It’s definitely getting cooler across Britain in November but it’s never so cold we can’t get out and about. The dark evenings are appreciated with pyrotechnics and light displays this month and there is a major celebration connecting England and America.
River of Light
River of Light 2019 is Liverpool’s nine-day festival of light, colour and spectacle. It is bringing together 10 large-scale light and sound art commissions by European artists sharing the theme of light. They will be on display from 1 to 9 November 2019 across Liverpool’s waterfront.
River of Light has built a reputation in recent years thanks to the hugely popular mid-river firework display. The fireworks are for just one night and this year that’s Sunday 3 November.
Taking the light festival idea to the next level, it is the 10th anniversary of the Lumiere Festival at Durham City this month. From 14 to 17 November 2019 you can see the most ambitious festival yet. Lumiere is the UK’s largest light festival and I’ve loved seeing it in London.
This special anniversary edition of Lumiere will feature festival favourites such as Mysticète – the mesmerising 3D Baleen whale projection, alongside exciting new commissions and community projects.
As always, Lumiere is completely free to visit. A ticketing system will be in place to access the central peninsula area of Durham City during the peak hours of 4.30pm to 7.30pm. Two thirds of the artworks will be located outside the central area and can be visited without a ticket at any time between 4.30pm and 11pm.
I enjoyed a visit to Durham City and the county recently to research a travel feature for Anglotopia magazine. Subscribe now as it’ll be in an issue next year.
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
A foiled attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 is commemorated every year on 5 November with bonfires and fireworks. There was a team of conspirators but we like to focus our memory on Guy Fawkes as he was the ‘explosions expert’.
Bonfire Night, also known as Fireworks Night, happens all across Britain. We still call it Bonfire Night even when there isn’t a bonfire as that’s tradition, isn’t it? It’s now recommended (and you can imagine the reasons why) to go to an organised firework display. Most local authorities (councils) put on this annual event for local residents and it’s loved by families.
In Kent, the Edenbridge Bonfire on 2 November 2019 has a mammoth bonfire and effigies to burn too. A 10 meter high Guy Fawkes is set alight (goodness, this is the stuff of nightmares but we all used to do this, I promise) as well as a ‘celebrity’ effigy. Previous charred celebs have included Donald Trump and Boris Johnson so it’ll be interesting to see who the villain of 2019 will be.
The event includes a torchlit procession through the town before lighting the bonfire, and a 20-minute grand finale firework display to end the fun.
From Thanksgiving 2019 to Thanksgiving 2020, there is a year-long commemoration marking the 400th anniversary of The Mayflower ship’s pioneering voyage across the Atlantic from England to New England. They set sail on 16 September 1620 on a journey that has become one of the most famous in early American colonial history. 400 years later, the UK, USA and Holland will commemorate the perilous journey with major international events, cultural works plus joint scientific and business projects.
Of these key locations, in Anglotopia magazine I have looked in more detail at Plymouth (issue 13) and Harwich (issue 15) with Southampton coming up on issue 16.
I have to say the Illuminate Festival in Plymouth looks like it will be amazing. Starting at 5.30pm each evening from 28 November to 1 December 2019, the free festival promises immersive visual art spectacular projections across its festival centre, Royal William Yard. This is a returning festival but new for 2019, Illuminate has additional installations at the Barbican and Mount Edgcumbe Country Park.
Leeds Castle Fireworks Spectacular
The Leeds Castle Fireworks Spectacular on 2 and 3 November 2019 celebrates the end of the castle’s 900th anniversary year with 25,000 starbursts with an ‘around the world’ theme filling the sky over the majestic castle.
The biggest firework display in the South East of England has radio DJs doing live sets before the countdown each evening and the pyrotechnics are accompanied by music too. It’s recommended to come early and there is plenty of entertainment from live music to fairground rides.
Flaming Tar Barrels
Let’s have a look at another one of those ‘local traditions’ that make these monthly round-ups so entertaining. In case you think we live in a ‘nanny state’ or that health & safety has gone mad, I’ve found a custom that seems to have skipped those rules. Just look at the video!
Ottery St Mary in Devon celebrates Flaming Tar Barrels every year on 5 November. Dating back to the 17th century, this literally means tar barrels that are alight are carried by local residents through the streets. The barrels are lit outside each of the pubs (as they are the sponsors) and are hoisted onto people’s backs. Each barrel weighs 30kg but the chap with the honour of carrying it does tend to run as you probably would too with that on your back. No-one misses out though as there are smaller barrels for women and children.
The blazing barrels are taken to the biggest bonfire in the region that is lit at 6.30pm with fireworks later in the evening.
Another great tip from calendarcustoms.com, there are also hand-held miniature cannons, called the Rock Cannons, fired at 5.30am, around 1pm and 4pm. Madness!
