Exactly 400 years ago today Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators were arrested for attempting to blow up the English House of Lords and thereby assassinate King James 1 — I’m sure many of us feel a great deal of sympathy with the goal of blowing up Parliament. In New Zealand we celebrate this failed attempt every year on 5 November with fireworks, both in public displays and with individuals buying assortments at the supermarket.
Although things have tightened up over the years it’s still easy to buy fireworks and we’ve spent our late nights for the last week enduring the bangs and flashes of individuals setting off their fireworks at the top of Mount Victoria. Last night was over the top, starting at about 10 pm and going on until 3.30 am.
Tonight we get the official city council Sky Show down on the harbour, starting at 9 pm.
As a child in England I loved Guy Fawkes night. It got dark early and was chilly; the fireworks were special. As an adult I still enjoy the spectacle, but I feel more uneasy about it. Here we are literally burning money that could surely be better spent on making people’s lives better — perhaps a hardship fund, a special city beautification scheme, a rent holiday for randomly chosen council tenants… I’m sure there are a hundred ideas that could make a useful difference.
Fireworks are expensive and we’re exposed to a great deal of spectacle in our lives, one way and another. I’d be happy for a big display every few years — perhaps election year would be appropriate. I also believe fireworks should not be available to individuals. The annual nuisance value, and damage to property, pets and persons is too great. And it seems that for once I’m part of a majority:
More Kiwis think fireworks sales are a fizzer: a survey of 1000 people aged 15 and over conducted for the New Zealand Fire Service shows 54 percent of Kiwis think no-one should be able to buy them [fireworks] over the counter. … However, Kiwis overwhelmingly back public fireworks displays, with 88 percent saying they support the idea of a public fireworks display in their town or area.
The results come at a time when fireworks-related fires continue to increase, as the number of fireworks sold in New Zealand each year increases.