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Sussex Express Report 2000 - Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations
March 27, 2014 at 8:05 pm by v
Just The Tonic Town Needed!…
Fire triumphed over flood during Saturday’s superb Bonfire Night in Lewes. Four out of the five bonfire displays went ahead – the South Street site on the Railway Land was flooded out – and the rain miraculously held off for the night. The crowds mercifully stayed away and this gave the celebrations a sense of ease and relaxation for spectators which has been missing in recent years. Police estimates put the attendances at between 10,000 and 15,000. About 3,000 people used the train service. Only two people were arrested, and two cautioned, for letting off fireworks in the street.
Said Inspector Neil Moscrop: “There was real concern on our part for safety at the fire sites and we are grateful numbers were down. There was some stupid behaviour from visitors but it was nipped in the bud early”. There were 36 injuries. Four people were hurt at the Cliffe bonfire site (switched to the Covent Field) when fireworks came out at the wrong angle from the main tableau. The injuries – relatively minor; one person was kept in hospital over-night – were to bonfire members standing in their own section which was at least 80 metres away from the tableau.
Said Chairman Andy Freeman: “Accidents like that happen from time to time and we shall check the situation out. We are happy with our safety distances”. Police planning manager Ian Hodgson, confirmed that none of the 36 injuries were serious. “The crowds were very manageable”, he added. “It was very much better for the people of Lewes, and more relaxed in every way. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. They were good natured and comfortable and able to move around the town”. There were 250 police officers on duty and, if crowds continue to stay away, there could be still fewer patrolling Lewes Bonfire Night in later years.
‘The Streets Were Ours Again’…
Lewes took a night off from its flooding blues on Saturday to celebrate the Fifth in traditional style. And while the rain and wind miraculously held off, the societies once more did the town proud with a display of majesty and grandeur. The crowds thankfully stayed away. It was the smallest number of visitors for decades – between 10,000 and 15,000. But there were still 36 injuries.
A police spokesman said only 250 officers were drafted in to cover the bonfire celebrations. “We are delighted that so many people had stayed away, leaving the streets for local people”, he said. “It was delightfully clear of crowds. It made things a lot easier for everybody”.
Cliffe made a close to the chest political point with a ‘Mandy’ getting a whacking from Gordon Brown. It also put on a stupendous bonfire display.
Commercial Square’s fantastic costumes and spectacular fireworks provided the lift Lewes was waiting for after the recent devastating storms. And the society also brought a smile to bonfire goers faces with this year’s cheeky tableau featuring Prince Charles and Camilla – entitled Looney and the Beast. The society’s seven processions were led by the Indian 1st Pioneers with their Native American head-dresses and followed by the 2nd Pioneers in costumes from the American Civil War.
South Street’s tableau would have been Tony Blair, dressed in Roman garb, being stabbed in the back – a la ‘Et Tu Brute’ – a reference to Gordon Brown’s aspirations to the top office. But it was not made public because of the floods. Keith Muddle has been Chief organiser of the main tableau for the past 30 years. However, the cancellation of the main tableau caused by the floods meant that the tableau king was able to spend the evening with the family.
Borough was able to make light of this year’s fuel disaster with a 10 foot high empty petrol pump as their effigy. Their magnificent firework display cost around £2,500 and was a real hit with the crowds.
Waterloo’s effigies of Pikachu, Poke ball and Squirtle – from the children’s cartoon and computer game, Pokemon – were burned along with the traditional tableau of Guy Fawkes. It was a quiet night but one that the people of Lewes relate to for the first time in many years.
As one local resident said: “The streets were ours once again. We are thankful for that because we have suffered the horrors of a flood. The last thing we needed was 60,000 uninterested visitors swamping the town”.
Defying Gravity After Last-Minute Switch…
Cliffe Bonfire Society literally blew the roof off Lewes with a bonfire display that defied belief. And the political message, as usual, defied the laws of libel. The society, 48 hours before lift-off, moved its fire site, courtesy of Lewes District Council, to the Convent Field. The traditional Ham Lane site was not in bad condition but had flooded on Monday and organisers accepted the alternative site offered by the council was a good idea.
