2009 Bonfire Nights Business Meetings

November, 2013

Photo by Anna Popović on StockSnap

It was one of those things; although it’s true that one fire looks much like another, it’s still the case that I’ve been unable to locate a specific image of the 2013 Bonfire down at Baynes Field. So this stock photo will have to suffice.

Further suffice it to note that the Bonfire event was a great success; Nigel thanked everyone for their help before, during and after the fire and fireworks. According to the minutes of the November meeting, a small profit was actually raised, of some £141.02. Usually, we Lions were delighted to break even on this function, as we’d always considered the occasion to be particularly in the realm of community service.

The business meeting was also interesting for a small variety of reports and recommendations, of which the most notable was the formal proposal that had been worked out between three Lions members and Andy Lees for the development of the Music Festival (to be known as a Folk Music Festival from this point onwards). After considerable discussion, the Lions Club members voted to support the proposal, which would see the Lions Club holding the purse strings as a separate committee of eager festival organisers took on the responsibility of organising the weekend. This formal vote probably could be seen as the inauguration of the basic structure of the eventual Allen Valleys Folk Festival, which grew its own organisation eventually entirely separate and independent from the Lions Club. But we can congratulate ourselves for having set the event in motion; without the club’s assistance on the formal books, it was hard to see how the emerging festival committee could muster the capacity to launch.

Another salient component of the 2013 November meeting was the recognition that Charter Night in 2014 would be the tenth anniversary of the club’s formal founding. Carrie Winger proposed, as organiser of the annual Burns Night Suppers, that for this coming year we not put on that event, in favour of our big event that would come due at around the same time, in the dim recesses of the dank winter months. And so, apparently, it transpired.

There were beginning to be some concerns about the Book Stall sales, which had elicited only £77 at the Christmas Mini-Market this year, despite being spread across the entire stage. We agreed that we should need a re-think about this activity, as it was a great deal of lifting and shifting for very little reward.

Eventually, very late in the evening at 10:30pm, we toasted ‘Elsie Aye’ aka Lions Clubs International, and adjourned.

2012 Bonfire Nights

Bonfire Night, 2012

To be honest, the spectacular Bonfire and Fireworks Displays in Nigel Baynes’ field, always held on the 5th of November, regardless of rain or conflict with other similar events, were much the same, year in and year out.

But the crowds kept coming, the Lions kept putting on the show, and the endless preparation for the event (turf cutting; stacking; bonfire building; planning; lights distribution up the lane; barricades put up with safety lines; hospitality marquees) kept us Lions occupied for weeks before and after. Oh yes, there was always an after: getting all the remaining pieces burnt; raking up the cinders; clearing the ground with the magnetic rake of most of the ferro-metallic components left over from the fire; shifting the big trailer back into position with its load of rolled turves; replacing all the turves in appropriate lines.

By the time the field had recovered, it was probably time for the following year’s preparation. Indeed, I recall, though Nigel tried to shift the fire from one place to the next, the turf cutter (kindly supplied by Trevor Newman) sometimes revealed scorched earth underneath the grown-up turves, the soot from previous years’ extravaganzas exposed once more to view.

But it would be several more years before I took an active interest in the clearing up, though there were many more volunteers back in the day. It was always hardest putting things back in rainy weather, though folks knew that the grass appreciated the squelch.

2007 Bonfire Nights Public Service

Bonfire Night 2007

It seemed like there was a lot to celebrate on Bonfire Night this year. It had been quite a time, all in all, in the life of the village of Allendale.

I imagine that Peter Aldcroft, as the incoming President of the Lions Club, did the honours by crawling into the tunnel of doom underneath the big pile and torching the diesel-soaked hay bale, before crawling safely out.

It’s a good thing that he did get out intact, because there was still the wrap-up newsletter to compose, documenting the events of the year just gone. That will be the subject of the final entry for this year, to be presented at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the fire burned, the fireworks lit up the sky (every year since the beginning of the Allendale Lions Club, Fergus Sandison was in charge of ordering in the rockets, and organising ‘the crew on the hill’), and children were still playing with sparklers. Nigel Baynes would have been calling the raffle before the second half of the rocket display, and the fire would be warming cold toes around the field.

I didn’t know then how much effort was involved in preparing the field for the bonfire, though doubtless I helped shift the turves on more than one occasion. Creating the huge pile of wooden detritus for the fire was also a great team-building exercise, especially since the robust positioning of the pallets to form the lighting tunnel was such a crucial component of the team-work.

Another thing that folks don’t much know is that the Lions never expect to make any profit on the night; all the proceeds from the gate takings, raffle and sales of food go to paying the expenses, and the Club always considers itself fortunate if the event breaks even.

It’s just, has always been, a philanthropic public service contribution by a bunch of community-minded folks.

2006 Bonfire Nights

Bonfire Night, 2006

The one where Peter Flanagan’s painting, created during the event, was auctioned

I guess everybody knew that Nigel Baynes was so proud of the big field, and he was always delighted to put on the big bonfire night, every year without fail on the eponymous date: remember, remember, the 5th of November.

There weren’t always press releases to herald the event, but this one made it into the archive Nigel maintained so faithfully. I’m intrigued to see that AVOOSC (that’s the Allen Valleys Out Of School Club to you and me) played a big part in the fire this year. And also that hand sparklers were very much a part of the fun yet again; that wouldn’t pass the Health and Safety committee any longer.

But I was sure there would be a photo, somewhere, of Peter Flanagan’s wonderful painting, though I cannot find it anywhere. I’m not sure, either, who the successful bidder actually was. Perhaps it was Nigel himself?!

