Ot­tery St Mary

Res­i­dents race through the streets with flam­ing bar­rels on their heads each Novem­ber.

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

The town of Ot­tery St Mary in Devon, Eng­land, takes Novem­ber 5 cel­e­bra­tions to a whole new level in a fes­ti­val that’s hard to be­lieve is still le­gal in th­ese healt­hand-safety con­scious times.

In what is thought to be a 400-year-old tra­di­tion, men, women and chil­dren set fire to 30kg wooden bar­rels lined with tar, lug them on to their shoul­ders and run. They keep go­ing un­til the heat be­comes un­bear­able or the bar­rel breaks down, typ­i­cally re­sult­ing in a rag­ing in­ferno. While the fire bri­gade is on hand, this is cer­tainly no fes­ti­val for the faint-hearted.

The Tar Bar­rel fes­ti­val has been threat­ened with clo­sure nu­mer­ous times, but lo­cals guard their tra­di­tion fiercely. Or­gan­is­ers make it clear that spec­ta­tors at­tend at their own risk, say­ing that if ‘‘you are scared by flames and do not like be­ing in crowded ar­eas then this event is not for you’’.

For those who do like fire though, there’s a gi­ant bon­fire to ad­mire and lo­cal chil­dren com­pete to make the best ‘‘Guy’’.

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