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Lighting Up The Night Sky at Caludon Castle

Midsummer Fire Gardens, Caludon Park, Wyken, Coventry. June 25/26

By Barbara Goulden & Hilary Hopker

Midsummer fire gardens....who'd have thought of that for the park surrounding the ruined remains of Grade 1 listed Caludon Castle? I have to hand it to the City of Culture team, this event looked spectacular even on rainy Friday night. Although the stink of paraffin did take away some of the glamour as a team of Scottish-sounding comics made bids to capture the attention of the dripping if dazzled crowds who, like me, turned up for the late10.30pm show. If you're quick, free tickets are still available online for a whole series of performances throughout today (June 26). No doubt a little of the wow factor is lost during daylight hours but children will be amazed by the antics of the fire-eaters and jugglers who all coin that familiar warning: "Don't try this at home." And all those flames certainly gave a medieval feel back to a site which it's easy to forget dates right back to the 11th century. At the entrance it all looks amazing. And when the paraffin occasionally became too strong for me, I looked to the surrounding trees, all beautifully illuminated to remind you of Christmas at some grand country house.

"Flaming Beautiful," is the verdict of HILARY HOPKER who took her family along to the park

Sharing the ‘Coventry Moves Together’ radio event with my neighbours earlier this month, they mentioned they had booked to see the Fire Garden and was I going?

I panicked, after all this time talking and thinking about City of Culture I hadn’t actually looked at the event programme. So I searched through the site only to find out all the early tickets for the free Fire Garden display had already gone.

I nearly logged off but then I read the show was by ‘Walk the Plank’, who have provided amazing fire-shows in the past. So I booked the next available slot - at 10.30pm at night. I don’t normally need to entertain my two children, aged 9 and 12 at that time of night because they are normally in bed.

As soon as we got into the park though, I knew the late night was worth it. There were fire displays everywhere. Tall towers with flowers carved into them glowed as the flames leapt out from them. We were marvelling at this when a Viking longboat steers towards us ablaze!

I have a minor health and safety panic. There are lots of people tramping around in the dark, adults and kids alike, glowing flames are all around us and this stuff moves! Yet there were yelps of excitement rather than injury so, reassured we carried on.

Next came the fire-allotment with flames jumping between plants around a shed. Again we turn around and a dragon-like bird roars towards us blaming out music and snapping its beak. My youngest son, who has just finished the first Harry Potter book declares with certainty that it’s a phoenix while the older one instantly confirms the city connection - Coventry rose from the ashes after the Blitz so a phoenix it must be.

Then we queue for a quirky Steampunk-Victorian fairground side show display. Various dark characters in top hats invite the kids to take part. The little one throws balls at a coconut shy designed to ‘measure his creativity’ with a corresponding flare. Then they both test their strength using a large hammer. This interactive part is just simply great.

The kids then have to stand over the lights that turn the park’s foliage’s green, orange and purple to create horror-film style photos. As we walk out, the tang of smoke in our hair, I look back and see Caludon Castle lit up and it strikes me that this little corner of Cov is truly beautiful.


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