The main set-piece was a vivid depiction of Gordon Brown beating a de-trousered Peter Mandleson (an ‘unconventional minister’) with a very large cane. Enemies of bonfire included Leaflet Ears and Porky Pies (a police enemy of bonfire) and Gordon and Mandy. A rubbish bin at the new fire site had an enigmatic notice that read: ‘This exclusive open-air toilet is reserved for the mayor”.
The society made 7,500 torches for its 1,000 members (capped at that limit) to carry during the night. The extravaganza included Vikings and Cavaliers and Roundheads, as well as a growing naval section and members of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, 95th Regiment, on foot, as well as smugglers. There were also ladies from Arthurian legends and members of Cliffe Fire Brigade. Bands included Tragic Roundabout, Ringwood Pipe Band, the 1066 Bonfire Band, the Expedient Brass Band and TS Sturdy.
Oldest society member taking part was Aubrey Taylor, 79, Captain of the barrels for the past 55 years. A special tribute in letters carried for last year’s President Reg Yarrow who died recently. Visiting societies were Nevill and East Hoathly. Archbishop in charge of the bonfire prayers was Paul White. The spectacular display used up £8,000 worth of fireworks. And what a display it was. The noise was deafening and the aerial display in the low lying reaches of the Convent Field took on gravity-defying levels.
Sadly, at the last minute, a number of people were injured by fireworks. A problem for those leaving was the narrowness of the exits. Many people were reduced to climbing up the steep slopes of the Convent Field. Charities being supported by Cliffe this year are St John Ambulance, the Fire Brigade Benevolent Fund, the Cancer Unit at the Royal Alexander Hospital, the Sussex Army Cadet Force and TS Sturdy NTIC.
Cheeky! Charles And Camilla Join The Parade…
Commercial Square’s fantastic costumes and spectacular fireworks provided the lift Lewes was waiting for after the recent devastating storms. And the society also brought a smile to bonfire goers faces with this year’s cheeky tableau featuring Prince Charles and Camilla – entitled Looney and the Beast. As per tradition the society’s year 2000 celebrations started with the children’s procession, the biggest ever, at its Elephant and Castle head- quarters – a good sign for the future of the society as it enters the new millennium.
Society Chairman Simon Newman said member enthusiasm never waned despite the ravages of the flood only weeks earlier. He said: “It was very much full steam ahead. We thought the town would need a lift after all the doom and gloom. People still want to enjoy themselves and carry on as normal”. The 600 strong Commercial Square procession, which included visiting societies from Newick, Robertsbridge and Hastings, was provided with musical accompaniment by the Brighton Silver Band, the Barcombe Scout Band, Eastbourne Scottish Pipe and Drum Band and the Hastings Corps of Drums. The Waldstadt Fager Band, from Lewes twin town Waldshut, also brought lively German tunes to the festivities.
Life-long member Bert Taylor, 84, was back for the first procession of the 21st Century. In contrast babes in Indian canoe shaped prams had their first taste of the Commercial Square tradition. Badge carrier at the front of the procession was the ironically named 6ft 6ins tall Tiny Tim. The society’s seven processions were led by the Indian 1st Pioneers with their Native American head-dresses and followed by the 2nd Pioneers in costumes from the American Civil War. The smugglers in their black and gold hooped jerseys formed the back ranks with fiery tar barrels. The society blazed through 6,000 torches and a unique 15ft Totem Pole amazed crowds who lined the streets on the dry and clear November evening.
As an additional mark of respect this year, the society marched to the War Memorial in darkness where commemorative crosses were set ablaze. The Archbishop, Paul Wheeler, conducted proceedings at the fire site where amazing effigies of Guy Fawkes and Pope Paul V were set ablaze and a spectacular fireworks display, under the direction of Craig Allen, lit the night skies. The evening was brought to an end with Auld Lang Syne, Land of Hope And Glory and a selection of traditional songs.
Amazing Night, Says Bonfire’s New Boy…
A heart-pumping, thrilling and totally dazzling display of colour, vibrancy and excitement gripped the throngs of spectators watching the Waterloo Bonfire Society celebrations. More than £4,000 worth of fireworks, orchestrated by 19-year old Nicholas Quinn, brought the November 4 Grand Procession spectacular to a dramatic and electrifying close. And it was hard to believe that just three weeks before, the Downs Road fire site was under six feet of water.
