Wondering how to spend Guy Fawkes Night this year? Looking for something a little different to the standard bonfire event? Well, read on for some alternative and quirky suggestions!
Skinningrove’s sculptural bonfire
Every year, the small village of Skinningrove hosts a large celebration that takes the bonfire to a different level.
Their bonfire is more a wooden sculptural artwork than a pile of wood to set light to, and every year the event has a theme. This year’s theme is Skinningrove’s Greatest Showman and is a tribute to local miner Harry Cooper.
Harry Cooper was a whopping 8ft 6in tall and escaped the mines after being spotted by a visiting circus, where he became pretty successful, travelling the globe.
And so, the 2019 Skinningrove Bonfire will have a very strong circus theme, with the main structure of the bonfire shaped like a huge circus tent. In addition, the village will be decorated with circus themed festoons made by local children. There will be circus performers and fairground rides on the high street from 4pm, fireworks at 7pm, followed by the lighting of the bonfire at about 7.30pm. The bonfire is free to attend, but please give generously to collectors during the night to help keep the event going.
Shebbear’s Devilish Stone
Turning the Devil’s Stone is one of the country’s strangest annual customs. The Devil’s Stone is situated on the village green in Shebbear, and to the average passer-by, it is nothing out of the ordinary. However, the stone is the centre of many myths and has been participating in a local custom for as long as anyone can remember.
The stone itself weighs about a ton and is thought to be made from a type of rock not found in the area. How the stone came to be in the village is subject to many stories. The stories surrounding the stone’s origins include a pagan cult transporting the stone from Wales to be used as an altar; the Devil dropping the stone whilst fighting God; and a supernatural force moving the stone there.
According to folklore it takes a year for the Devil to dig his way out from beneath the stone, and by turning it he will be trapped for another year, thus keeping the village safe.
No one knows when the annual ritual of turning the stone began, but every year the local bell-ringers ring out a violent discordant peal of bells at 8pm. This is said to confuse or frighten the evil spirits away. The bell-ringers then make their way, tools in hand, to the stone in order to turn it.
Burning topical effigies in Lewes
Lewes Bonfire night celebrations are possibly the most spectacular in the UK. The annual event sees six bonfire societies holding separate celebrations throughout the town.
Each bonfire society holds a parade in a different part of town, rather than having one large procession. Society members take part in the parades by carrying torches, dropping bangers, carrying burning letters, or playing musical instruments.
Each society’s procession is slightly different, but all the groups parade in their societies’ specific colours (known as smuggler colours), and end the evening by heading to their own designated bonfire site to complete the celebrations.
Lewes Bonfire usually sees a host of effigies paraded through the town (and then burnt), the night is not just about Guy Fawkes. Amongst these, there is usually a giant topical effigy, and past choices have included the likes of Jeremy Clarkson.
Devon’s burning tar barrels
Not content with a typical bonfire either, Ottery St Mary in Devon sees burning tar barrels carried through the town.
The tradition of The Tar Barrels in Ottery St Mary probably dates back to the 17th century, but the exact origins are unknown. The event takes place every year with the barrels being lit outside the town’s pubs, before being carried aloft through the town.
Youths, women and men all carry the barrels, which weigh up to 30kg. The honour of carrying of the barrels is usually passed on through generations of the same families. At the end of the evening the barrels help form a bonfire by the River Otter.