OPINION - There’s something wrong with this Guy Fawkes night

Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Cardiff, Glasgow, Norwich, Dundee and Nottingham are also among the cities that have cancelled bonfire night events (Owen Humphreys/PA) (PA Archive)
Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Cardiff, Glasgow, Norwich, Dundee and Nottingham are also among the cities that have cancelled bonfire night events (Owen Humphreys/PA) (PA Archive)

At last! The year’s best festival is back with a bang. Or is that a whimper? Because from where I’m sitting it sounds distinctly like a whimper.

In this newspaper my estimable colleague David Ellis recently rounded up all the fireworks night parties happening across London. The roll call of the fallen (events) was what caught my eye. Victoria Park, Clissold Park, Ravenscourt Park, Crystal Palace, and Blackheath are just some of the events not happening this year because, frankly, there’s no cash.

Big bang seekers (if they can get tickets) will have to make for the hard-to-reach heights of Alexandra Palace or traipse all the way to places like Richmond to get their thrill. But good luck getting there. Because Saturday is also a train strike day. It’s hard not to sympathise with the strikers’ cause — the cost of living crisis is biting hard — but that doesn’t wholly compensate for the sting of having to sit at home and look out the window in the vain hope of seeing something…anything…

Bright lights, big city: the Alexandra Palace fireworks are always a highlight of London's Guy Fawkes celebrations
Bright lights, big city: the Alexandra Palace fireworks are always a highlight of London's Guy Fawkes celebrations

Add to that the uncomfortable, unseasonable warmth and it’s not looking like a classic. Guy Fawkes night — other than being a nice example of very effective government propaganda (the man died over 400 years ago! Let it go already) — is so good because it’s such a sensory, communal experience. You don’t have to think. You just have to look at nice explosions in the sky with friends and family. Breathe in the distinctive tang of cordite that lingers in the air, warm yourself from the cold (what cold, this year?) by the crackling flames of the bonfire.

 (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
(Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

But with fireworks events so few and far between, the chance for Londoners to meet others from their part of town goes up in, well, smoke. People from west London want to go to Ravenscourt Park and bump into local friendly faces, not fall in with strangers in Richmond. East Londoners are loath to head up to Ally Pally — it may be close as the crow flies but often feels more like a distant province than a near neighbour. Fireworks night is a chance for London’s little villages to come together.

So it would have been nice if we could see ourselves into autumn and winter alongside our neighbours with a great big fiery bang. Three cheers for simple pleasures. It’s just a shame they don’t come so cheap these days.