Alone with his thoughts in the dank cellar below the House of Lords, Guy Fawkes imagined the display of pageantry that would occur above him when King James I arrived later that day for the State Opening of Parliament. This war veteran from Yorkshire, however, had a very different spectacle in mind: the detonation of 36 barrels of gunpowder directly beneath the King’s feet. With James dead, Fawkes and his fellow conspirators hoped to instigate a popular uprising and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. He just had to remain undiscovered for a few more hours…

A noise… his heart skipped a beat. Footsteps!

It’s fascinating to think that the actions of a few individuals in the distant past can continue to influence our lives centuries later. In his moments of introspection in the cellar, Guy Fawkes probably didn’t imagine that his effigy would be burned as part of a widely recognised annual cultural event over four hundred years after his death; he surely wouldn’t have had the remotest idea that an extensive publicly funded supply chain would be required to make it happen!

Many local authorities across the UK invest significant sums on Bonfire Night celebrations every year. Spectacular firework displays and roaring bonfires may be the most memorable aspects of these events, but it’s easy to overlook the substantial logistical effort involved; there are a whole host of ancillary services required to ensure the smooth operation of festivities and the safety and security of attendees.

As with all major public events, the emergency services support and contribute to safety and security; despite this, many vital elements – whether services or equipment – must be provided by the event’s hosts and procured through competitive tendering. Some of these procurements will be conducted via call offs or mini competitions under existing framework agreements, but suppliers in a variety of sectors can expect to see a significant number of invitations to tender appearing on Tenders Direct over the course of any given year.

Many temporary services are common to most outdoor events, so it is quite common for multiple services to be procured in a single tendering exercise for multiple dates (Nottingham City Council, for example, advertised an opportunity in February for portable buildings, fencing, crowd control barriers, public conveniences and trackway required for all its planned outdoor events for the rest of the year). Other pieces of equipment sought frequently by buyers for Bonfire Night include stages, temporary structures such as marquees, sound and public address systems, lighting and power generators.

As well as the hire of equipment, the provision of temporary staff for security, stewarding and traffic management is key to ensuring the safety of attendees. In September 2015, Leicester City Council tendered for the supply and operation of temporary CCTV to assist with security at both Bonfire Night and the Diwali Festival; as many of these events can attract thousands of people (with a high proportion of families / children), it is vital for the contracting authority to supplement existing security provision.

Indeed, the overall planning, organisation and execution of Bonfire Night celebrations is regularly contracted out to event management companies. As well as their role in the coordination and supervision of the event as a whole, they can also bring an element of artistic production to the mix; firework displays can be highly choreographed, synced with music and integrated with other live attractions.

So, when you’re standing out in the cold night air gazing at the fireworks (or staying at home trying to calm your dog or cat), spare a thought for how it came about and what makes it possible!

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