Bonfire Prayers

Remember, remember the Fifth of November The Gunpowder Treason

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Bonfire Anthem

Now is the time for marching Now let your hearts be gay Hark to

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Lewes Bonfire Press Magazine Cuttings 2005 - Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations

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Waterloo celebrates its fortieth…

Waterloo Bonfire Society held its 40th anniversary annual dinner at the White Hart, Lewes, on Saturday, when some 125 members and guests were present. The guest of honour was Lewes Mayor, Cllr Rod Crocker. The society’s president, Cllr Michael Chartier, gave a speech, as did the Chairman, David Quinn. Mr Quinn was presented with a special pen to mark his 25 years as Chairman. Pictured: Cllr Chartier, Monica Chartier, David Quinn, Yvonne Crocker and the Mayor, Cllr Rod Crocker.

Waterloo Bonfire Society Celebrates Its Fortieth

Sussex Express, Friday, February 4, 2005


Flames Of The Fifth On Canvas…

This noteworthy painting of Lewes Bonfire Night by John Mills forms part of an exhibition of his work at the Thebes Gallery which runs until the beginning of March. John is a design and technology teacher at Lewes Priory School, who previously taught art. Also featured in the exhibition, in Church Twitten, Lewes, are ceramics by Athol Tufnell.

Flames Of The Fifth On Canvas

Sussex Express, Friday, February 18, 2005


A Sixth Bonfire Society For Lewes…

Southover Bonfire Society members are to march through the streets of Lewes on November 5 for the first time in 20 years. The society was originally formed in 1886 and died in 1958. It had a brief revival in the early 1980s before fading into oblivion.

Southover will march on November 5 in a minimum of four processions. The first will be for families and children and the second a procession of remembrance to the War Memorial in Southover. The third will go into town to join up with another one of the town’s societies. Said organiser Matt Street: Due to the high cost of insuring a fire site we are unable to have one this year and are hoping for an invite to join another society for their celebrations.

A Sixth Bonfire Society For Lewes

The final procession will come back into Southover with the last port of call being the Kings Head, the society’s head quarters, where effigies will be destroyed and the bonfire prayers will take place. To make life a little easier this year, it has been decided that the pioneer costume of the Priory monks is the easiest to make and looks very impressive in large numbers. The second pioneers will be pirates, buccaneers, privateers and all the other sea dogs of the seven seas.

The society will also uphold all the traditions of bonfire. Effigies of Guy Fawkes and Pope Paul V will be appropriately dispatched, along with anyone or anything we deem worthy. We intend to promote the fact that there is no modern day animosity associated with it. A bonfire meeting will be held at the Kings Head, Southover, on Thursday 10th from 8pm. All are welcome.

Sussex Express, Friday, March 4, 2005


We’ll Continue To Burn Pope Effigy…

Bonfire Boys in Lewes have paid tribute to the life of Pope John Paul II – but have no intention of giving up their tradition of burning the effigy of Pope Paul V (pontiff at the time of the Gunpowder Plot) on November 5. The move has angered Joe O’Keefe of Newick who has been trying for several years to get pope-burning in Lewes stopped.

We Continue To Burn Pope Effigy Say Bonfire Boys

This November’s Bonfire Night will mark the 400th anniversary of the attempt by Guy Fawkes to blow up the  Houses of Parliament. Lewes Bonfire Council secretary Keith Austin said there was no doubt some bonfire societies would continue to burn the effigy of the pope. But it was generally true that the death of Pope Paul II had been met with great sadness in Lewes, he added. He described opponents of bonfire tradition as narrow minded and said there was nothing personal involved.

The burning in effigy of a long-dead pope had nothing to do with the last one. But Joe O’Keefe of Newick said the death of Pope John Paul II made this November’s pope burning in Lewes doubly insensitive. He described it as an act of apalling bigotry. And he added “I object to police being used at my expense, and others, for what I consider to be a blatantly sectarian event – an act of mockery and ridicule”.

Sussex Express, Friday, April 15, 2005


Showers Fail To Dampen Spirits At Waterloo Fete…

Despite showers, the Lewes Waterloo Bonfire Society fete and car boot sale on Monday still managed to draw in a couple of thousand people. The fete at the Paddock playing fields featured stalls and attractions including cakes, tombolas, a bouncy castle, a mammoth inflatable slide, swing boats, a mini dipper ride, hook a duck and games of chance.

Showers Fail To Dampen Spirits At Waterloo Fete

There was a baby show and a tatty teddy competition. The baby show had two categories, one for 0-18 months and one for 19-36 months. The winners of the younger category were Jasper Williams in first place, Elexi Cedar second, and Molly West third. Roseanne Wares was first in the second category, Daniel Turner came second and Tara Allen was third.

Bonzo, a 76-year old teddy owned by Ann Wares, won the tatty teddy competition. Although the weather meant fewer people, the society still raised an impressive £1,500.

Sussex Express, Friday, June 3, 2005


Re-formed Bonfire Society Makes Plans For The Fifth…

A Re-formed Lewes bonfire society is to hold a major fundraising event at the Pells swimming pool in Lewes tomorrow evening (Saturday). Southover Bonfire Society is hosting a re-creation of the Battle of Trafalgar, with inflatables and water pistols, in the water from 7.30pm. There will also be a barbecue, disco, swimming, bar, bouncy castle, games, face-painting, samba and live music. Tickets are £3 (family £7) and may be bought at the door.

Re-formed Bonfire Society Makes Plans For The Fifth

Southover was one of Lewes’s earliest societies before folding after the war years. It was briefly re-formed for a couple of years before again ceasing to take part in the November 5 festivities. The new society, which already has more than 100 members, will be taking part in this year’s bonfire celebrations and is hard at work raising the necessary money.

Sussex Express, Friday, July 15, 2005


450th Anniversary Of Martyr’s Execution Marked By Cliffe…

A contingent of 60 Cliffe Bonfire Society smugglers marched to a solitary drum, played by Paul Jarvis, from outside Lewes Town Hall to the Martyrs Memorial at 7pm on Friday. They were commemorating the 450th anniversary of the execution at the stake of Deryck Carver, the first Lewes Protestant martyr of the Marian persecutions.

450th Anniversary Of Martyr's Execution Marked By Cliffe

At the Martyrs Memorial on top off Cliffe Hill, Cliffe president Paul Mockford laid a wreath while chairman Ric Newth gave an address. There followed a minute’s silence which was concluded by the firing of 17 maroons, one for each of the martyrs who died at Lewes. Carver, a Brighton brewer, was burnt on a wooden pyre outside the Star Inn (now Lewes Town Hall) on July 22, 1555.

Sussex Express, Friday, July 29, 2005


Cliffe Uncovered…

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of deliverance from the Gunpowder Plot Cliffe Bonfire Society will be staging an exhibition ‘Cliffe Uncovered’ at Southover Grange, Lewes from 10am. The society will dramatically tell thestory of the Gunpowder Plot and show how its discovery has been celebrated over the past 151 years.

Cliffe Uncovered

In these turbulent times it is perhaps more important to understand why we remember and the lessons history can teach us. It would have been around this time 400 years ago that Roger Catesby and his fellow plotters were putting their dreadful plans into action by preparing 36 barrels of gunpowder ready to be placed into a rented cellar beneath the Houses of Parliament. The count-down until the 5th November and the State Opening of Parliament would have begun.

‘Cliffe Uncovered’ will use the society’s world famous banners, costumes and 16ft dummy of Guy Fawkes to explain the details behind the plot and the traditions that make up the notorious celebrations. The exhibition will offer an unique opportunity to view the society’s extensive archives. This great collection of local history includes many exclusive photos and memorabilia. It provides an insight not only into bonfire but also into the history and local characters of Lewes.

Cliffe chairman Ric Newth said: “As a society we thought it was important that Lewes and the Cliffe marked this special anniversary. ‘Cliffe uncovered’ will be a great opportunity to look back and remember”. ‘Cliffe Uncovered’ has been kindly sponsored by two local businesses situated in Cliffe High Street. Both The Long Room and Harveys Brewery are proud to be involved in this unique event. More information about the Gunpowder Plot can be found on and Cliffe Bonfire at

Lewes News, September, 2005


Bonfire Archives…

There will be a rare glimpse of Lewes bonfire history tomorrow (Saturday) when Cliffe Bonfire Society opens its archives at a special exhibition to mark the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot. In addition to documentation and memorabilia covering almost all of its 152 year history, Cliffe members will be displaying costumes, photographs, video and film footage and demonstrating torch making skills that have been handed down over generations.

Bonfire Archives

Visitors to Southover Grange can also take a close look at the sort of fireworks that the society uses in its spectacular November 5 display. Anyone who has their own Cliffe or Lewes Bonfire Night memorabilia is particularly welcome to take it along and have it dated or identified. Cliffe Uncovered is open from 10.30am until 5pm. Admission is £2 and free to under 10s.

