Back garden firework displays and bonfires are enjoyed up and down the country by millions each year, but are some of them just a little bit… reckless?
The crackling flames of a bonfire, brightly-coloured fireworks lighting up the night skies, crowds of awestruck onlookers wrapped in hats and gloves, clutching hot chocolates… there can definitely be something quite magical about Bonfire Night.
Provided it’s all taking place at an officially organised display, following strict health and safety regulations and observing a nice early curfew, that is.
Call me a grinch but, if I could, I’d rather see back garden bonfires and firework sales to the public banned.
The letter of the law
There’s currently no law in the UK that specifically bans bonfires in gardens, even in smoke-free zones.
But there are laws against causing a public or statutory nuisance, and some restrictions that people setting bonfires should be aware of.
The turning point in my attitude to Bonfire Night came at a party I attended a few years ago.
At this particular event, the hosts incredibly decided to douse the logs in petrol first to make sure the bonfire lit successfully.
A display of incompetence
Not only did it light, it caused a mini explosion which blew out the glass windows in the nearby shed and actually singed the hair and eyebrows of the front row of spectators.
Apparently not content with this level of threat to their guests’ lives, the hosts then upped the ante by throwing the fireworks which had failed on top of the raging flames.
Of course, being thrown into the fire made the fireworks catch light properly and shoot out into the sky in various directions, with one taking a very low trajectory over everyone’s heads, barely missing the wide open patio doors that led back into the house.
A house which, I later realised, would have been our only escape route if the bonfire had got out of control, because the garden was surrounded on all sides by a seven-foot fence.
On top of that, consider all the usual arguments about the anti-social behaviour sometimes associated with fireworks and the effect all those loud bangs night after night have on our poor pets – something I know George has discussed on Which? Conversation before.
A friend of mine has to put her dog on diazepam every time Bonfire Night rolls round.
Yes, it can be expensive to go to an organised display, especially if you’re taking a family. But my advice is to suck it up and pay the money. Part of what you’re paying for is tighter health and safety regulations and medical staff on hand in case anything does go wrong.
Are you organising a firework display in your back garden this year? Do you take safety precautions? Or do you prefer going to an event organised by someone else?