Guy Fawkes? Really, New Zealand?

joyland fireworks sign

Whenever I think of fireworks my first image is of a Twilight Guy Fawkes Gala Day at my primary school. I was about six years old and my Dad took me and my five year old cousin along to the Gala Day. Dad got to throw the lollies for the lolly scramble and would pinch pocketfuls of them so we could get a sugar rush without trying to fend off the big kids in the sweet scrum.

At the end of the Gala Day some bright spark decided to put on a Fireworks display. It was the 80s, I don’t think safety was a great concern and I remember we all stood in a big circle while someone’s Dad lit the fireworks in the centre. I don’t remember the show going on for long before a firework went shooting across the circle horizontally instead of going up into the sky. A little girl called Abby, who was a year older than me, was struck in the head by the firework. I heard her scream and saw everyone gather around her.

Dad picked my cousin and I up, and, I clearly remember him putting my cousin and I up on one of his shoulders each, probably to distract us, and using his long strides to get us away from the chaos.

In the following days my class made Abby a ‘Get Well’ card as she recovered in hospital. Eventually she came back to school with half of her beautiful hair gone. I think she was okay but I still think of Abby every time I hear about Guy Fawkes.

Having lived in Australia for the last few years we haven’t had the annual fear that Guy Fawkes creates. It’s not celebrated in Australia and fireworks, I believe, are only available for private sale in Queensland. Now, on the day after my first Kiwi Guy Fawkes I’m feeling particularly grinch-ish.

Why?

Why do we have a week of banging and explosions ringing? Nights of shivering and petrified animals? Drunks messing around with gunpowder – where’s the sense in it? Really, New Zealand? You’re better than that.

I’m not saying that, done well, fireworks aren’t spectacular. They are. The most amazing fireworks I’ve ever seen were a few years ago over Sydney Harbour Bridge, probably millions of dollars worth of incredibly coordinated and fantastic pyrotechnics. But the fireworks that were shot at arriving guests at the Guy Fawkes party I went to at a university party in Hamilton in 1996? Not so much.

I’ve just signed this petition to ban private sale of fireworks in New Zealand. Who knows if it will work but it’s worth a try. If you want to sign it then go for it.