Sussex Express, Friday, September 30, 2005


Down With Bonfire…

Am I the only Lewesian to detest bonfire, its daft adherents and the hordes of ghastly people it attracts into town on November 5 ? In the run up to the event, bonfire society members come banging on my door asking for cash for programmes. Then on the big day they kit themselves out in furry offcuts, charity shop frills and spangly bits and pieces, and march around causing chaos and mayhem.

Down With Bonfire

The streets heave with potty pseuds and nasty yobs, and noise and confusion reign for many hours. Everyone in my house loathes November 5, the animals especially. Generally we shut ourselves in, turn up the telly and hope for torrential rain to send them all home early.

Sussex Express, Friday, September 30, 2005


Cliffe Uncovered…

Over the eight months of preparation, the network of conspirators grew. Many of these people had family and friends due to be at the state opening of Parliament. The plan had been successfully executed, with the opening set for the 5th November. When Lord Monteagle, a closet catholic, received a letter warning him to ‘Retire to the country for ….they shall receive a terrible blow this parliament’, from a stranger, he immediately took the letter to Robert Cecil the Secretary of State.

Cecil did not act immediately and the plotters continued with their plans. On 4th November, Cecil met with the King and they decided to search the Palace of Westminster. The initial search found Guido Fawkes, using the alias John Johnson, in the cellar preparing the slow fuses. He was arrested! His fellow conspirators were quickly rounded up or killed, as they attempted to flee London. Guido and the remaining plotters were taken to the Tower of London and placed on the rack, and subjected to other forms of torture that, although not recognised in English law, were commonly used. The extracted confession can be seen in the national records office, complete with Fawkes’ signature, which displays the effects of his treatment in the tower.

The trial of the conspirators was held on 27th January 1606 at Westminster Hall. All were found guilty and sentenced to death. Guido Fawkes endured the gruesome sentence of a traitor’s death on 31st January, by being hung drawn and quartered, which included disembowelling and castration while he was still alive.

Cecil and the authorities took the discovery of the plot as a sign of God’s support for their Protestant faith and set about establishing new restrictions upon the English Catholics. Some people believe that the plot was conceived by Cecil himself, as a clever plan to further undermine Catholics in England, but there is little or no evidence to support this. An Act of Parliament was passed (receded in 1859) to set aside The 5th November as a Day for Thanksgiving. Church bells were rung and passages, celebrating the Holy Deliverance, were added to the Book of Common Prayer.

People celebrated by lighting fires and street festivities. Similar celebrations can still be witnessed in East Sussex today. Even now, before the State Opening of Parliament, the Yeoman of the Guard search the Palace of Westminster, along with the modern day security staff, to uncover any plotters. The cellar, in which Guido stored his powder, was destroyed in the fire of 1834, although his lamp remains in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

People across the western world still value their freedom and during these modern times it is important to remember that there are people who will use force to remove it.

Cliffe Bonfire Society Leaflet, October, 2005


Remember Remember…

A Guy Called Fawkes Who 400 Years Ago This Year Plotted To Blow Up The British King And Parliament, Since the Protestant Reformation, some 70 years before the gunpowder plot was constructed, Catholics in England had been pushed to the very edge of society. Viewed by the authorities as potential state enemies, their practices were censored and they were heavily punished or fined if found practicing their beliefs.

When in 1603 James I, the son of Catholic martyr Mary Queen of Scots, came to the throne, English Catholics believed that they would receive greater tolerance. Their optimism was short lived, as James did nothing to reverse their religious plight. He was sensitive to the majority opinion of the English people, who viewed the Pope as a foreign threat to English independence. He refused to repeal any of the laws restricting Catholicism and continued to expel priests.

The continued persecution enraged leading Catholics, and in 1604 a plot was forged to use great force to change the situation, and re-establish Catholic rule. The plotters, led by Robert Catesby, devised a plot to blow up the King and his heirs at the state opening of Parliament. In the aftermath of the destruction, Catesby planned to raise an army and kidnap James’s eldest daughter Elizabeth, and install her as the head of state to rule England as a catholic country with, of course, a large influence from Rome.

To help them carry out their optimistic plans, Catesby and the conspirators enlisted the help of Guido (or Guy in English) Fawkes. Guido was born in Yorkshire a protestant who converted to Catholicism during his youth. In 1593, still a young man, he left England to join the Spanish army in Flanders to fight the French. Guido distinguished himself during his military career. As a professional soldier, with knowledge and experience of gunpowder, he was a great asset to the plot. He was relatively unknown in this country and had demonstrated a strong commitment to his faith.

The Palace of Westminster that housed parliament, and hosted the state opening, was a very different building to the one that stands on the same site today. The Palace was a large labyrinth of buildings that had evolved over centuries. Many parts of the palace were unused and these were let out for commercial activities. The conspirators hired a house next door to the Palace and a cellar underneath the House of Lords. Over a period of eight months the gang dug a tunnel between the house and the cellar and filled the basement with thirty- six barrels of gunpowder, which they covered with coal, wood and iron bars, to maximise the destructive force of the blast.

Cliffe Bonfire Society Leaflet, October, 2005


Remember Remember 1605 Gunpowder Plot Tragedy…

Everard leads a charmed existence – one of the King’s bright young things, with a glamorous house, a glamorous wife and a devout faith in God. But his world is turned upside down when a gang of well-heeled terrorists explodes into his life. And three years after being knighted by James I, he finds himself under a different kind of sword, on trial as a traitor.

Remember Remember Riding Lights Theatre Company

Remember Remember is a cracking new play about Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators, to mark the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot. To light up our not-so-new age of terror. York-based Riding Lights is one of the UK’s most successful independant theatre companies. Internationally renowned for twenty-seven years of touring productions, Riding Lights opened its own home, Friargate Theatre, to the public in 2000.

Riding Lights Theatre Company Leaflet, October, 2005


Remember Remember The 4th Of November?…

The annual bonfire society parade and firework spectacular at Lewes is an event which rightly demands special recognition. So famous is this celebration that it has attracted national media coverage in the past. This year it will be extra special because it will be held on the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot which, if it had succeeded, would have certainly changed the course of English history forever.

The Sussex Bonfire Societies support of each other ensures that each society’s parade is attended by as many of the others as possible, turning each torchlight parade into a spectacular procession. There can be few people living in either East or West Sussex who have not stood eagerly by the roadside spell-bound for ages as pirates, cowboys, bands and brigades march by. Many of you will have fond memories when, food in one hand and balloon in the other, you have ooohed and aaahed at the culminating fireworks as they burst colourfully in the dark night sky. What a wonderfully British happening!

Remember Remember The Fourth 4th Of November

Let it not be forgotten that bonfires have a significance that goes beyond remembering just one isolated event in history. From the time that our ancestors mastered the skill of producing and controlling fire, the power and importance of the bonfire has made its mark on history. Where would we all be without the watch-keepers who at time of invasion would, through the luminescence of a burning beacon, send a message of warning racing across the land from the coastal regions through to our capital.

Bonfires have also featured in national protest. It isn’t just the effigy of Guy Fawkes that has sat astride a cone of flames. In the past Kings and even a Pope have paid the price for unpopularity, and more recently, so have modern day politicians. It is perhaps not without some degree of irony that due to a King we actually celebrate Fawkes’ attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament on the wrong day!

The conspirators put their plans into effect on the evening of 4th November 1605 and Fawkes was arrested just before midnight. However, it was decided that it was inappropriate to awaken the King and inform him of what had happened, and so it was not until the following morning that the dastardly deed was revealed and was able to claim its place in the history books.

As we all enjoy the 2005 celebrations let us not forget the hard work that the members of the societies put into arranging these wonderful family orientated episodes. It may take place only one evening each year but will have been many months in the planning. To all those society members who strive so hard to make this one evening run like clockwork we people of Sussex should offer our grateful thanks. And how better to do so than turn out in droves whenever a parade takes place and be generous in our financial support of a truly important Sussex Tradition.

Magnet October, 2005


Bonfire Joy…

Am I the only Lewesian to love Bonfire, with its great adherents and the hordes of great people it attracts into town on November 5? In the run up to the event, bonfire society members come and politely knock on many doors and ask very politely if the person living there would like to buy a bonfire programme.

Then on the big day they kit themselves out in their finery showing their charity shop frills and sparkling bits and pieces, and march around having fun and enjoying themselves. The streets heave with many people young and old alike who love the noise and bewilderment.

Bonfire Joy

Everyone in my house loves November 5, so I wonder instead of celebrating the gunpowder plot, the burning of the martyrs at the stake, the freedom of speech and the two world wars, we instead march around to Mr Wick’s house so that he could put his hand in his pocket and give away thousands of pounds to all the charities which benefit from November 5. By the way, all Sussex bonfire societies raise money for charity and local causes. Like Mr Wicks and many others you don’t see this.

