Bonfire Night

Informant: Valerie is a 61-year-old, born and raised in Dorking, England. She moved to Pennsylvania at 40, and to San Diego at 45. She still regularly visits England, where all her family still live.

Main Piece: “Back when I lived in England, we would celebrate Bonfire Night every 5th of November. Every Bonfire Night when I was growing up, my family would go out to the center of town and there’d be a big celebration. It was all about remembering Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot and celebrating that he was caught. We’d set off fireworks and burn an effigy of him, and have a big…almost a party, with loads of food. Kids would go around dragging big…scarecrows dressed like Guy Fawkes. It was very important to my mum.”

Background Information about the Performance: The Gunpowder Plot was an attempt by Guy Fawkes at destabilizing the British Government in the 1600s. Bonfire Night celebrates the fact that he was caught before the Plot was executed. For the informant, she remembers this piece because of how important it was to her family at the time. The informant still celebrates Bonfire Night in San Diego by cooking a special meal that night.

Context of Performance: The piece was performed annually on the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot.

Thoughts: Upon further research, I have found that the celebration of Bonfire Night has dwindled significantly since the time the informant lived in England. However, she continues the tradition, although in a much more subdued manner, in the United States.