Guy Fawkes is the character most associated with the Gunpowder Plot, although the instigator was Robert Catesby. In 1605, a group of Roman Catholics planned to blow up the House of Lords in order to assassinate King James I. Guy Fawkes was put in charge of the explosives. The plot was revealed due to an anonymous letter. Fawkes was found guarding the explosives, arrested and executed. Since then, the failure of the plot has been commemorated every year on November 5. The celebration is known as Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night.
The original Bridgwater celebration of Guy Fawkes Night consisted of a large bonfire. As years passed by, the celebration became more and more elaborate. Over the years, the Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival has become a major regional festival that features a large carnival procession with elaborate costumes and live music.
While other festivals use the term float to describe decorated platforms exhibited in the parade, the vehicles used in the Bridgwater Carnival procession are called carts. Carts are always themed, although the organizing committee puts no restrictions on the theme. Popular themes include chilren’s books and characters, scenes or themes from history or from around the world, transport and travel, pop culture elements. After the procession, the effigy of Guy Fawkes is traditionally burned on a bonfire.
Along with the procession, one of the festival’s main attractions is squibbing. A squib is a firework strapped to a solid block of wood (a cosh) attached to a long handle. More than a hundred people known as squibbers stand in line along the High Street in the town center, light their squibs simultaneously and hold them aloft, forming a long trail of fire. Squibbing is a unique local event that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world. It makes a truly magnificent end to the festivities and attracts thousands of tourists from all over the United Kingdom and abroad.
The carnival is preceded by a series of workshops and concerts that take place in the weeks leading up to the festival. Carnival skill workshops are dedicated to costumes, make-up, hair design, dance, music and everything carnival-related. At concerts, carnival clubs perform on stage, getting a chance to rehears in front of a live audience.
The Bridgwater Carnival was the first event of its kind in the area, however today the South West has several festival circuits with carnivals that take place from late August until late November.
Photo by Murph347