Concerns over health and safety and prohibitive insurance costs have forced the organisers of a West Midlands Bonfire Night spectacular to forgo their traditional firework display this weekend for an ‘extravaganza of shouting, hollering and leaping about’ that promises to be ‘just like the real thing’.
‘The annual Guy Fawkes’ Night display is one of the highlights in our winter fund-raising calendar,’ explains Droitwich Rotary Club chairman Barry Trilt. ‘It usually raises thousands of pounds for local charities, but this money is being increasingly offset by the price of public liability insurance, while the cost of issuing everyone within a five mile radius with ear protectors and safety glasses would cost us a bloody fortune. We had to look for an alternative to the fireworks that would still entertain kids and adults alike. Realising that all people want are bangs, whistles and a few sparkly lights, we decided to give them just that.’
And so, for the last three months, Rotary Club members have been practicing a complicated dance routine, incorporating battery torches, bits of foil and paper streamers. ‘It’s surprisingly easy to replicate the fun and excitement of Bonfire Night actually,’ Trilt claims. ‘We’ve got a Guy – well, actually a bloke called Guy – who will sit next to an electric coal effect fire set up in the middle of the field – roped off of course. Around this our members will leap around shouting “BANG!”, “WHEEEEE!” and “pffffffffft!”‘
The club also plans to stimulate spectators by planting members among the crowd, shouting ‘ooooh’ and ‘ahhhhh’ at appropriate moments whilst occasionally terrifying a small child in order to evoke the full Bonfire Night experience. According to Trilt, this is viral marketing as a force for good: ‘Once everyone is warmed up they’ll be dazzled by the show, which means more money collected for charity – especially if we can teach Catherine to do cartwheels in time.’
However Trilt’s insistence on absolute realism has raised many eyebrows, following the announcement that Rotarians will also be inserted into the hot-dog queue, saying ‘five pounds fifty for a bloody burger? You taking the piss or what?’ in a very loud voice at regular intervals. Others are simply critical of the scheme overall, fearing that the event will be a pale comparison to other firework displays. ‘It’s hardly going to put Droitwich on the map is it?’ complained one local resident; ‘jumping around, waving your arms about and making stupid noises? Christ, give me a few beers and a Wii console and I’ll do that for charity any night of the week!’
(Something topical – written 5 Nov 2009)