Anyway, I did manage to find a 2006 email from Nigel which entails just some of the huge organising that always accompanied the bonfire event, and I thought it might be worthwhile to paste the list in below, just to refresh in our minds the amount of work we Lions put in to make this event sing:

Meet at 10am on Saturday, there’s lots to do!

This week’s weather has helped the field a little bit but still very squidgy underfoot.  Could I ask therefore, that we restrict vehicular traffic to 4WD with trailers (driven with care) and that the handler only makes one trip across the field for turf purposes and is not used for the actual building.  Thanks.

* Turf Stripping, Rolling & Stacking on to trailer

* Pallets for Fire Base, Placing of Round Bale & Building of Tunnel.

* Transport of ex-auction Furniture from Green Shed to Fire Site,  Likewise with other builders waste which has been dumped around B.E.

* Kitchen Area to be organised – Fran to advise of her requirements (ie gas rings bbq’s electric points etc)

* Lighting: including colouresd strings and halogens for gates, raffle, food etc.

* Tables etc to be sited for above

* Safety Barriers and Wheelie Bins to be sited.

* Other safety items to be considered – Dave H to advise.

* Fireworks area to be prepared

For information:  The local Fire Crew will be attending from about 6.30, they will park outside the front of B.E. and mingle amongst the people.  After the event they will stand by the Fire Appliance and hand out freebies to the children and information leaflets to the adults.

I have probably missed stuff but this list gives some idea of what’s required.  I think the expression is:  All hands on deck!

It would be helpful if we could also collect the white tables and chairs from Deneholme this week end.  If it’s a fine night on Sunday they may even be used outside the food court.

But what Nigel’s list does not include is the considerable effort involved in clearing up, after the event! The raking of the embers, the trawling through the smoking residue with the wheeled magnet to collect nails, and finally the replacement of the turves so that the field would soon be as it was before the conflagration. Lots of heavy work, for sure.

2005 Bonfire Nights

Bonfire Night & JAVA

The eponymous JAVA made sure to thank the Lions for the great Bonfire Night and Fireworks

I’ve been working my way through Nigel Baynes’ archives of local memorabilia, and being humbled to tears by what he deemed to be memorable enough to file away. I remember creating this monthly newsletter jam-packed with information about our community, but I think it couldn’t have lasted more than a year or so. Perhaps too many other things got in the way. Besides the newsletter I was also compiling an online diary of events, and writing the weekly District Notes for the Hexham Courant. Of course, I was fortunate to have an insider’s viewpoint as I was becoming more intimately involved with the village hall as well, and that began to become obsessive, that pre-occupation.

We were certainly busy back in the day, weren’t we! It’s particularly intriguing to place the Allendale Lions activities in the context of what was going on in the village during the same time. Some day, I’m convinced, historians will pour over these primary sources and all of the wonders of enchanted community life will be revealed once more. Meanwhile, we have our little blogs and other attempts at what I call contemporary social history, and that’s enough to be getting on with.

Generations change, and things are cyclical. I wrote about just this sort of generational upheaval, disruption, dissipation, and finally rejuvenation, this continuous cycle in the life of a community, in a recent entry. What I didn’t mention there, but will try to manage here, is what an incredible joy it was to be part of this vibrancy, this philanthropic and selfless service, while we all had such a lot of fun.

2004 Bonfire Nights Lions Social Events

Bonfire, Party, Dance

There’s such a fizz in Prue Newman’s minutes of the Allendale Lions Club business meeting (the 14th) on the 1st of November, 2004.

Bonfire Night was only 4 nights away, and a gang of workers had been busy building a huge pile. Wardens, first aiders (Lynda McGregor and Julie Humes) were going to circulate around the field. To help with last minute collecting of appropriate items for immolation, volunteers were going to be needed, for which Michael Keene, Peter Aldcroft, George Newman and Graham Girvan had already added their names. Fergus Sandison and Colin Wraith would be helping out on the stall and site preparation all day on the 5th. The gang of igniters for up on the hill were all prepared.

We were all invited to the Baynes residence for an ‘After Bonfire Party.’ To protect Goosey Baynes’ floors, a change of footwear would be de rigueur.

[I parenthesise this paragraph because I don’t have any photographs of the actual fire of 2004, I’m afraid. Perhaps someone will have one or two of our first Lions bonfire, perhaps not. Just sending out a plea really. I’m confident there won’t be any photographs of the party at the Baynes house, but happy to be corrected, of course!]

And hot on the heels of the fire, the very weekend after the cleanup, Carrie Winger’s Jazz Dinner Dance was scheduled in the village hall. There was to be buffet beef provided by Margaret Stonehouse, salmon, salads and great entertainment, and it was going to be a tight squeeze as Nora Handcock’s annual Mini-Market would be occupying the hall until 4pm that Saturday, the 13th of November.

At the next business meeting, the first Monday of December, both of these events were the subject of a debrief. Trevor thanked everyone for their hard work on the bonfire night, which was looking like breaking even (not a surprise considering the cost of the fireworks). There was some consternation at the damage caused to Jan Symond’s garage roof, which had been penetrated by an errant rocket on the night. But overall the whole event was a delightful community event, much appreciated by all who attended.

The Jazz Dinner Dance too was hailed as another success, having made a profit for the Charity Account. We might repeat the event next year with a few changes: reduce the food commitment, for example, and thereby bring the cost of the ticket down (from £15).

Meanwhile, a couple of events in early December were grabbing our planning attention: the Grab-a-Granny affair for the 2nd, and the Children-in-Need Hike to Hexham on the 11th. In addition, there was the small matter of putting the Christmas lights up around the square. And then the social event at Pebbles on the 20th, the Chrtistmas Carols and Santa’s Sleigh on the 23rd and perhaps by the end of December the Lions, or at least those who would not be involved with the guisers and the Tar Bar’ls, might have a respite!