Sussex Express, Friday, October 7, 2005


An Enemy?…

Can Harry Wicks who declares his detestation of Bonfire actually be a real person, let alone a resident of this town – famed as it is for but one mystical, magical night in the year? Surely not, he must be a caricature, a model for those infamous effigies ‘Enemies of Bonfire’. See you on November 5, Mr Wicks.

An Enemy

Sussex Express, Friday, October 7, 2005


Anniversary Show…

Cliffe Bonfire Society members held a successful exhibition of the society’s archives at Southover Grange, Lewes, on Saturday. The one-day event was a thank-you to the town for its support over the years and to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot. Archives included programmes, badges, photographs and memorabilia dating back through the society’s 153 year-long history.

Anniversary Show

The event was opened by the Mayor, Cllr Jim Daly, and during the day more than 600 people came through the door, providing the society with a profit of several hundred pounds. In the evening the society held its bonfire costume competition in preparation for the coming Lewes Bonfire Council costume inter-society competition. Life members were presented with special badges to mark their contribution to Cliffe down the years.

Sussex Express, Friday, October 7, 2005


History In Flames As We Light Up The Sky…

Everyone knows that every year on November 5 the country remembers the foiling of the infamous Gunpowder Plot. But, firework fans in Sussex, not content with just one evening of gunpowder, will celebrate throughout autumn. And with this year being the 400th anniversary of the arrest of Guy Fawkes in 1605, the array of bonfire nights in Sussex promises to be better than ever. Dozens of bonfire societies will parade flaming crosses through the streets across the county, burning effigies of Guy Fawkes and the Pope and rolling barrels down the road. The celebrations take the form of dramatic and noisy parades, people in costumes, flaming torches, thunping drums and, of course, huge explosions.

Lewes can boast no fewer than six Bonfire Societies with about 3,000 members among them. Some have a continuous tradition going back to the middle of the 19th century and the annual event at Lewes draws crowds of 80,000. Bonfires have been used for centuries to celebrate victory or deliverance and the authorities and the Church encouraged celebrations on November 5 to commemorate the arrest of Guy Fawkes, just as he was about to ignite several barrels of gunpowder in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament.

History In Flames As We Light Up The Sky

The Lewes tradition goes back a century earlier and remembers the burning of 17 Protestant martyrs in Lewes High Street from 1555 to 1557, under the reign of Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s fiercly Catholic daughter. The societies were subsequently formed and, on their processions, marchers would carry burning crosses to commemorate those they believed were martyrs who had died defending their faith and the right to freedom of expression. In 1847, an attempt was made to ban the processions, which had often turned into drunken rampages that sometimes ended in houses being burnt down. After this date, the Bonfire Boys, as the revellers were known, realised they needed to curb their more riotous activities. So they established organised processions, complete with banners, costumes, drums and flaming torches instead.

Today, these Bonfire Boys societies travel around the county, taking part in processions in other towns. Burning effigies is an important part of the bonfire tradition. Usually figures of Guy Fawkes and the Pope are burnt but other unpopular characters such as Osama bin Laden and George Bush have also made appearances. Since the formation of the societies, Bonfire Night has been held annually, apart for interruptions during the two World Wars, a typhoid outbreak in the town in 1874 and the Lewes floods of 1960. Despite the catastrophic Lewes floods in October 2000, Bonfire Night that year went triumphantly ahead.

The Argus, Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Why Do We Remember The 5th Of November?…

A new work from Theatre and Beyond explores the impact of the Gunpowder Plot on ordinary people and questions what it is that we celebrate on November 5. Fires in the Fields, written by Sara Clifford, looks at the repercussions of the 1605 attack on Parliament, focusing on the lives of those living in the rural south. It was inspired by the playwright’s recent move to Lewes.

Why Do We Remember The 5th Of November

Sara said: ‘Although I lived only 50 miles away in London, I had never heard of the Lewes Bonfire Night, so when I first moved to the town and saw the eccentric parade of costumes, the ‘No Popery’ sign in Cliffe High Street and the enormous fires lit at the various bonfire society sites around the town, I was fascinated and intrigued. I wondered what the history of the celebrations were, and why Lewes was so keen to hold on to what it sees as its right to take over the streets. And I also saw something a little darker underneath that I wanted to understand – just what exactly is it we are all celebrating with the bonfires, bells and fireworks?’

Fires in the Fields is set on the eve of the first ever Bonfire Night, when, by order of King James I, the country prepares to light a string of fires as thanksgiving for the failure of the Gunpowder Plot. Tension mounts in one Sussex household as two brothers struggle to conceal their conflicting religious and political beliefs and the first bonfire celebrations reach a shocking climax. The play will be performed at All Saints Centre in Friars Walk, Lewes on October 29 and November 1.

Sussex Express, Friday, October 14, 2005


Rocket Radio Blasts Back…

Television actress Angela Bruce, folk legend Shirley Collins and Mr Bonfire Keith Austin are being blasted into space. But first they must choose their favourite music to take with them. All three Lewes residents are guests of Dilly Barlow on My Rocket Records, back by popular demand for a second season on Rocket FM, Lewes’s independent community radio station. Local names also feature in writer, artist and publisher Peter Chasseaud’s interviews with historian John Bleach, writer David Powell, artist Carolyn Trant and opera star Sir John Tomlinson.

Rocket Radio Blasts Back

‘I am delighted to see broadcasters coming forward with proposals specifically for Rocket,’ said station manager Andy Thomas: ‘This is our fifth year, which shows that people care about true local radio, as opposed to the piped-in from-a-distance variety’. Also returning will be live concerts by bands and musicians. Watch out also for the Rocket exclusive interview with Eric Clapton. Rocket FM starts broadcasting on October 22 on 87.8 FM and on the internet. For a complete listing visit the website at

Sussex Express, Friday, October 14, 2005


Priest To Say Latin Mass…

Lewes’ new Roman Catholic priest is the youngest to have been appointed to the parish for decades. Father Richard Biggerstaff is 39. He takes over from Father Eric Flood, 73, who is in semi-retirement. Father Biggerstaff was parish priest at Camberley and Bagshot for six years before arriving in Lewes in late September. He has also served congregations in Woking and Crawley.

Priest To Say Latin Mass

‘I had visited Lewes to see friends before, but it never occured to me that I might find myself parish priest here,’ said Father Biggerstaff at his St Pancras presbytery in Irelands Lane. ‘It is a lovely parish and the people here have been very welcoming’. One of Father Biggerstaff’s first duties was to induct Maria Cowler as the new headteacher of St Pancras RC Primary School. He will be assisted at St Pancras on occasions by Father Andrew Pinsent, who is newly ordained and studying philosophy at an American university.

Father Biggerstaff is also planning to hold regular Saturday masses in Latin. ‘The Saturday mass is something I have inherited and I am aware that many people do like their mass in Latin’, he added. A rugby player at school, he now stays away from team sports and keeps fit by walking. ‘The Catholic Church is a big enough team for me’, he added. How does he feel about Bonfire Night in Lewes? ‘I haven’t seen one so I can hardly comment’, he said, ‘I will be there this year. As for its alleged anti-Popery overtones, I don’t believe Bonfire is anti-Catholic. It is referring to a Pope who was in office 400 years ago. I am keeping an open mind. And I hope to enjoy the night for what it is’.

Sussex Express, Friday, October 14, 2005


Town Obsessed With Fireworks…

I agree with your anonymous correspondent of October 7, who ‘praises’ the enjoyment of and the work put into bonfire celebrations, also what he/she says about charities benefiting. It’s a great show put on by the people of Lewes and I would recommend it to anyone. What I do not understand is why we have to put up with fireworks being fired off for weeks before November 5, and weeks after, even into January. Already my animals are on sedatives because of it. I’ve lived in Lewes for nearly 30 years, and it seems to me that the obsession with fireworks is on the increase.

Town Obsessed With Fireworks Proud To Be Enemy Of Bonfire Hater Let Us Educate

Sussex Express, Friday, October 14, 2005


Proud To Be An Enemy Of Bonfire…

I wish to come out in support of Harry Wicks who has been unfairly lambasted and ridiculed by two correspondents in your edition of November 6 for having the temerity to criticise the bonfire celebrations. I personally find the celebrations, as they are called, a drain on otherwise stretched resources, an evening of chaotic parking culminating in a mountain of rubbish to be cleared at an ungodly hour by street cleaners. Ah, say the societies, all caused by these nasty outsiders who don’t heed our message to stay away. They would if there were no celebrations.

What also gets me is that I have to put up with five seperate callers trying to sell me a programme at an ever-increasing price for ever-decreasing content, politely or otherwise. I do my bit for charity, but I choose which they are and just because they don’t benefit the town should not decrease their value. The unknown correspondent who is so in awe of the societies that he or she declines to have a name printed, is quite welcome to march to my house as I have provided my name and address. I can assure a similar welcome to that, which I give programme sellers.

