Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.
Latimer to Ridley, awaiting immolation, 1555
I suppose films of fireworks are the most standardised films in existence. There must be millions of collective hours of indistinguishable fireworks movies on devices the world over. And yet the impulse to pull out your device at the sight of a few fireworks is irresistible.
The reason is obvious: everyone likes a firework. Fireworks are the touchstone of spectacular. And the impulse to film the spectacular is strong in all of us.
Thus is was that OISE students attended the Bonfire night celebration on Wednesday, and some genuinely impressive films were shot – I saw films and photos taken by Etsuko, a lawyer at Mitsubishi Electric, and Mohammad, until recently Minister for Education in Iraq. We puzzled a bit over how to get them off their devices and on to the OISE Cambridge Blog, but without much success – the files were huge. Perhaps they will have uploaded them to the cloud by next November 5th.
Fireworks are, if we’re honest, peripheral to Bonfire Night. Bonfire Night is all about the bonfire, and the Guy. One of my colleagues said that he wouldn’t be attending because it all seemed a bit ghoulish to him, celebrating the immolation of a man. Quite so (except for the detail that Guy Fawkes was hanged, drawn and quartered, not burnt), but that is the whole point. It is a pagan rite.
Apparently bystanders at the burning of Bishops Latimer and Ridley in Oxford in October 1555 were overheard to remark that it was a pity it had not happened earlier in the year, as it would have helped the crops (I once grew some stupendous courgettes on the site of a bonfire I had in my back garden, but I don’t think that’s what they meant).
It is only to be hoped, then, that the burning of the Guy will improve OISE students’ harvest of knowledge. Or OISE’s crop of students. Or the world’s crop of fireworks’ movies. Or something.