Barnwell Village Lights a Bonfire Extravaganza

bonfire-5-2016This year the village of Barnwell again drew a huge crowd of over 3000 people to their annual bonfire extravaganza, where the theme for the night was a full sized Viking longboat, complete with oars, shields and sail.

The village of Barnwell has held an annual Guy Fawkes bonfire for the past 20 years, but since 2013, the bonfire has had an unusual twist. The organisers of the event decided to make a feature out of the standard pile of pallets and waste wood. Instead of simply constructing a mound, they construct a well-known landmark or building, which is then ceremoniously ignited.

Inspiration originally came from the 13th century Norman castle in Barnwell; the replica castle that was created even included a drawbridge. The following year, inspired by a TV series on the Great Fire of London, Pudding Lane was built.

The yearly event has attracted a lot of attention and Barnwell’s bonfire fame can be viewed on YouTube. In 2015, Tower Bridge was created, complete with London buses and taxis, and BBC Look East turned up to broadcast the event live.

This year’s bonfire certainly did not disappoint. The event, which always takes place on 5 November, has grown in popularity and now includes a large professional firework display, as well as food and drinks. It is a big community effort involving some 50 volunteers, and funds raised from the event go towards improving the village hall.

The 70 foot Viking ship was a spectacular sculpture of a brightly coloured, beautifully decorated long boat with a fire-breathing dragon’s head. It was built almost entirely from discarded pallets, and took a team of Barnwell residents nine months to plan – mainly in the Montagu Arms – and about three weekends to build.

‘Like most projects of this type it tends to evolve as we progress and new ideas get thrown into the pot during the build. Often the finished article looks a little different to the sketch plans we have, but hopefully for the better,’ said John Foster, who along with David Brown and David Marriott assume the roles of chief architects.

‘It’s actually really good fun taking a whole lot of waste material and turning into something quite impressive,’ he added.

Next year’s build idea is already in the pipeline. The theme is always a closely guarded secret but planning for next year is in hand and they are aiming to provide an even more spectacular theatrical experience.

‘What we have in mind for 2017 can only be described as a bit more of a challenge for the build team, but we are confident that we can pull it off. Unfortunately you’d need thumbscrews to get me to reveal the secret.

‘You’ll just have to wait till 5 November to find out,’ said David Marriott.

By Lucy Baker-Cresswell
December 2016