There’s been a debate online on the Axbridge Community Face Book site about whether the fireworks sent up above the Square at New Year’s night should be banned or silenced. I have made no secret that I (along with hundreds of other residents who gather in the Square) love the noisy bangs and whooshes of the high explosives set off by the staff at The Lamb Inn. To their credit the pub have asked residents for their views and set up a poll which has seen a majority in favour of the fireworks and a large minority against – with an argument that pets and livestock are frightened by the noise.
I have some sympathy with the owners of livestock as they can’t be shut away indoors – but it appears on the face of it that a minority of largely dog owners want to impose their will on the rest of us. I get it that some pets will quiver in fear causing them and their owner distress, but the display is at a set time and is only for a few minutes – once a year. What the banning brigade have failed to address is that lots of people set off rockets and fireworks throughout November and around New Year’s without the decency of letting people know in advance. It’s a free for all.
I’m unrepentant about keeping the tradition going but it does lead to the wider issue of banning things. A few years ago residents (mainly in the Square) wanted to ban the September fun fair due to the noise and inconvenience. The annual Blackberry Fair runs for three nights and is gone by Sunday morning. In the end a referendum was held and the banning brigade were defeated. At the time there were voices raised to ban the carnival as it meant people couldn’t park in the Square and Cheddar Road for the duration – all of about five hours. Thankfully both the fair and carnival continue today.
Ever since the Puritans tried to ban Christmas, Christmas pudding, stained glass windows, religious statues and icons, dancing and general merriment there has been a streak in British society that likes to ban things. In Axbridge there used to be a bonfire night event on the Furlong Field complete with fireworks – as one of the helpers I heard the demands from parents of small children for only silent fireworks to be set off – and as for Penny for the Guy and a Bonfire – well you guessed – it is no longer a fixture in the calendar. And then there was the boutique on the Square who wanted to put its clothing rail outside the shop on sunny days – it was banned on the dubious grounds that ‘it made the place look untidy.’
Of course I have my own list of things that I would like banned. It includes dog owners who leave their dog poo bags on twigs, billionaire owners of football clubs, tailgaters, pusher in of queues, drivers who don’t give way in Banwell’s West Street, people who say journalists write fake news, anyone who says I look old, and anyone who says you can’t put up Christmas decorations before the 21st of December.
As soon as you ban something – it goes underground. Just look what happened in the USA when alcohol was banned – and in countries where booze is illegal there’s a thriving supply on the black market. The same is true for banning books, banning records, banning films, and even banning certain breeds of dogs. People find ways to get round the ban. Regulation mixed with toleration is the answer. In other words, ban fireworks in Axbridge Square at midnight on New Year’s and others will step into the void as they have done and fire off a few whizz bangs into the night to welcome in 2024.