Bonfire Night 2020: Big bang or damp squib?


With Bonfire Night just around the corner, Fiona Horan investigates which events are cancelled and which are still going ahead.

Unfortunately every major bonfire night event in towns and cities seems to have been cancelled. Organisers cite the impossibility of controlling spectators on the night to maintain social distancing. There has also been slight pressure from councils and police to cancel, and volunteer-run bonfire societies have been unable to fund-raise and prepare throughout the year as they normally would. There is better news at rural attractions and with the new “drive-in fireworks” phenomenon – read more below.


All the big bonfire spectacles in London have been postponed to 2021 including at Battersea Park, Alexandra Palace, Blackheath, Wimbledon Park and Walthamstow. There seems to be no update on Newham’s annual firework display. Crystal Palace is still advertised online, but it seems likely that both of these events will not take place.

London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks have also been cancelled this year.

Towns and cities

Around the country, events that have been cancelled include the famous festivities at Lewes as well as those in the other East Sussex towns and villages that are part of the circuit. These include those at Hastings, Eastbourne, Battle and Rye.

Another famous festival, Ottery Tar Barrels in Devon, will not take place this year. Other cancelled events include Bute Park, Cardiff; Midsummer Common, Cambridge; Dunorlan Park, Tunbridge Wells; Nottingham’s Bonfire Night; Botanical Gardens, Birmingham; Strathclyde Country Park; Christchurch Park, Ipswich; and Oxford Round Table.

The amazing procession of illuminated floats that constitutes the Somerset Carnival has also been cancelled, and won’t be visiting Bridgwater, Weston-super-Mare, Glastonbury and Wells.

Manchester has cancelled its official Guy Fawkes firework events, its Christmas Light Switch-on and its New Year’s Eve fireworks. However, there is hope for the Christmas Market, and an open air ice rink has been given the green light from early November.

Well, it’s a gloomy picture. However, all is not lost if you live in Winchester. The city has cancelled its usual firework display but, at 7pm on Saturday 7th November, will set off a fireworks display from three secret and private locations from across the city. The idea is to cover as much of Winchester in fireworks as possible and to encourage residents to enjoy the spectacular display socially distanced in their gardens and streets. Those enjoying the spectacle are encouraged to donate to the Community Fund. Find out more here.

Drive-in firework displays

Autumn Lights is a drive-in firework show in York and Lincoln. The events will include fireworks and (weather permitting) a hot air balloon glow. Find out more here.

If you’re near Perth or Dundee, you’re close to “Scotland’s first ever drive-in fireworks event”! This is at the Errol Showground, Perthshire on 7th November. Find out more here.

Other venues are also having drive-in firework displays. These include in Driffield, and at Scampston Hall, Yorkshire. More information here. There will also be a firework drive-in at Sotterley Estate, Suffolk (see here). And another in Chelmsford, Essex (see here). Tickets for these events seem to be selling quickly. For instance, Shuttleworth, Bedfordshire, is holding  a Drive-in Fireworks & Aerobatic Display event which is already sold out – as is their illuminated trail event through their attractive grounds over the Halloween/Guy Fawkes period (apart from single tickets).

Country estates and attractions

West Midland Safari Park is holding its Firework Festival on 7th and 8th November. Find out more here.
Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park between Bristol and Bath is holding its Fireworks to Music on 6th November. Find out more here.
Unfortunately many other rural attractions have cancelled their annual firework shows. These include Leeds Castle, Kent; Chatsworth House, Derbyshire; Legoland, Berkshire; both Tutbury Castle, and Drayton Manor, Staffordshire; Alton Towers Ultimate Fireworks Spectacular; Beaulieu Motor Museum, Hampshire; and Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire. However, a lot of stately homes and estates like these are making a big push for Christmas trade with illuminations, etc. beginning from early November. You can read more about some of these in Crunch time for Christmas.

Looking ahead

As mentioned above, London has cancelled its New Year’s Eve fireworks, and the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. Edinburgh has called off the three-day Hogmanay Festival, and even Shetland’s fire festival Up Helly Aa has been cancelled for January 2021.