The lighting of bonfires at this time of the year may have long ceased to be accompanied by cries such as “Long live the King!” but the meaning of Bonfire Night for so many of us now is in how it draws together communities, families and friends to enjoy a cosy and dazzling spectacle as one.
Events marking the failure of Guy Fawkes and his accomplices to assassinate King James I were first introduced in the 17th Century and in January 1606 a parliamentary act made it compulsory for British subjects to celebrate the fact that the King had survived the Gunpowder Plot two months earlier.
Despite the repeal of the act in 1859, Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night, has remained a yearly custom ever since and its enduring popularity is none more evident in Leeds than at Roundhay Park where one of six free public bonfires were staged by Leeds Council and Fantastic Fireworks tonight.
An estimated 70,000 people attend the Roundhay Park event and tens of thousands once again turned out at the park for the bonfire which was set ablaze at 7.30pm before a dramatic fireworks display started 30 minutes later.
Itrila Ullah, 35, of Crossgates, who took her six-year-daughter along, said: “She’s been talking about it all week and she really enjoyed it. We had a good time, the weather was good and although I didn’t think the fireworks were as great as I would have expected it was nice to go with my daughters and friends.”
Also attending among the throngs was Fahima Rahman, 43, of Harehills, who said: “It’s all about community feel - I love it. There was a real mixture of people and everybody was being friendly.”
Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s executive member for environment and sustainability, said: “It was fantastic to see such a wonderful and large crowd at Roundhay Park as part of Bonfire Night celebrations being held across Leeds.
“Bonfire Night is a wonderful occasion for all the family, and we were once again extremely proud to provide along with the event at Roundhay Park, five other community bonfires in the city.”
Hundreds more people attended events at Bramley Park, East End Park, Middleton Park, Springhead Park and Woodhouse Moor.
Bonfire Night officially falls on Sunday, on November 5.