Remember, remember, the 5th of November: gunpowder, treason and plot. We know no reason why fireworks season should ever cost a lot. Happy Bonfire Night, Cheapos!

Bonfire Night London Guy Fawkes Night
Photo by Aurelien Guichard used under CC

A night of flames and fireworks, Bonfire Night is an age-old tradition celebrating the failure of the infamous plot to kill King James the First, who — thanks to some police intervention and a little snitching — survived. It’s also known as Guy Fawkes Night; the best known of the plotters may look familiar if you’ve seen V for Vendetta, or watched a political protest on the news recently. Nowadays we celebrate with bonfires and fireworks in locals parks, with toffee apples, mulled wine and the quiet murmurs of ‘ooooh’ and ‘ahhhh’ as we huddle together on a chilly November evening. It’s possibly the best night of the year (100% the case, if you ask me), so learn about the history then head on down to one of the events in the city!

The History, Condensed

guy fawkes night london
Photo by Nottheviewsofmyemployer used under CC

The Gunpowder Plot was the creation of a small group of Catholics intent on blowing up the Houses of Parliament on November 5th 1605, during the official State Opening ceremony. With a complex history of Catholics vs. Protestants as the head of state and incidents of torture and execution, the marginalised Catholics were determined to replace the King, and had to kill him to do so. They decided on an explosion and set about their work, collecting gunpowder in the basement below the Houses. However, the plot was ruined as an anonymous letter was sent in late October, informing officials of the intentions and the group was caught red-handed on November 4th. Guy Fawkes was found guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder — enough to destroy the Houses of Parliament completely – whilst most of the gang escaped and fled. They were eventually caught and sentenced to death for treason, in the spectacularly British tradition of being hung, drawn and quartered.

The Traditions

Sparklers Bonfire Night
Photo by Barney Moss used under CC

Having survived, King James created the Observance of the 5th of November Act as a holiday to celebrate his survival, and it is commemorated to this day with bonfires, fireworks and plenty of mulled wine. Be sure to keep an eye out for old traditions like the Penny for the Guy: children will create Guy Fawkes scarecrows and wheel them about, collecting change. Some events have best-dressed competitions for Guys, and you may see some burned on top of the bonfires (also sometimes the pope, awks)! Although sparklers are a favourite tradition at bonfires, they are banned at most events due to children and injuries, so pick up a pack and enjoy them at home if you can!

Guy Fawkes Night London Events

Morden Park Fireworks
Photo by Frank Steiner used under CC

There are very few towns or villages across England who won’t have some sort of event, so of course London will spoil you rotten with choices. Here’s our list of the top events in the city.

Alexandra Palace Fireworks Festival |  3-4 Nov

Alexandra Palace Fireworks
Photo by Lloyd Winters

If you want to make a real night of it, there is nowhere better to head than good old Ally Pally. The annual fireworks festival has been running for over 150 years and gets bigger every time. The 2023 display brings an incredible two days of entertainment and fiery fun for everyone to enjoy. You can arrive in time for the bonfire lighting, have a whirl on the funfair and grab some street food before the fireworks even begin! You can add tickets for ice skating and a bier festival (18+ only) too. Get Alexandra Palace Fireworks Festival tickets here.

The Fawkes Festival: Ravenscourt Park and Bishops Park | 4-5 Nov

So, the Ravenscourt Park and Bishops Park Fireworks have been replaced for 2023 with an environmentally-friendly 15-minute ‘Light-Laser-Sound Extravaganza’, called The Fawkes Festival. There has also been a hike in ticket prices, although children 3 years and under are free.

There’s a movie-themed soundtrack for the light and laser display with sky trackers, flames and special effects which will show at 6pm, 7pm and 8pm – your ticket gets you entrance for the whole evening so, for best value, get in early and see it more than once. Pre-event entertainment includes a funfair, bar and food options including marshmallows and hot chocolate, plus fire performers and DJs. Will it be as good as actual fireworks? I guess we’ll find out.

Musical Fireworks Displays: Wimbledon Park and Morden Park | 4-5 Nov

Morden Park Fireworks
Photo by Frank Steiner used under CC

Especially designed with kids in mind, the twin Wimbledon (4 November) and Morden Park (5 November) fireworks both have two sets of events, with one starting nice and early at 6:30 pm. After they light the first bonfire, the kid-friendly fireworks will start at 6:45 pm. The second set of events will begin at 8:30 pm followed by a louder display set to the sound of a one-hit wonders setlist. There will be plenty of food and drinks as well as a funfair, so the little ones (and the big ones) can have plenty of fun. Tickets must be booked in advance.

The Walker Fireworks

Attracting crowds of 8,000–10,000, this local favourite is one of North London’s biggest fireworks displays. It’s a family friendly event, so be sure to check out the £33.00 family tickets if you’re going with kids. Children under 4 go free, and can look forward to a merry-go-round, stalls and inflatables. For the adults there’s a licensed bar (and a mulled wine station), and there’ll be a good selection of upmarket festival food spots.

Battersea fireworks
Battersea fireworks

Battersea Fireworks

This is South London’s biggest fireworks display, with a family-friendly version on Sunday with a light show instead of a bonfire. There’s classic comfort food, mulled wine and some of the most ooh-and-ahh inducing fireworks you’ve ever seen. This year they’ve even got glow-in-the-dark face paint.