November 2019

Go Retro this bonfire night!

Fabulous firework photography from Venture Studios!

So it’s nearly bonfire night already! What will you and the family be doing this year? There are so many wonderful fireworks displays around that it can be difficult to choose. But we hope that you really enjoy whichever display(s) you go to, and that you put your photography skills to good use as well. For tips on fireworks photography check out our Fireworks Tips to Remember this November.

But this year as well as going to the big displays, why not consider a retro style bonfire night party at home? Obviously safety is paramount, so we’re not talking about major firework displays in the garden. But many readers who grew up in the 1960’s and early 1970’s will have fond childhood memories of friends and family gathering together for bonfire night celebrations. Wouldn’t it be good to give your children the same opportunity to enjoy this too?

Here are five of the key elements to a successful retro style bonfire night party, with our suggestions as to how you could adapt them to fit with our contemporary lifestyle:

A bonfire

The bonfire was the big thing! Families started to collect wood and anything else combustible for their bonfire from the end of summer onwards. Much like today’s BBQ, the bonfire was very much Dad’s domain, and there would be fierce competition between neighbours to have the biggest and brightest bonfire in the street.

If your garden is big enough to site a small bonfire – ideally in a bin or pit – then you may decide to choose this option. An alternative would be to light up a chiminea which would provide the warmth and glow to give your party a wonderful ambience but without the risk of an open fire.

photography of family in wooly hats

A guy

Whether or not you are having a bonfire, a guy is a must for a retro bonfire night party. Children used to have great fun making models of Guy Fawkes from items such as straw and old clothing. They would then parade the guys through the street, accompanied by cries of “Penny for the guy’”. Any money given could be put towards fireworks – which was totally legal at the time. The guys would then meet their end by being placed on the family bonfire and burned.

A modern day alternative would be for the children to make small guys before the party and have prizes for different categories. Whether or not you then attempt to burn the guys is another matter altogether!

Turnip lanterns

Today’s children have a lot of fun carving pumpkin lanterns for Halloween – and don’t forget that Venture Studios Pumpkin competition is still running until the end of October!

But retro bonfire parties used to feature lanterns made not of pumpkins but turnips. They may have been created for Halloween but would then be brought to the bonfire night party – which in those days was the more celebrated event – and quite probably burned on the bonfire.


Retro bonfire parties would feature fireworks such as rockets, Catherine Wheels, Roman Candles, bangers and sparklers. Unfortunately, accidents would sometimes happen and these days we are thankfully much more health and safety conscious. It is now illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy fireworks, and at least one major supermarket has taken the decision to no longer sell them.

But to keep in the spirit of a retro bonfire party you may want to provide something small and safe. Sparklers were always a great favourite: children would make shapes and write in the air with them until they fizzled out a few minutes later. Sparklers are still widely available to buy so could be a good choice. There are also now various indoor fireworks available from suppliers such as Amazon.

photography of sisters eating popcorrn


Last but by no means least was the food at a bonfire night party. Family, friends and neighbours would bring food to share. Savoury food would usually be mugs of (tinned) soup, then bangers and baked potatoes – both quite probably cooked in the fire itself. Sweet items included toffee apples, treacle toffee and parkin (a type of gingerbread).

All of this food could be replicated for your bonfire party. You may want to add a slightly more gourmet touch: for example home-made soup, oven-baked potatoes and BBQ’d sausages with a variety of dips. This style of food would certainly be hotter and more tasty than the offerings in the past. But stick to the traditional sweet items – we guarantee that children and adults alike would love them!

We hope that the above ideas help you to have a very different bonfire night this year. Enjoy every minute, and do remember to take lots of photographs so that you can capture some incredible #memoriesforever.

If you forget to take photographs – or would rather enjoy the moment than be behind a lens – then why not recreate your retro party at a follow up Venture photography experience? Bring family and friends – and guys! – along for a fun photoshoot. As well as reliving all the fun of your party, you will receive a wonderful framed photograph which will capture the atmosphere of your wonderful evening. Something to look back on for years to come.

To arrange your family photography experience you can either book online, contact your nearest Venture Studios or call us on 0845 121 1085.