Parliament in Flames

Company Name: Welfare State International
Location: Burnley, Ackworth, Tamworth, Milton Keynes, Catford
Year: 1973 – 1981

From 1973 to 1981 Welfare State under the direction of Boris Howarth, produced five Parliament in Flames. After the pioneering bonfire in Burnley, the popular show travelled to Ackworth, Tamworth, Milton Keynes and finally Catford, London.

Ann McFerran, Time Out Review:
‘In Catford a replica Houses of Parliament and a towering 70ft high Big Ben was built. A huge Guy Fawkes, with a skeleton head and skinny vulture body confronted a gigantic dragonfly Margaret Thatcher to the soundtrack of the Rolling Stones Sympathy for the Devil and The Sex Pistol’s Anarchy in the UK. Other sequences involved the marring galleons of Oppression and Liberty, the Ghost of Elvis, the Queen as a weeping crocodile and insect firewalkers culminated in an aerial bombardment.

Boris Howarth leading the festivities described the show as ‘closer in style to ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caldari’ than Christopher Wren’. Traditionally the celebration was to mark the first fires of winter and ‘that need, just once a year, for everybody to enact their secret desires to stick gunpowder under parliament. But I’m no politician, I merely want to reflect what the general public feel in a lateral, poetic way’.

John Fox, Hook- Up Article:
‘On November 5 1980, on the last great remaining fire festival in Europe, on Guy Fawkes night we set fire to the Houses of Parliament, 15,000 people saw us do it. The tower of Big Ben was 60 feet high. We do it every year. Strange how the British show respect for their institutions … ‘

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