Ottery St Mary
Residents race through the streets with flaming barrels on their heads each November.
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’’.