Sussex Express, Friday, October 14, 2005


Let Us Educate Bonfire Hater…

It is sad to hear that Mr Wicks and his family find bonfire such a disturbing time. It is also surprising to hear such comments from a Lewesian. Perhaps if Mr Wicks and others who have similar feelings understood the reason behind November 5, then they may be a little more tolerant to bonfire and perhaps even enjoy it. This year we are celebrating 400 years since the discovery of the gunpowder plot. Not only is bonfire about the arrest of Guido Fawkes and his fellow conspirators, but it is an evening of celebration of Liberty and freedom.

Lewes is a town that is full of history and culture with many years of pagan rituals and festival. November 5 is an amalgamation of all of these and religious intolerances have long been forgotten with people from all cultures and religions welcome to join in the celebrations. Many hours are spent making the beautiful and spectacular costumes. Many hours are spent organising the event. We have support from other organisations such as St John Ambulance and the police, and a lot of money is raised for charity each year.

We ask this question – if bonfire was such a ghastly event filled with nasty yobs, then why is it so successful every year with thousands of people coming to the town to watch and even take part in the event? I call upon Mr Wicks to spend some time with myself and my society so that we may educate him about his home town in which he lives.

Sussex Express, Friday, October 14, 2005


Fireworks Exhibition Is Bang On…

Fireworks fans preparing for the biggest day of the calendar can see a new tribute to bonfire night. Photographer Marcus Taylor’s exhibition, Fire, features images of the sky, filled with fireworks. The display includes images taken around Lewes last year, along with firework displays from across Sussex, and goes on show at Thebes at Church Twitten, near Lewes House Gallery on October 25.

Fireworks Exhibition Is Bang On

Mr Taylor was taught to take pictures by his friend Andrew Wing. He could soon find himself on the other side of the camera as he trains to become an actor at Brighton’s academy of Creative Training. The display will remain on show throughout Guy Fawkes night until November 8.

The Argus, Monday, October 17, 2005


Clapton On Rocket FM…

Rocket FM, the community radio station for Lewes, is extending its reach. Rock legend Eric Clapton was interviewed by Rocket’s Derek Watts for a book project and the station will continue to interview notables from the area.

Eugene Sully of Channel 4’s Big Brother will be reporting for Rocket on November 5. Rocket goes to air on Saturday on 87.8FM

Sussex Express, Friday, October 21, 2005


I Know All About Bonfire…

Thank you, David Gale, for supporting my stand against Lewes Bonfire. The bonfire societies seem to be of the opinion that the whole town is behind them. This is not, and never has been, the case. Those actually involved in Bonfire are a minority. They make a disproportionately huge amount of unacceptable noise, their activities constitute what should be illegal safety hazards and they create havoc in homes where there are young children, old people and animals.

I Know All About Bonfire

The huge crowds who line the streets on the night are mostly outsiders (count them coming in by car, bus and train) – braying pseuds and banger-carrying lads looking for some action. How many are Lewesians? In my street we are all soundly battened down and doing our best to ignore these anorak pyromaniacs who, if they must continue an outdated tradition, should take their shabby show out of town.

Let them process around empty countryside and have their displays in an abandoned chalk quarry. Or, like some other towns, let them have a day-time event. The rest of us could get out of town in the morning and be back in time for tea after it’s all over.

Michelle Parsons is delightfully patronising in supposing I have so little grasp of local history that I don’t know what’s behind November 5. She invited me to spend time with her so that she may educate me about my ‘home town in which he lives’. No need, Michelle, I’ve been here for forty-odd years, done it, written about it, know every stone in every street – and got the T-shirt. She thinks that if I were to be taught about Bonfire (by her) I would be a little more tolerant – and perhaps even enjoy it. Not a hope.

Michelle, it may be noted, lives in Barcombe, well away from the thunderous noises and stampeding, yelling crowds charging past her house, well able to provide safe refuge for her animals (if she has time for any, given the ‘many hours spent making the most beautiful and spectacular costumes and organising the event’).

Finally, what exactly does she mean when she says the bonfire societies have support from St John Ambulance and the police. Support? These long-suffering people would, most likely, much rather be at home. As for her remark that a lot of money is raised for charity each year – I would happily give stacks of money to charity if Bonfire were banished. And, anyway, the sad folk who dress up in tatty bits and bobs to blow things up, while pretending to be serious-minded guardians of our liberty and freedom, would do it even if nobody gave a penny to charity.

Sussex Express, Friday, October 21, 2005



I agree with John Foster (October 14 edition) in enjoying the November 5 celebrations in Lewes and other organised displays elsewhere. What I and many others object to is the anti-social use of fireworks and I believe they should be banned except for licensed displays.

Anti Social

In the wrong hands they are simply another toy for anti-social morons and cause annoyance and distress to both people and animals alike. There are already some legal restrictions in force. I think we should report all incidents which contravene these regulations to the police, for it is these inconsiderate and irresponsible users that give bonfire a bad name.

Sussex Express, Friday, October 21, 2005


Nevill Bonfire Night…

Nevill Bonfire Night is tomorrow, Saturday, when the Nevill Juvenile Bonfire Society hold their annual show starting at 6.30pm from headquarters at St Mary’s church hall in Highdown Road. After visiting some of the local roads where the lighting of the firework piece will take place and the judging of the fancy dress held, they will return to headquarters until a grand procession at 8pm and ultimately to the bonfire site where the rest of the celebrations are held.

Bonfire Night Nevill NJBS Juvenile Society

The final item is the bonfire prayers at 10.15pm. All times are approximate. Bonfire programmes are still available from nevill newsagents and contain all the information needed for a great night out.

Sussex Express, Friday, October 21, 2005


For Fawkes Sake…

It’s not often that ICE is faced with the sight of hundreds of burning crosses carried by a sinister-looking army of people dressed as smugglers, cavaliers and bishops. But then again, when the good folk of Lewes in East Sussex hold their Bonfire Night celebrations, they don’t do things by half. Forget your old man struggling with the Catherine wheel and the dog getting chased around the garden by a Roman Candle; in Lewes, Bonfire Night makes a heavy week in Fallujah seem like a gentle massage in the Greenfields at Glastonbury. Wrapped up warm against the November chill, ICE is in town just to see how crazy Lewes Guy Fawkes celebrations night are.

For Fawkes Sake

Fireworks : Ever since 1605, bonfires have been lit to commemorate Guy Fawkes Night and the preservation of England as a largely Protestant country. Thankfully, the sectarian aspects of 5 November have now largely been forgotten, meaning that people of every religion can enjoy throwing Chinese bangers at small animals free of religious intolerance. In Lewes, however, the night still has a slightly unsavoury anti-Catholic bias, but that doesn’t seem to affect the spirits of the five bonfire societies who march around the town in a bizarre array of costumes, before heading off to set huge piles of wood ablaze.

We arrive in Lewes just before sunset and the town is already buzzing. The smell of gunpowder fills the air and the charming medieval streets are filling up with large numbers of people, many of whom are drinking cans of lager or bottles of cheap wine. Walking down the beautiful high street, we’re struck both by the huge police presence and the look of utter concentration that is etched onto the faces of those about to take part in the march. It feels less like a celebration and more like the moment before it all kicks off at Millwall versus West Ham.

For Fawkes Sake

Bad Jumpers : Our first destination is the narrow Cliffe High Street, a row of shops on the other side of the River Ouse from the main part of the town. Glancing up, we see a banner stretched across the road. It has the words ‘No Popery’ painted on it in massive letters. The street is crowded with out-of-town revellers and local participants in the parade, many of whom are wearing the sort of black and white striped jumpers actors used to wear in crap pirate films of the 50s. One local, Rod, fills ICE in on the roots of this particularly strange fashion.

“Back in the 1850s, the police wanted to ban the Lewes bonfire night, so they sent loads of coppers down to here to find out who was organising it. Everybody dressed up as smugglers so they’d all look the same. Since then, we’ve always dressed like this. We don’t like people telling us what to do here and if anybody really annoys us we just make an effigy of him and blow it up”

But it’s not all smugglers. Each society also has their own dress code, with some sporting old British army uniforms and others swanning about in colourful Ali Baba style finery. Suddenly, the ICE regulation purple shellsuit doesn’t seem so glamorous. What’s even less conducive to our well-being are the hundreds of earthquake-inducing bangers that are being let off around us. Forget the whimpering efforts supplied by British firework shops, these bastards could fell skyscrapers and wake the dead. And some fuckwitted goth with a skinhead and mad eyes is lighting them by the dozen!

Boom! : One goes off right by us, piercing our eardrums and causing more waves of distress in our bowels than ten packets of Ex Lax. We’re just about to threaten the weird looking bastard when we’re shoved out of the way by some beaut in a stripey jumper. “Get to the side of the road!” he shouts, before six lads race down the street at alarming speed pulling lit barrels of tar behind them. With absolutely no barriers to protect us, the racers rush past, the heat from the barrels scorching our faces. It’s very scary.

