London will explode with colour on the fifth of November as fireworks burst across the night sky – and it’s all down to a man called Guy Fawkes. The British tradition of Bonfire Night dates back to 1605, when the Catholic conspirator attempted to blow up King James I and the Houses of Parliament with barrels of gunpowder.
He was caught red-handed but jumped from the scaffold, where he was to be hanged, then broke his neck and died, which meant he avoided being hanged, drawn and quartered. Oddly, his failed plot has been celebrated across the country on this day ever since.
Traditionally, children make Guy Fawkes effigies – models stuffed with newspaper like a scarecrow – then collect coins for their efforts. In the past, they could be heard requesting ‘a penny for the guy’ – although these days a fiver is more likely. The effigy is then hurled on top of a bonfire as fireworks light up the sky. Be part of history and catch a display during your visit. Wrap up warm and head to one of these outdoor shows.
This is more than just a fireworks display – it’s a full-on festival, set on a hill overlooking the capital, with more than 50,000 people expected to attend. Try to arrive early to make the most of the live bands and DJs from Club de Fromage, as well as David Bowie and Queen tributes at the German Beer Festival, where Bavarian waitresses will be serving craft and German beers. Another highlight is the day of the dead parade – a carnival of snakes, skeletons and fire dancers jigging to the beat of the 20-piece Drum Machine band. If that whets your appetite, there will be 40 drink and street food stalls. There is a huge bonfire and a laser show, too, as well as fireworks. On the Friday, the gates open at 4pm ready for the display at 9pm, while on the Saturday the gates open at 3pm for an 8pm start.
This annual display is set to music by legendary stars and is hosted by Christian Williams, a presenter for Virgin Radio UK. The gates open for food, drink and entertainment at 6pm and close at 8pm, 10 minutes before the firework display starts. Tickets must be pre-booked from the website.
This beautiful open space atop a hill is the perfect location for a firework display. Go early and warm up over a traditional British meal at Blackheath Fish & Chips, opposite the station, then stroll with the masses to the public viewing spots, which are south of Shooters Hill Road. Against the backdrop of the fireworks, you can see the majestic All Saints’ Church. A funfair begins at noon, a bar and food stalls open at 5pm, and the display starts at 8pm. While the event is free, donations are appreciated.
CRYSTAL PALACE PARK
Crystal Palace Park’s first firework display – a competition between British firework makers – took place on 12 July 1865, attracting 20,000 spectators. Regular shows were staged in the park until 1936. At this year’s event there will be a firework display, food and drink stalls and stalls where you can buy novelty glow sticks. Gates open at 6pm, there’s a children’s show at 7pm, last entry is at 8.15pm and the main display begins at 8.30pm. You must pre-book from the website.
Morden has two displays: the gates open at 5.15 pm. The first show, which is suitable for young children, starts at 6.45pm (bonfires lit at 6.30pm), while the second show starts at 8.30pm (bonfires lit at 8.15pm). A funfair and food and drink stalls are open until 10pm. The display will take place in the centre of the park, which can be accessed from entrances on London Road, Lower Morden Lane and HiIlcross Avenue. You must pre-book from the website.
While this isn’t an official show, Primrose Hill is a great vantage point from which to see fireworks across the city for free. There are no facilities or food or drink stalls, so take a hot chocolate to keep you cosy. Go at 7pm.
If previous years are anything to go by, this firework display will have a bonfire, themed soundtrack, food and drink stalls and perhaps even a giant robot strolling around the grounds…
After last year’s firework display was cancelled due to low-lying fog, this year’s event will no doubt be a show to remember – especially as it’s choreographed to music. Gates will open at 5.30pm, while the firework display will begin at 6.30pm.
Gates open at 5.15pm as this park has two displays. The first, themed around magic, is suitable for young children and starts at 6.45 pm. The second show, meanwhile, is themed on ‘all around the world’ and starts at 8.30pm (bonfires lit at 8.15pm). A funfair and food and drink stalls are open until 10pm.