Roll out the barrels for a flaming good night

One of the most eccentric and spectacular events in our region is taking place this Saturday, 5 November - although many are surprised to see it go ahead at all.

The origins of the centuries old tar barrels extravaganza in Ottery St Mary in the heart of Devon are unknown but every year the annual custom attracts thousands of spectators.

There is a great sense of heritage, with generations of the same family joining in.

Feeling hot, hot, hot... Credit: ITV News

Preparations start weeks ahead as barrels are soaked in tar. Then on the day of the run, barrels are lit outside. Once the flames begin to take hold, the barrels are lifted up onto the rollers' backs and shoulders.

You're not seeing things - that really is a child carrying a burning barrel on his shoulders Credit: ITV News

The event kicks off at 4pm with the boy's barrel run, followed by the intermediates, female and then the men.

The barrels become heavier and larger during the evening - by midnight they can weigh up to 30 kilos.

Organisers are clear about keeping safe during this extraordinary event Credit: ITV News

It comes as no surprise that there have been battles in the past on the Health and Safety front but organisers pride themselves on getting it right.

Here is Rob Wickham, the chairman and event organiser:

Here is a list of the measures introduced to keep everyone safe.

  • Barriers installed in the main locations for crowd control and to prevent overcrowding

  • Town and Barrel marshals wearing high visibility vests and jackets

  • Tannoy system issuing safety information in the square

  • Safety leaflets to be handed out

  • Devon & Somerset Fire Service on standby

Find out more about the Ottery St Mary Tar Barrel races