Bonfire : Next up is the main procession when every society walks around the Lewes streets before heading off to one of the five bonfires on the edge of town. For what seems like an eternity, hordes of people walk past us, some carrying banners, while others hold aloft burning crucifixes – a sight that sits uncomfortable with ICE’s liberal tendencies. A bloke dressed as a gay pirate doesn’t help either.

One local girl standing next to us assures us that no matter how scary it all looks, none of this means anything sinister. “My friend knows a Catholic and she’s involved with one of the parades, no-one’s bothered about that sort of thing anymore” Apart from the two old dears carrying big ‘No Popery’ signs that is. We decide to go and buy some overpriced fish and chips.

Weird Britain : A pall of smoke clouds the streets as crowds of people vacate the Town`s centre for the playing fields on the edge of Lewes. But at the bus station we noticed a gathering of imature knobs drinking Alco Pops and throwing bangers at each other, while gangs of visiting Japanese students with half-mast jeans and crazy haircuts shuffled by. Arriving at the Waterloo Bonfire Society Bonfire, we’re confronted with vast amounts of pissed-up revellers and a field that resembles Glastonbury after a six-day tropical storm. Paying one pound just for a cup of horrible tea that tastes of grit merely adds to our glum mood.

After two hours of waiting around watching drunken students fall over in the mud and scruffy fire-eaters show off, the two huge bonfires are finally lit and a wild array of fireworks are let off. For what seems like an age the night sky above Lewes is aglow with every colour imaginable, a feast for the eyes that makes you realise that there was life before telly. As the last firework is lit we make our way back to ICE mobile, exhilerated, scared and aghast at just how weird Britain is.

Ice Magazine November, 2005


400 Police On Bonfire Duty…

Around 400 police will be on duty in Lewes for the town’s Bonfire celebrations on November 5. More people than normal are expected because the Gunpowder Plot anniversary falls on a Saturday. Lewes Bonfire Council, which represents the town’s six bonfire societies, is urging people living outside the town not to come to the celebrations. Roads in the town are closed, meaning that there are virtually no parking facilities. Those using public transport are likely to find that it is very crowded and that they may have to queue for long periods to get to Lewes and, later to get home.

Said Bonfire Council secretary Keith Austin: ‘This can be an unpleasant experience, particularly when it is cold or raining, which is likely in November. Lewes Bonfire is a particularly unsuitable event for young children who are unlikely to get a view of the celebrations, and who may find the event confusing and frightening. Also children in pushchairs and buggies are vulnerable to injury due to the density of the crowds. We know from many years experience that the larger the crowd the more uncomfortable it is for spectators. We therefore urge people from outside the Lewes area to celebrate in their own neighbourhood on November 5’.

400 Police On Bonfire Duty

Changes in the usual arrangements include; Closure of Mayhew Way to cope with the increased numbers who might want to view the Waterloo fire site. Better signs to direct more visitors to the Borough and Commercial Square fire sites. An increase in police officers by about 50 to cater for increased numbers and to help the new procession routes of the re-formed Southover society. Police officers have been briefed to be ‘robust’ when dealing with firework offences, particularly where fireworks are being let off in the street and represent a threat to public safety. Police can, and will issue fixed penalty notices for such offences. This approach has been fully agreed with all the main bonfire societies which have been heavily involved in the planning process.

Superintendent Cliff Parrott said: ‘Another reason for the extra police numbers is to manage the crowds better at the foot of the High Street and in the precinct. This year we will be trying to keep a clear walkway in these areas throughout the night to enable the processions to keep to time, in turn reducing the risk posed by stationary processions waiting for the road to clear.’ ‘Church Twitten being closed to help in the management of crowds arriving from the direction of the station.

The combination of large crowds, fireworks, processions with flaming torches, and the tight streets of Lewes will always pose a risk to public safety. The societies, police, councils and the other emergency services plan throughout the year to make the event as safe as possible but we still rely on the public to exercise common sense, to comply with directions given and to respond sensibly to any incident that might arise. We are well aware that with such an event it is impossible to plan for all eventualities’

Sussex Express, Friday, October 28, 2005


Juveniles Jubilant…

Nevill Juvenile Bonfire Night staged an impressive show at Lewes on Saturday, including a fancy dress competition, processions and a set piece of the Martyrs Memorial. Other set pieces included the old Houses of Parliament being blown up and scenes from the Battle of Trafalgar. This year Nevill Juvenile Society members will be joining South Street Bonfire Society for the November 5 celebrations.

Juveniles Jubilant

Sussex Express, Friday, October 28, 2005


Bonfire Council Fancy Dress…

Class 1 Boys Under 5 years: 1, Thomas Winter Zulu, Borough; 2, Lucas Todd Smith, South Street; 3, William Sim Viking, Cliffe.

Class 2 Girls Under 5 years: 1, Dani Penfold, Tartar, Waterloo; 2, Shannon Sedar, Zulu, Waterloo; 3, Naomi Penfold, Tartar, Waterloo.

Class 3 Boys 5 to 9 years: 1, Jake Sim, , Viking, Cliffe; 2, Edward Jackman, Zulu, Waterloo; 3, Thomas Hook, Tudor, Waterloo.

Class 4 Girls 5 to 9 years: 1, Millie Penfold, Tartar, Waterloo; 2, Martha Smith, Madamme Pompadour, Cliffe; 3, Phoebe Brown, Victorian Skater, Cliffe.

Class 5 Boys 10 to 15 years: 1, Simon Funnell, Tartar, Borough; 2, Solomon Smith, Venetian, Cliffe; 3, Jack Brown, Zulu, Borough.

Class 6 Girls 10 to 15 years: 1, Natasha King, Tartar, Borough; 2, Hannah Martin, Victorian, Waterloo; 3, Louise Arnold, Tudor, Waterloo.

Class 7 Mixed Pairs: 1, Martha Smith and Solomon Smith, Venetians, Cliffe; 2, Sophie Penfold and Peter Penfold, Cavalier, Cliffe; 3, Natasha King and Simon Funnell, Tartar, Borough.

Class 8 Comic class: 1, Lucas Richardson and Cairan Richardson, Laurel and Hardy, Borough; 2, Owen sexton
Playford, Elf, Waterloo; 3, Elexi Sedar, Daddies Little Fertiliser, Waterloo.

Bonfire Council Fancy Dress


Class 1 Pioneer Cup: 1, Lewes Borough Bonfire Society, Zulus; 2, Cliffe Bonfire Society, Vikings; 3, Waterloo Bonfire Society, Tartars.

Class 2a First Pioneer Male: 1, Mick Sexton, Zulu, Borough; 2, Geoff Burrow, Zulu, Borough; 3, Phil Lucas, Viking, Cliffe.

Class 2b First Pioneer Female: 1, Hilda Winter, Zulu, Borough; 2, Maureen Burrow, Zulu, Borough; 3, Gill Hobden, Indian, Commercial Square.

Class 3 Mixed Pairs: 1, Melanie Scott and Karl Smith, Venetian, Cliffe; 2, Grant Oliver and Katie Oliver, Dragon and Lady, Cliffe; 3, Clare Brown and Roger Crouch, Moors and Saracen, Cliffe.

Class 4 Second Pioneer Group: 1, Greek and Roman World, Waterloo; 2, Moors and Saracens, Cliffe; 3, Tudors, Borough.

Class 5a Second Pioneer Male: 1, Cliff Wright, Moor, Cliffe; 2, Jonathan Tompsett, Roman, Waterloo; 3, Andrew Walpole, Roman, Waterloo.

Class 5b Second Pioneer Female: 1, Clare Brown, Moor, Cliffe; 2, Dot Tillston, Tudor, Borough; 3, Trudy Furnell, Saloon Tart, Commercial Square.

Class 6a Best Fancy Dress Male: 1, Glen Rummery, 1793 Hussar, Cliffe; 2, Jon Hearn, Hunter, Commercial Square; 3, Karl Smith, Venetian, Cliffe.

Class 6b Best Fancy Dress Female: 1, Lyn Hastings, Geisha Girl, Borough; 2, Sharon Reid, Pirate, Commercial Square; 3, Katie Oliver, Dragoons Lady, Cliffe.

Class 7b Open Costume Female: 1, Lynne Smart, Tudor, Waterloo; 2, Kim Wells, Tudor, Waterloo; 3, Dawn Hall, Egyptian, Commercial Square.

Class 8a Best Dress of the evening Male: 1, Cliff Wright, , Moor, Cliffe; 2, Mick Sexton, Zulu, Borough; 3, Glen Rummery, 1793 Hussar, Cliffe.

Class 8b Best Dress of the evening Female: 1, Lyn Hastings, Geisha Girl, Borough; 2, Clare Brown, Moor, Cliffe; 3, Hilda Winter, Zulu, Borough.

