W5, ealingcc.co.uk
Kempton Park Racecourse
Another fun fair, operating from 5pm when the gates open, alongside plenty of food and drink. The display is on at 7.30pm but get there earlier: with no trains, the car park will be heaving. Tickets are £10, free for those four and under.
November 5, Staines Road East, TW16, thejockeyclub.co.uk
…it’s not all flash, bang, wallop. For those wanting to join in without the sparkly bits, there are still some alternatives across town.
The Gunpowder Plot: The Immersive Experience
This immersive experience combines the digital and real worlds to plunge Londoners into the vaults at the Tower of London; it’s time to infiltrate Guy Fawkes and his gang, and stop them before they light the fuse. The immersion includes taste, smell, touch, sound and temperature; consider it time travel to 1605.
Tower Vaults, Tower of London, EC3N, gunpowderimmersive.com
This offers an idea of exactly how London might have responded if things had gone as Guy planned and also explores London’s other famous fire disasters.
November 5, Bishopsgate Institute, EC2, bishopsgate.org.uk
Skylight Bonfire Party
£10 buys entry here, with a drink to boot. Of which, given hosting a giant bonfire on a rooftop is unlikely, the theme is found more in the smokey drinks and snacks.
November 5, Skylight Peckham, SE15, skylightbars.com/peckham
Head just outside the M25 for this stunning light trail; among the installations is a fire-breathing dragon, but it’s a calmer way to mark the night.
Until November 6, Polesden Lacey, RH5, ignitetrails.co.uk
Guy Fawkes Lantern Parade
Starting in Eastbury Manor and heading out to the Abbey Ruins, this popular parade starts at 4pm.
November 6, Eastbury Manor House, IG11, lbbd.gov.uk
Treason: People, Power & Plot
Fawkes may be the country’s most celebrated (attempted) firestarter, but he’s far from alone. This exhibition explores 700 years of British treason, from the charges against Anne Boleyn to the American Declaration of Independence declaring the King a traitor.
November 5-—April 6, 2023, The National Archives, TW9, nationalarchives.gov.uk