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
There is nowhere more ‘in your face Christmassy’ that London’s Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. You’ll soon lose your ‘Bah, humbug’ attitude and be singing along to Mariah Carey’s festive number with the rest of us.
It is a huge funfair with roller coasters for the big kids and gentle rides for younger children. (I’m quite partial to the haunted houses.) You can take a ride on the observation wheel and then meet the man in red in SantaLand. There’s no charge to enter the site but there are plenty of attractions it’s worth booking for including Zippos Circus and Cirque Berserk in the huge Megadome circus tent, Paddington on Ice and The Magical Ice Kingdom with the theme ‘A Christmas Carol’ this year.
There are lots of food and drink options here and the Christmas markets mean you can go home with gifts for others too.
Royal Pavilion Ice Rink
Temporary ice rinks appear everywhere at this time of year (including at London’s Hyde Park Winter Wonderland) but the one I wanted to highlight is Brighton’s Royal Pavilion Ice Rink. Open from 2 November to 19 January 2020, this is the green option as the ice is powered entirely by wind and solar energy. Plus, the Rinkside Bar and Restaurant is well-loved as the food and the views are great.
There are Christmas activities in the Royal Pavilion from 16 November to 2 January 2020 too. The fires are lit, the spectacular Banqueting Room table is laid with Georgian style desserts, and the palace is transformed with festive decorations and glittering trees. A replica of Queen Victoria’s sleigh awaits you in the Music Room where you can create your Christmas photos to remember the day.
London to Brighton Veteran Car Run
The annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run commemorates the Emancipation Run of 14 November 1896 to celebrate the recently passed Locomotives on Highways Act 1896, which increased the speed limit to 14 mph. It is the world’s longest-running motoring event and attracts hundreds of vintage vehicles from the UK and abroad as well as thousands of spectators.
This year’s run is on Sunday 3 November 2019, and spectators are encouraged to cheer on the teams at the start in London’s Hyde Park to the end at Madeira Drive in Brighton. The first car sets off at sunrise (6.56am) and the last car leaves by 8-8.30am. Another popular viewing area is set up in West Sussex at Crawley High Street.
Not all cars complete the 60-mile journey but those that do arrive from around 10am with the finish line remaining open until 4.30pm. But all participants dress in clothes appropriate to the time of the making of their cars, which adds to the charm.
You can also see many of the cars and teams at the Regent Street Motor Show the day before on Saturday 2 November 2019.
St Andrew’s Day
It’s the patron saint of Scotland’s day on 30 November. St Andrew’s Day is a public holiday in Scotland. As the day falls on a weekend this year, the public holiday is on Monday 2 December 2019.
Look out for free entry offers at some of Scotland’s historic attractions. For example, Edinburgh Castle doesn’t seem to mention free entry anywhere but you can’t buy tickets on 30 November so that’s my clue it will be announced soon.
Every year, the Royal British Legion calls on the nation to unite in commemorating Remembrance Sunday. Ceremonies happen across Britain with the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph on Whitehall, London, on Sunday 10 November 2019 being televised.
The service honours the service and sacrifice of our Armed Forces community, the British and Commonwealth veterans, the Allies that fought alongside us and the civilian servicemen and women involved in the two World Wars and later conflicts. The Prime Minister and a member of the Royal Family are among the important guests who leave a poppy wreath. We have a two-minute silence at 11am to give time to reflect.
Lord Mayor’s Show
The annual Lord Mayor’s Show in the City of London is the oldest civic procession in the world. The amazing parade has over 6000 people from marching bands, dance troupes, giant inflatables and ceremonial displays.
On Saturday 9 November 2019, it will be the 804th Lord Mayor’s Show. The newly-elected Mayor travels in a gold carriage from the Mansion House at 11am to pledge allegiance to the Crown at the Royal Courts of Justice. Then the three-mile-long procession returns by about 2.30pm. Do note, there is no firework finale this year.
Note, for the rest of the year, you can see the Lord Mayor’s Coach on display at the Museum of London.
St Edmund’s Day
Edmund was crowned King of the East Angles (East Anglia) in about 855AD. Fourteen years later, in 869, he was defeated and killed by a Danish invasion. It’s said he refused to renounce his faith so was shot with bows and arrows ‘until he bristled like a hedgehog’ and he was then beheaded.
He was buried at a chapel at Bedericsworth (later Bury St Edmunds). After a fire, his body was exhumed and it is said there were no arrow wounds and the head was reattached to the body. And so he became a saint with the St Edmund feast day on 20 November.
In Southwold, Suffolk, the Saint’s day is celebrated with sticky buns being given to all the town’s schoolchildren. This ancient tradition died out after the Second World War but was revived in 1988 and continues annually. At St Edmunds Church there is a service to tell the story of St Edmund and to share out the buns. You will be pleased to know, I’ve found a recipe so you can try making them too.