The Points Cup: 1, Cliffe 41.5; 2, Lewes Borough 39, 3, Waterloo 25.5, 4, Commercial Square 6; 5, South Street 2.

Phillip Hall was Mc. Childrens presentations were made by Christine Armitage and the adults by Cllr Merlin Milner. Judges were members of the Lions, Lionesses and the operatic society. Organisers said there was an excellent standard of costume and it was the best attendance for many years.

Sussex Express, Friday, October 28, 2005


Points From Your Bonfire Letters…

I have lived in Lewes all my life and I have been a member of my bonfire society since birth, and I honestly believe that those who dislike the celebration simply just do not understand it. Bonfire is an ancient tradition and it brings many people together to enjoy themselves for one night in a way that is absolutely unique to this part of the world.

Points From Your Bonfire Letters

To cease, or reduce the annual celebrations would be nothing more than a desecration of our history – and a great shame. It seems to me that these self-professed enemies of bonfire are simply bitter because other people have found a way to have fun which these Bonfire Scrooges cannot comprehend. If you don’t like it, then don’t live here.

Sussex Express, Friday, October 28, 2005


Points From Your Bonfire Letters…

Having carried out my own research five years ago through writing my dissertation for my degree I have already established the social impacts that November 5th celebrations has on Lewes. I can inform you that the majority of Lewes is in full support of the night with the main positive factors being good for community spirit, upholding traditions and the enjoyment and the fun atmosphere that it created on the night.

Yes, Mr Wicks, you are absolutely right, the celebrations do attract crowds and like any festival or event there is always somebody that behaves in an anti-social manner. We do not condone this behaviour or encourage members of the public to carry fireworks. Safety for everybody is essential. Mr Wicks is a very fortunate man to be able to live in Lewes. I for one cannot afford to. It is a sought after area to live and it is an absolute shame that Mr Wicks does not gain any pleasure out of this historical tradition.

However, I must add that the celebrations of November 5th have been going on a few more years than Mr Wicks has lived in Lewes. Bonfire Night will happen come rain or shine every year as it has done for the last 400 years and as the act of parliament stated ‘An Acte for a Publique Thancksgiving to Almighty God everie yeere of the Fifte day of November’

Sussex Express, Friday, October 28, 2005


Points From Your Bonfire Letters…

Although I do not agree with everything Harry Wicks writes, I admire his courage in expressing such politically incorrect opinions. It is absolutely right to affirm that not everyone in Lewes is in favour of a production which, however picturesque and historically significant, is completely over the top. It is great that the Bonfire Society members have such a good time but do they ever stop to consider the effect the sheer volume of explosive noise has on ordinary people (and their animals)?

We feel very sorry for the residents who have to put up with all the inconvenience (noise, litter, pollution) but from our house in Ringmer, it feels like World War III: the sky is red, the air pulsates and echoes with explosions and one is at a loss to know how to deal with terrified dogs. Instead of endeavouring to make the event bigger and better each year, could the organisers not try to scale it down a little?

Sussex Express, Friday, October 28, 2005


Points From Your Bonfire Letters…

I am not intending to trade insults with Mr Wicks rather ridiculous ramblings, nor attempt to educate him. The closed mind is impossible to open, Is it not rather strange though Mr Wicks, that you have chosen to live in a town that is full of hordes of ghastly people, petty pseuds and nasty yobs that offend you so much?

In my experience, there is likely to be more trouble on the average Friday night after pub closing than there ever is on November 5th. Finally Mr Wicks, you may or may not be accorded the honour of becoming an enemy of bonfire this year, but wherever you are, the Bonfire boys and girls, in their charity shop ‘tat’, of all ages and all denominations, will raise their hip flasks and salute you. Albeit unintentionally, you have made a wonderful contribution to our night of spectacle and splendour. Cheers Mr Wicks!

Sussex Express, Friday, October 28, 2005


Points From Your Bonfire Letters…

It is a pity that the interesting debate over Lewes Bonfire has descended into personal vitriolic – Harry Wicks and Michelle Parsons are entitled to their opinions and doubtless their points are equally valid but there is no need for anyone to be patronising. Mr Wicks should be pleased that anyone took the time and trouble to respond to his comments in the first place, thus opening a discussion on a topic dear to most Lewesian’s hearts – to have provoked no reaction at all would have presumably been rather less than gratifying.

And for the record, although I understand and appreciate the reasons for Harry’s resentment, at least it’s only one night a year – and it is great fun to ‘blow things up’ once in a while! I grew up in Lewes, so I should Know.

Sussex Express, Friday, October 28, 2005


Guy Fawkes The Musical…

On November 5, Bonfire Night festivities in Lewes and throughout the country will be marked by even more celebration than usual. The reason? This year commemorates the four hundredth anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, and coinciding with it comes the long-awaited release of the full studio CD of the Guy Fawkes musical – Remember Remember!

The musical takes us through the complicated and little-known history of the infamous plot with a stunning blend of songs that perfectly convey both the political intrigue of the time and the emotional intensity of the plotters and their intended victims. Anyone wanting a concise summing-up of what actually happened all those centuries ago – along with a cracking evening’s entertainment – could do no better than to seek out the show.

Guy Fawkes The Musical

The newly released double CD contains all 25 songs from the show, and features Ringmer resident Mark Yexley singing the role of Nick Owen, a genuine historical character whose involvement in the plot was to build the priest-holes where many Catholics hid from the authorities.

The show is the work of the Brighton based writing team of Jasper Kent, Robert Piatt and Robert Starr and plans are afoot for a London production in the near future, followed by a national tour. Copies of the double CD are available now from the show, website,, at a special introductory price. Remember Remember is a great show and a great way to get to grips with what the celebrations are all about.

The Magazine October 28, 2005



Fire, which illustrates the work of photographer Marcus Taylor, is coming to the Thebes Gallery in Lewes until November 8. The ephemeral lives of fireworks are metamorphosed and vivified in images, which record detail usually escaping the human eye. Many were captured in Lewes last year, but the stock comes from displays all over Sussex over the last year.

The Magazine, October 28, 2005


70,000 People Expected To Mark 400th Anniversary Of Gunpowder Plot…

Up to 70,000 people are expected to turn out for one of the biggest bonfire nights in the country this weekend. The bonfire societies of Lewes are busy preparing for their busiest night of the year as they put the finishing touches to their effigies and spectacular firework displays. Here, The Argus brings you the definitive guide to Bonfire Night in Lewes.

The streets of Lewes will be lined with people on Saturday as the bonfire societies celebrate the 400th anniversary
of the Gunpowder Plot. Thousands are expected to witness the traditional event to mark the ill-fated attempt of
Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.

Keith Austin, secretary of Lewes Bonfire Council, which co-ordinates the activities of the town’s six bonfire societies, said: “We really do try to attract local people. We have to include places like Brighton as being local but we don’t want people coming down from London. Visitors to the town need to know that they are responsible for their own safety. The overcrowded points are at the War Memorial and Cliffe High Street.”

“There are 31 processions and five fire sites this year so it will be impossible for people to see everything. It’s going to be a spectacular event with spectacular costumes in every society and amazing music. Most of the societies have spent about £10,000 on their event but some have spent more and some have spent less”.

The Argus, Wednesday, November 2, 2005


Burning Desire To Celebrate…

Safety Tips: Never bring your own fireworks; Never pick up discarded fireworks or torches; It will be a long evening, which may be wet and cold. Bring plenty of warm clothing and comfortable shoes; Do not bring animals with you or children who are young enough to be in pushchairs; If driving, remember parking restrictions will be in place from 5pm until the early hours. There will be little parking available, with all procession streets off limits. Police have vowed to tow away any cars parked illegally or obstructing processional routes.

There will be thousands waiting to head home. Be prepared for a long wait. Police have established safety zones, which are places where people can be evacuated and access is available for emergency services. The locations are St Nicholas Lane, Station Street, Court Road and Mountfield Road. Safety leaflets are available from local stations, Lewes tourist information office and police on the night. Lewes town is closed to motor vehicles from 5pm until 1.30am. On-street parking is restricted on many roads. Travel with others wherever possible because spaces are limited.

Burning Desire To Celebrate

Connex will lay on special services to meet the demand but trains will be very crowded. Check train times with your local station or National Rail inquiries. Try to avoid the peak periods. There will be a queuing system in operation outside Lewes station. You will only be able to join the queue from the Lansdown Place end of Station Road. Last services depart between midnight and 12.30am depending on your destination. Do not join the queues too late or you may miss your train.

The Argus, Wednesday, November 2, 2005



Exuberantly Dressed Commercial Square Juniours…

Bob Elliston from Eastbourne sent Rouser this photograph of exuberantly dressed Commercial Square Juniors.
It was taken in the function room at the Elephant and Castle, probably in 1938.

