The history of the

Marple Scout & Guide Bonfire

The Marple Scout and Guide bonfire story began 1971, and has become a fixture in the Marple community calendar ever since.  Apart from an unavoidable gap through COVID, we have been serving the local community for 50 years  – and 2022 will be our 50th show, something that we’re immensely proud of!

The Location

The fireworks and bonfire have always taken place in Brabyns Park, Marple.  It is a natural amphitheatre with good viewpoints and a flat piece of land on which to locate the firework display.

The Location

The fireworks and bonfire have always taken place in Brabyns Park, Marple.  It is a natural amphitheatre with good viewpoints and a flat piece of land on which to locate the firework display.

The Bonfire

For many years, we made use of 3 wagons (one hired and two volunteered by parents) in the days running up to the bonfire, and wood was collected from people who contacted us. 

Unfortunately, this became too difficult to organise and it did come with its problems – we were contacted by all sorts of well-meaning folk, including an elderly lady who, upon our arrival, brought out a small box of firewood having kept it dry in her shed, and on another collection, our volunteers were taken into the back garden of the house and informed that the wood was the hedge cuttings still on the floor at the base of the hedge (needless to say we refused it!)  There were also all sorts of Health and Safety issues.

Following the stopping of collections, we have relied mainly on pallets donated from local firms.  Whilst it’s much easier to build a big bonfire, it still requires a lot of hard work in collecting the pallets and building it on the Saturday. 

The bonfire is built by a team of volunteer Scout and Guide Leaders, along with Scouts, Explorers and Network (from Scouts) and Rangers (from Guides), along with a few parents, and takes 4 – 5 hours to build. 

In recent years we started a Guy competition amongst the Scout and Guide groups, and we’ve had some fantastic efforts over the years, including Sponge Bob, Mario, and all manner of cute animals put together by the Rainbows and Brownies.

The Fireworks

In the early days, the fireworks were purchased from Standard Fireworks as a set display pack – mainly set pieces, supplemented with rockets. These came in wooden crates which we recycled to make boxes that could be used for camping. Some of which still exist!

We were offered the services of one of the organisers of Woodford Community Bonfire – we believe his wife was involved in Guiding. He held a licence as was able to purchase fireworks direct from Kimbolton Fireworks including category 4 ones which were unfused. Under his supervision we were able to build our own set pieces (such as the galleons, the tanks and of course Goodnight). Using Kimbolton Fireworks allowed access to fireworks previously not available to us and the size of the display grew yearly.

As regulations changed we found we were no longer able to set off our own display so a decision was made to employ Quicksilver, a professional company. Some of our team members underwent training and with Quicksilver’s supervision the team are still able to construct some of the display, though the lighting is all done by the team at Quicksilver.

The Catering

At the first bonfire and fireworks, we also had a marquee to hold a bar and disco in afterwards, but by the 1980s, the side shows were dropped, and the structure of the evening was the bonfire and fireworks, with very similar timings to what we have today. 

The catering was originally provided by willing Girlguiding volunteers, but after some traumatic experiences (with slugs falling off the tent into hot soup) a decision was made to move to having outside caterers and this remained in place until 2019.  We must have sold thousands of burgers over the years. 

Following the enforced 2 year COVID break, we’ve brought in new catering ideas, with a greater emphasis on making use of range of local independents to supply coffee, sweet treats and other artisan foods.

The Fundraising

Marple Scouts & Guides are voluntary organisations and need to raise funds to support their buildings and activities for young people.   The hard work to put on the bonfire and firework display is achieved through a tremendous amount of effort by our volunteers.  Our reward is that we have raised over £100,000 since our first bonfire.

Any history of Marple Scout & Guide Bonfire must acknowledge the tremendous work undertaken by Mr David Smith who, as a parent of a Guide, volunteered to help in 1971 and remained a core part of the organising committee all the way through to 2019 – an incredible 48 years of being involved! 

Sadly Covid19 intervened before he could organise our 50th Bonfire in 2020.  David moved to Scotland to be near his family and passed away in 2022.  Marple Scouts & Guides wish to publicly acknowledge his unstinting support and hard work for us.

David Smith (left)
Poster from 1990s

If you have a memory of the Marple Scout & Guide Bonfire please do send it to us. 🙂