Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

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Not long after the scary costumes are put away and the pumpkins are long forgotten. There is a uniquely British celebration. Across the country sparklers are waved, bonfires are lit and fireworks light up the night sky. To celebrate a plot that went wrong many years ago. There are many events to choose from in the local area both on November 5th itself and the weekend either side, at local churches, sports club and schools. At this time of year there is plenty of opportunity for volunteering. After all, there are fires to be lit, tickets to be sold and parkin to be baked. The yearly firework displays can be an opportunity to raise money for charity. This week I was helping Round Table and Ladies Circle with their firework display at Cheadle College. They are both social groups for men and women under 45 who also raise money for charity. They have Tangent and 41 Club too for those over 45. They meet a couple of times a month to attend social events and activities together and throw a charity event in for good measure. I have been a member of Ladies Circle for over six years and had lots of fun all over the country and helping out in the community too. My first task as a volunteer this week was to drum up some publicity. When planning a bonfire extravaganza it is best to let the public know in advance. A rota was drawn up for volunteers to go to local supermarkets, to sell tickets and give out information the weekend before the event. I stood outside a supermarket with my partner in crime Sally, also from Ladies Circle, with a sandwich board showing details of our bonfire event on it and leaflets to hand out to the public. I felt awkward at first because in the past I’ve been on the receiving end of many leaflets and I try to avoid them if I can. Otherwise you simply wouldn’t be able to get to work for the amount of leaflets you could be carrying. The scene was different outside the supermarket because people were genuinely interested in what we had to promote. People were generally happy to accept the leaflet and would actually come over and find out more about the event. I must say Sally was much better at this than me but she did confess that she had prior experience having helped with the census. We sold some tickets for our event which meant we knew we had people to come along which is always reassuring. Our job was done. Off for a hot chocolate and a sit down.

On the day of the firework display we congregated early at Cheadle College. We met in a cafeteria and waited for our briefing. To raise further money for our charity we had various things to sell on stalls around the site. There was a stall selling traditional bonfire night favourites such as toffee apples and treacle toffee. Ladies Circle had a range of glowing items for sale including spinning windmills and glow sticks. We spent quite a time stripping off a plastic packaging until someone suggested that perhaps we should separate the card and plastic. It was a little bit late but keen to recycle we went through the entire box and separated out our plastic from our cardboard. The briefing began and each person of the 60 plus volunteers was given their role and key people had a radio. Many people from Round Table and other organisations were on marshalling duties to ensure that the evening ran smoothly, safely and to assist the public if necessary. Others were on car park duty or on the gates. Volunteers had already set up the event and had offered to clear up afterwards; the whole thing takes three days.

I had my children with me so I went to one of the stalls inside the ground itself while some of the other girls from Ladies Circle went to the gates with their boxes. We laid our merchandise on the table and some people representing Round Table were selling drinks and snacks. Everything was set for the public to arrive. Slowly the public started trickling in. As we waited I asked Sally why she’d chosen to join Ladies Circle and she explained that she was new to the area and didn’t know anyone, she found that with Ladies Circle you get an immediate group of friends that you might not have met in any other way. Lindsay, who was also helping us on the stall, said that she joined Ladies Circle because she wanted to be more involved in the local community. She was looking for something for her son to do and she accidently discovered Ladies Circle while he found the Scouts. We had spent the past year at fashion shows, going out for meals, and generally having a laugh but there is something genuinely wonderful about doing something together for the good of the community; it’s even more amazing than just having a social life. There was a fancy dress competition about to start and my son had dressed up so I took a moment to go to the stage to enter while it was quiet at the stall. He was delighted to receive a rosette. By the time I returned to my station it was starting to get very busy.

The rest of the evening we were on the go non-stop and I was genuinely surprised about how many people came to the event, we later found out that it was over 5,000. It wasn’t long before we sold out of flashing items on the stall. In true Apprentice style I decided that we should find out whether the girls at the gates still had items to sell. After all if the public wanted them within the grounds then we needed to make sure that the stock was in the right place. I am sure Lord Sugar would have been very proud. Eventually more stock arrived and we were able to sell those too. At one point a large queue formed on the right-hand side of the stall at the toffee apples while Sally and I were busy singing songs from Frozen while waving glow sticks. We soon realised and called the queue over so that we could serve them.

It was lovely to see people genuinely having a good time and having fun with their flashy items and munching on treacle toffee and toffee apples. The main firework display began just as my duty finished. I stood there delighted with a job well done watching a brilliant display with my family. I know that volunteering can sometimes be difficult to do if you have a family but on this occasion I was able to bring my children along and they were able to enjoy the event with me. My little daughter slept throughout the fireworks which was quite amazing. I am still not sure how she managed it. The icing on the cake of the lovely evening was to find out that we had made over £10, 000 for local good causes. This will benefit many charities including Together Trust, Friends of Oliver (FoP research charity) and Salford Loaves and Fishes (a homeless charity). Local people can apply for funds from Round Table via their website. Haydn Longworth, who is a local person supported by Round Table, attended the bonfire event and had a really good time. Haydn has lots of health problem and needs a wheelchair and this was the first event like this that he had been able to attend. Even though Haydn has been in constant pain since he was 9 years old he still fund raises for the Wish Upon a Star charity so that others can benefit. He holds a fund raising event in Cheadle in December that raises about £1,500. Round Table helps Haydn to be able to run the charity event by funding the venue. This helps Haydn help others.