Bob suggests the Tommy and Charlie Chaplin costumes reflect concerns with German aggression. He says:
“The warrior with shield? Welfare, Annie Breeds behind drummer girl, front row 4th from left Terry Burchett of
Lancaster Street Stores with his mother behind. Dutch girl grandaughter of W G Pelham, St Johns Terrace
Newsagents. Drummer boy Trevor Parsons Lancaster Street and Darts player Jim Wickens of Wickens Stores
Lancaster Street who loaned the picture.

Commercial Square is this year celebrating its 150th anniversary.

Sussex Express, Friday, November 4, 2005
Pledge To Target Bonfire Rowdies…

With as many as 40,000 people expected to crowd into Lewes town centre tomorrow (Saturday) for Bonfire Night,
police are warning that they will crackdown hard on any outbreaks of misbehaviour.

At the same time, the bonfire societies, in a bid to keep crowds to manageable proportions, are urging out-of-
towners to stay away altogether. Inspector Jeff Woodall told the Express this week: “We aim to nip any unruly
behaviour in the bud. There will be 400 police on the streets and we are determined not to allow the activities of
a few to ruin it for everyone else. A few stupid incidents could turn into something much more serious, given the
size of the crowds we could be having on the streets”.

The throwing of fireworks, either from the crowd or into them, will not be allowed on the grounds of public safety.
Those spotted in the act will be lucky to get away with an £80 fixed penalty ticket.

In the run up to Bonfire Night more than 166 fireworks were seized by police when the owners were seen using them
in a potentially dangerous manner. Any physical or verbal violence will be swiftly dealt with. The fear is that any such
incidents could lead to a very dangerous situation, if allowed to escalate. Police will be out en-masse on mobile and
foot patrols.

Every public house in the town centre will be inspected at least once on Bonfire Night and police aim to have
officers stationed outside some pubs for the duration of the festivities. Added Inspector Woodall: “Also, if we see
people drinking to excess in the streets, we will take action to ensure the peace of mind of families and other people.
As far as the fire sites are concerned, they will be marshalled as usual by the societies themselves, although we
will be on hand, if needed. Much of our presence in Lewes in such numbers is to act as a deterrent to crime, but
if we see it happening, we will take action. We want it to be a peaceful and happy night for everyone”.

And Lewes Bonfire Council, which represents the town’s six bonfire societies, has reiterated its plea to people
living outside the town not to come to the bonfire celebrations. Roads in the town will be closed and those using
public transport are likely to find it very crowded.

Said secretary Keith Austin: “This can be an unpleasant experience particularly when it is cold or raining. Lewes
Bonfire is also a particularly unsuitable event for young children who are unlikely to get a view of the celebrations
and who may find the event confusing and frightening. Also children in pushchairs and buggies are vulnerable to
injury due to the density of the crowd, which should be bigger than usual on a Saturday. We know from many
years experience that the larger the crowd the more uncomfortable it can become for spectators. We therefore
urge people from outside the Lewes area to celebrate in their own area”.

Sussex Express, Friday, 4 November 2005
Jueniles Display…

Nevill Juvenile Bonfire Society will be kicking off tomorrow (Saturday) evening’s Lewes Bonfire Night proceedings
at 5.15pm with an aerial firework display from behind the Martyrs Memorial.

Said Nevill secretary Mike Fisk: “It felt appropriate, we being the only juvenile bonfire society, that the display
should be held at the start of the evening and kick off what will be a memorable evening”.

Sussex Express, Friday, November 4 2005
Gunpowder Plot…

Lewes’ oldest bonfire society, Borough, paid a visit to the Houses of Parliament to see a special exhibition to
commemorate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the gunpowder plot. After the tour, the society gathered
outside the exhibition in Westminster Hall where bonfire prayers were recited.

Sussex Express, Friday, November 4, 2005
Intolerance Of Bonfire Supporters…

Fortunately I live outside Lewes, so I’m not too affected by the disruption referred to by recent correspondents.
What I can’t avoid is the atmosphere of intolerance that pervades bonfire. The No Popery sign that gets draped
over Cliffe High Street sickens me. The burning of effigies and the changing of nasty rhymes is offensive. I fail
to see the funny side when supposedly good people chant ‘Burn Pikey burn’ at a caravan with pictures of
children in the window, and then burn an effigy of a really good person who had the courage to object.

Why can’t the people of Lewes see this for what it is? Why are local churches and politicians so silent; keeping
their heads well down it seems?

Would’nt it be wonderful if we could leave the hatreds of the past behind and move on to a more wholesome
celebration focussed in the present; something inclusive, generous and warm-hearted?

Kevin Froude, Offham.

Sussex Express, Friday, November 4, 2005


Nanny-State Police Spoil Lewes Fun…

I have attended almost every Lewes Bonfire Night since I moved to Sussex in 1976. It has become one of the most
enjoyable and interesting evenings in the calendar.

But it now seems Sussex Police wants to ruin the event for anybody who has to travel there, even the short
distance from Brighton.

This became clear on arrival at London Road Station, where there was a significant police and security presence,
preventing you from gaining access to the platform unless you first crossed the bridge over the railway line, then
crossed the line again via the underpass, at which point you were then able to board a half-empty train.

On arrival at Lewes, you were unable to head directly for the processions because roads had been blocked off
for no apparent reason. When you were finally able to get to the High Street, the police prevented you from
heading down to The Bridge because of ‘the crush’ – as I was informed by a supercilious police officer, despite the
vast numbers of people clearly leaving the area.

You were then stuck, unable to cross the High Street, and because of the ‘herding’ and closed side roads, you
were also unable to re-trace your steps. It took more than 90 minutes to travel less than a mile to meet my

I assume Lewes residents want people from the rest of Sussex to have fun and contribute to local charities and
the economy but I will be seriously considering my options next year after this over-zealous policing.

Keith Barnes Preston Drove, Brighton

The Argus, Tuesday, November 8, 2005
ID Cards Are A Burning Issue…

Congratulations to Cliffe Bonfire Society for its magnificent effigy of Home Secretary Charles Clarke, burned on the
Lewes bonfire last week. Clarke’s ID card scheme is a threat to our freedoms and rights and we will be branded
for life.

The figure which gets put on Lewes bonfire is an indication of who is public enemy number one. The Government
and our local ID card-supporting MPs should take note that the burning of Mr Clarke follows effigies of George
Bush and Osama bin Laden.

Andy Player, Western Street, Brighton

The Argus, Thursday, November 10, 2005
Penned In To Celebrate Our Freedom…

On November 5, Lewes is normally the best place to be in the world but in recent years, the town has become
more and more like a police state.

The night is intended to celebrate the freedoms which we have fought for over the centuries and fun is poked at
figures who seek to curtail them. So the ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to policing the event seems badly out of
place – and a lot of it seems to cause more problems than it prevents.

Why the obsession with blocking off so many of the town’s roads? Surely this just creates more of a crush in
the busiest areas. Many residents were not even allowed to walk down their own streets. “But my front door is
there” I heard one say to an officer, pointing to his house ten metres away on the other side of a pointless
barrier. “You’ll still have to go around like everyone else, sir”, came the reply.

I normally stick up for the police when they are facing criticism but this is one night when I think they go out
of their way to make themselves look stupid. Because the majority of officers are not from Lewes, they are also
unable to give directions to the public. When I was young, I remember being able to stand with a sparkler or pick
up a torch after a procession had passed. Now, the crowd is subjected to tedious public announcements over
the tannoy.

While I can understand Lewes gets crowded on bonfire night and there are health and safety issues to be considered,
the police response was still over-the-top and can be counter-productive. How about giving us some of our freedoms
back and letting us enjoy our town’s celebrations?

M. Richmond, Grange Road, Lewes

The Argus, Thursday, November 10, 2005
Bonfire Festivities At Risk From Hate Laws…

Bonfire celebrations that involve burning an effigy of a pope face censorship under controversal laws planned by
the Government. Lewes attracted a record 65,000 people on Saturday to watch the town’s five main societies
commemorate the burning of the Protestant martyrs in Lewes from 1555 to 1557, during the reign of Mary Tudor,
a Roman Catholic.

Bonfire societies walk through the streets carrying placards with the words: ‘No Popery’. The event has since been
widened to include the Guy Fawkes gunpowder plot. The celebrations have been criticised in the past for
continuing 400-year old sectarian traditions such as burning effigies of Pope Paul V, who was pontiff in 1605.

The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill would create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred and could affect
the festivities. Keith Austin, secretary of Lewes Bonfire Council, which oversees the running of the event, said the
annual celebrations might become a test case. He said: “It is something that has to be investigated but we won’t
know if we will be affected until the law actually passes. The law will be there to stop hatred but there is
absolutely no hatred of religion at Lewes; 99 per cent of the Bonfire Boys have no ties with the Church whatsoever.
It is nothing really to do with religion now”.

