Tar barrel burning festival of Ottery, England

MWN1107-Tar-barrel-burning-festival

Organizers defy health and safety issues to stage unique event.

In the small English countryside town of Ottery, they are proud to host a unique sport. Coinciding with Guy Fawkes Night – which commemorates the Gunpowder Plot to blow up parliament on November 5, 1605 – participants carry burning tar-soaked barrels along a route into the central square, with varying sizes for men, women and children.

Staff work all year to ensure the hazardous event can take place and raise the insurance premiums. Chairman Graham Rowland said that tradition matters more than singed eyebrows.

This looks fun – but why is it such a big deal?

It’s world famous now. This has always been a big local tradition but in the age of social media it’s on a different level. We’re expecting 15,000 people and we have been having weekly planning meetings since September to make it work.

What is the connection between your town and setting barrels on fire?

It’s unique to Ottery. I’m 56 and when you’re born here it’s part of the landscape. The event is over 200 years old and although we don’t know the origins – whether it was a pagan thing or to fumigate buildings – I’m very proud to be chairman.

There were several hospitalizations back in 2009, so how do you avoid disaster? Especially in the ‘kids’ event?

It’s not really a competition so people are careful and we can control the risk. It’s like football: if you wear shin pads you have less accidents. But it’s not easy to pay the insurance because solicitors are encouraging people to fake injuries and make a fast buck. Last year we had no problems.

Are you worried about the event’s future?

Yes, everyone is. A cheese-rolling tournament has been stopped for health and safety reasons and there are people are trying to cause problems. But in Ottery, there will always be tar barrels rolling.

Do you have competition?

A town nearby puts barrels on a sled, but we’re the only ones to carry them on our backs.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Memorial held for Sean Collier, MIT police officer…

More than 1,600 people gathered at MIT on Friday for a memorial service for Sean Collier, the police officer shot to death a year ago in the aftermath of the…

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox defeat Orioles, 4-2

Brock Holt the difference in the Red Sox' win

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

MLB

MLB video highlights: Orioles top Red Sox, 8-4…

John Lackey roughed up for second straight outing

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Parenting

How to parent without gender stereotypes in a…

Christia Spears Brown, Phd. author of "Parenting beyond Pink & Blue" gives advice on raising kids free of gender stereotypes.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.