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Whatever happened to Guy Fawkes?

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Fireworks in South Shields

Could we restart a tradition in South Shields?

Click picture to enlarge.

I’ve been and watched and photographed two spectacular firework displays in South Tyneside this weekend, the first at Oakleigh Gardens, Cleadon Village on Saturday night, and the second on Sandhaven Beach, South Shields last night, both were highly entertaining colourful affairs with tremendous amounts of noise and fun for all the family, I also caught a little of the display held at Westoe Rugby Club on Friday night. There was a huge big difference in the two that I went to see, one charged an entry fee and raised cash for worthy charities the other was free but “involved” local businesses, one caused traffic chaos the other did not, but more importantly one looked like a Guy Fawkes party the other looked like a fireworks display.

Which got me thinking, if the two sets of organisers could get their heads together and share “best practise” then perhaps in years to come South Shields and South Tyneside might just set the way for the rest of Tyneside and rekindle the real traditions of Guy Fawkes Night. The big missing element which was hugely welcome at Oakleigh Gardens was……a bonfire!

Right, now I know some folks will put their ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ hats on and claim that setting such a precedent would only encourage other copy cat fires around the borough, but let’s be honest South Tyneside Council with it’s partners Tyne Wear Fire Brigade and Northumbria Police have effectively killed off all the proud traditions of celebrating the salvation of Parliament by a man armed with a few barrels of gunpowder. They had a plot of their own and it seems to work a few years later, manpower, hours, and costs have been reduced in “policing” the 5th. November, and as long as children don’t hear about old Guido and his gunpowder plot, all the better for the rest of us! The number of fire or firework related incidents recorded on Nov. 5th. rose by a tiny amount across Tyne Wear but in South Tyneside they had only nine illegal bonfires to deal with in South Tyneside this year, surely a great victory for the bureaucrats!

The Darker Nights campaign was launched by a host of agencies, including police, fire brigade and South Tyneside Council to keep trouble at a minimum between Halloween and Bonfire Night.

Between 6pm and 8pm the council’s contact centre received nine calls of illegal bonfires being built.

Now in these days of thieving brigands and politicians occupying the Houses of Parliament some may not wish to celebrate the uncovering of the Gunpowder Plot, many may wish that a similar plot might succeed in the near future if Legg and Kelly are not implemented without any watering down. However, we need to remind ourselves and our children that the traditions of Guy Fawkes Night are all wrapped up in the ability of a democracy to succeed in the threatening face of violence and terror, just as yesterday we remember all those who fell in war as they sacrificed their own lives to protect the democracy that we enjoy now. The celebration of Guy Fawkes Night should always be held as a beacon marking our protection of Parliamentary democracy as a system worthy of keeping and improving.

Therefore, in these days when local council officials around the UK have done their utmost to destroy this tradition, I think they should take it upon themselves to re-introduce some of the symbolism that we have always used to represent it. One large bonfire on South Shields beach must surely be easier to deal with than hundreds spread around South Tyneside as we have seen in past years! The mention of Guy Fawkes, the Gunpowder Plot, and the saving of the King and Parliament must surely be something that could be written into Tommy the Trumpeter’s script, there was little regard to it last night. Surely too we could organise school competitions to design and produce a variety of “Guys” to burn on the fire, perhaps adding an “X Factor” appeal by featuring them on South Tyneside Council’s website where we could vote for them and bestow some school with the honour of having their “Guy” sat on top of the fire. Perhaps we could have an annual theme for the “Guy”, asking schools to replicate certain classes of folks to burn (just for fun of course), “Guy” might next year be an overpaid Premiership prima donna football player, or we might char a TV celebrity chef, toast a Tory, sizzle a Socialist, cook a cartoon character, or burn a Bin Laden, the possibilities are endless. Let’s see concession vans along the promenade offering pork, beef, sausages,  roast chestnuts and the food and drink that we used to enjoy around the fire on “bonty neet”.

These themes of a bonfire and a Guy are what we adults can fondly remember about Guy Fawkes Night and if as individuals we are no longer allowed to demonstrate our loyalty to democracy by the bureaucrats, then surely we should be allowed to celebrate collectively in one perfectly organised bonfire party co-ordinated by our local council – some traditions are worth keeping (even if they have to satisfy the ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ people! We used to have a culture and leisure department but now it seems to have lost sight of our culture, and is primarily interested in leisure.

Come on folks, whatever happened to Guy Fawkes Night?

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Written by curly

November 9, 2009 at 10:49 am

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