Mr Austin said the modern festivities were anything but sectarian and a burning of certain effigies was merely a
tradition that had run for decades. This year, an effigy of a pope holding a staff and sitting on a throne, was wheeled
to Cliffe Bonfire Society’s ticket only site where hundreds gathered to watch him being blown up with fireworks.

Ric Newth, chairman of the society, said the society burns effigies only of Pope Paul V. He said: “We are
remembering a historical event. There are already too many individuals who are prepared to rewrite history for the
sake of political correctness”.

The Argus, Thursday, November 10, 2005
Marking A Milestone With Style…

Bonfire celebrations lit up the Sussex sky as thousands celebrated the 400th anniversary of the gunpowder plot.
More than 65,000 people packed into Lewes to watch processions lit by flaming torches, squeeze down the narrow

The town’s five main bonfire societies were joined by others from around the county for a blaze of fire and burning
barrels. A 20ft effigy of Home Secretary Charles Clarke with the scales of justice in one hand and an ID stamp in
the other was wheeled through the town before being blown up. It was the highlight of a spectacular evening of
revelry which included burning crosses and people dressed as smugglers, vikings, zulus, wolves and Red Indians
marching to brass and steel bands.

The 400th anniversary and the fact that November 5 fell on a Saturday drew 30,000 more people than last year.
The effigy of Charles Clarke was made by the Cliffe Bonfire Society, which chose the minister as its public enemy
number one because of the Governments proposals to introduce ID cards. Other enemies included the Pope, who
took his usual place in the festivities.

An effigy of the pontiff holding a staff and sitting in a throne was wheeled to Cliffe’s ticket-only site where hundreds
gathered to watch him burn.

Waterloo Bonfire Society wheeled out an effigy of Ghengis Khan with a decapitated head in his left hand and two
others by his feet. Lewes Borough Bonfire Society paraded Churchill the dog adorned with a Union Jack on its
face and the slogans “Stop terrorists having a blast” and “Terrorist warning. The Mutts Nutts”.

Whenever one of the many effigies of Guy Fawkes was paraded through the streets, roars of “Burn him” came
from the excited crowds. Commercial Square Bonfire Society created a giant caricature of Lord Nelson to
commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. Unlike most of the effigies, Nelson was greeted with
a flood of cheers as he was wheeled along wearing a red sash across its torso and Admirals headgear.

Dressed as Elvis Presley in a dazzling white suit, one member of Commercial Square Bonfire Society set fire to a
white guitar with Chinese firecrackers for frets in front of an ecstatic audience, which watched with sheer delight
as the instrument blew up.

Other attractions included rolling tar barrels, a Ghurka band and wreath-laying at the War Memorial. Although
people were dissuaded from travelling to Lewes amid fears of dangerous crowd congestion, thousands ignored
the warnings to share in the celebrations.

By 5pm the streets were crammed and police were telling people to stay on the pavements to allow the processions
to pass safely. People craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the processions, with many others scaling
traffic lights or watching through windows and from balconies.

All five societies, which included South Street, put on a spectacular display to commemorate Guy Fawkes 1605
plot and the Protestant martyrs burnt outside the Star Inn in Lewes in the 16th century.

Shirley French, 58, from Lewes, at the event with her husband and four friends said: “I really enjoy the spectacle
and tradition of Lewes bonfire and it must not be allowed to die. It’s absolutely barking mad but something that is
in Lewes people’s blood”.

Hilary Botting, 36, who dressed as an American Civil War Confederate for the Commercial Square procession, said:
“This has been the best year ever. The fact it is our society’s 150th anniversary makes it even more special”.

Other torchlight processions took place at Battel and Lindfield and there was a grand fireworks display at Thomas
a Becket Middle School, Worthing.

The Argus, Monday, November 7, 2005


Plotting The Plot…

The full studio CD of the Guy Fawkes musical Remember! Remember! has been released to coincide with the
400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot. The musical takes us through the complicated and little-known
history of the infamous plot with a stunning blend of songs that perfectly convey both the political intrigue of the
time and the emotional intensity of the plotters and their intended victims. Anyone wanting a concise summing up
of what actually happened all those centuries ago – along with a cracking evening’s entertainment – could do no
better than to seek out the show.

The newly released double CD contains all 25 songs from the show, and features Haywards Heath’s Mike
MacKenzie singing the role of Lord Cecil, the Kings spymaster, whose job it was to track down the plotters and
save Parliament.

The show is the work of the Brighton based writing team of Jasper Kent, Robert Platt and Robert Starr and plans
are afoot for a London production in the near future, followed by a national tour.

The Magazine, November 10, 2005
Rocket FM Thanks…

May I express warmest thanks to all those who have helped and supported Rocket FM Lewes in our fifth
birthday year and during our successful autumn broadcast, including Lewes Town Council, Harverys Brewery,
BBC Southern Counties Radio and all our advertisers, volunteers, donors, guests and, of course, our listener!

After a breather, planning will start for the 2006 season and new volunteers will be most welcome.

Sussex Express, Friday, November 11, 2005
Oh Happy Day…

It is tipping it down with rain, there are some morons letting off fireworks, shame they are not damp squibs, but
then again maybe they are, but I have a smile as wide as the Ouse. Why? Because its November 6th. One of
the better days of the year because Lewes can now return to some sort of normality now the saddoes have
put their costumes away for another year and wear normal attire.

Mind you, I suspect some will sit in pubs extolling what a great night was had by all and no doubt preparing for
next year. Me I also had a great night looking forward to today. I now have fifty one weeks and six days before
I become miserable again and have to see people dressed as bumble bees on the streets first thing in the

Oh Happy Day

David Gale, Lewes

Sussex Express, Friday, November 11, 2005
Curb Numbers…

I am a third generation Lewes Bonfire Girl of more than 50 years and I do not remember seeing such large crowds
as were at Lewes last Saturday. There were simply too many people in the town. Something must be done
to limit these numbers before ‘our’ bonfire night is ruined.

Reducing the number coming by train is one suggestion, are there any more? I must say the vast majority of
the crowd were good natured and appreciative of the spectacle they were seeing, however, I am finding more
and more people (quite often under the influence of drink) spilling onto the road getting aggressive, and not
moving when asked.

These people do not seem to realise how much hard work is carried out throughout the year by all the Bonfire
societies to organise November 5. The procession routes for this one night of the year belong to all Bonfire
Boys and Girls and if those people want to walk on the road why don’t they make a costume, and join a
bonfire society, maybe then they would realise how annoying it is when members of the public get in the way.

Marilyn Penfold, Uckfield

Sussex Express, Friday, November 11, 2005
Clemcy For Guy Fawkes…

Oh Dear. We do seem to be becoming a nation of kill joys. I do agree in the not too distant past there was a lot
of bigotry in Lewes regarding Roman Catholics, I am glad to say that has now gone, the No Popery Banner
refers back 400 years NOT now.

As a practicing Roman Catholic, I have taken no offence at anything I have seen at Lewes in the past! This year,
when Guy passed by I shouted ‘Free Him and everyone laughed. On his way back people shouted ‘Clemency,
free him’. People I didn’t know.

There was a lot of good humour, a lot of fun, obviously a lot of work done by the Bonfire societies. Remarks I
have heard away from Lewes, have been very negative, and, it’s been very obvious that those people have not
been to Lewes and seen all the families young and old who take part having a great family occasion.

It is a generous, and warm hearted occassion. A very big thank you Bonfire societies for making me and my
family, all practicing Catholics, and, live in Lewes, so happy. To the others, I say ‘Lighten Up’

Paul Cosham, Telscombe Cliffs

Sussex Express, Friday, November 11, 2005
Bonfire – All About Freedom…

I have been reading the recent correspondence about Lewes Bonfire with some amusement. I feel however
that Harry Wicks is missing one important point. Here in this country we have the freedom to have these
discussions about Bonfire or any other subject. Even now, in many countries freedom of speech and freedom
to express one’s feelings is either censored or forbidden.

No, Mr Wicks the Lewes Bonfire societies are not of the opinion that the whole of the town is behind them. On
the contrary we welcome the fact that everyone in our town has the freedom of choice to have opposing views.

I dare say, that if a survey was conducted in the town, about half of the residents might indicate support for
Bonfire, there must be at least 3,500 people who are members of a Bonfire society in Lewes, that is quite a
substantial number and I wonder many Lewes residents are now Lewes born and bred.

Just as we have the right to celebrate on November 5, people have the right to oppose our views. Lewes Bonfire
remembers those that gave us this freedom. Mr Wicks has the right not to remember them or to remember
them in a different way, that’s his choice.

The indiscriminate letting off of fireworks about the town has nothing to do with the Lewes Bonfire societies, but,
of course as Mr Wicks has lived in the town for forty odd years, he should know that. I must admit, I remember as
a little boy our grandfather actively encouraged us to let off fireworks leading up to the fifth. I dare say that would
be frowned upon now.

Paul Mockford, Chairman, Lewes Bonfire Council

Sussex Express, Friday, November 11, 2005

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