If any of the 3,000 spectators still had dampened spirits, they were momentarily forgotten as the effigies, Pikachu, Poke ball and Squirtle – all popular characters from the children’s cartoon and computer game, Pokemon – were burned. And in true tradition, the effigy of Guy Fawkes was later burned- after months of work by Justin Cedar, Chairman of set pieces. “It’s been totally superb”, said David Quinn, the Chairman of the society’s directors. “It has been better than in previous years – the weather has been good for a start. This year we have more than 400 members of the society, the best amount so far”.
Earlier in the evening, the sense of family tradition was overwhelming as children took centre-stage at the head of the society’s processional events. Wearing the traditional red and white hooped tops, they started their own personal procession in Market Lane, and marched down Fisher Street to the sound of the society’s King’s Division Band. They were followed by the ladies of the Waterloo Bonfire Society who brought a touch of class to the evening’s celebrations.
For the Grand Procession, members of the first pioneers wore the customary Mongolian Empire outfits, with traditional Greek and Roman World costumes featured by the second pioneers. Cries of ‘burn him’, ‘kill the Guy’ and ‘traitor’ were hurled at the street effigy of Guy Fawkes in his cart as it passed along North Street and West Street, heading back towards the headquarters in Market Lane.
“It’s been a really mad night”, said Martin Marsden, 23, from Eastbourne. “It’s my first Lewes Bonfire and the Waterloo procession has been really, really amazing”. And 24-year old Annette Johnson, traveled from Horsham especially to see the Waterloo procession. “A friend of mine had seen the Lewes Bonfire event in previous years and said Waterloo was one of the best”, she said. “I was totally amazed and dumb-struck throughout the fireworks. They must have been the best I have ever seen”.
The electrifying atmosphere, combined with amazing costumes, effigies and fireworks, made for a breathtaking evening. Months of hard work and dedication were torched and destroyed in a little over 30 minutes. The sight, sound, smell and taste of the Waterloo Bonfire Society’s pyrotechnic displays rounded off the first in what is hoped to be a long line of highly successful bonfire celebrations in the new millennium.
Tanks For The Memory – Fuel Crisis Cracker…
The recent fuel crisis wasn’t going to stop Borough Bonfire Society having a cracking good time on Saturday – their effigy was a 10ft petrol pump running on empty. The society’s 300-strong procession of members marched through the town in their traditional blue and white hoops, and were backed by Indians, the magnificent Zulus in full ceremonial dress, Tudor ladies and gentlemen, Pirates and smugglers.
It seemed everyone wanted a slice of the action, from four-month old Jasmine Vincent bedecked in Indian ceremonial dress, up to veteran John Hunnisett, 80 – who was this year taking part in his 76th bonfire parade – done up to the nines in the robes of King Henry VIII. John went on to win the best dressed male competition for a second year in succession. Best dressed female went to a Mrs Louis while the award for best dressed child went to Mille Stonell, who made her mark in an impressive Tudor outfit. The best visiting society was judged to be Littlehampton, and best dressed visitor was Uckfield Bonfire Society’s Josephine Rich.
The society’s brass and wind bands provided music for the evening’s parades. Accompanying Lewes Borough was a theatrical dance group from Yorkshire, Mr Fox. The black-robed, fox-masked members performed a tribal dance to drums through the town. As always the traditional burning key was carried by the Borough – a symbol of the Bonfire Boys freedom to take to the streets in 1850. A burning ‘1853’ figure was carried by the procession in celebration of the Borough Society’s year of formation.
Blazing tar barrels, reminiscent of those burned by the Bonfire Boys in 1829, were dragged through the street. In line with tradition, one tar barrel was thrown over the bridge into the River Ouse – a task performed for the 10th successive year by society member Chris Brown. The Borough’s top secret tableau, a light-hearted take on the fuel pumps which this year ran dry, was a hit with the crowds, but its existence was short-lived as it was ceremoniously burned shortly after making its grand appearance. Following the initial slow march to the War Memorial, a laurel wreath was laid by the society’s new President, Joyce Over, who took over from Eric Winter this year following his retirement. Kaley Sean Hunnisett carried the society’s badge.
The streets were packed with people, but police marshalls were on hand to ensure safety remained paramount. Toffee apple sellers, Clem Naylor and Toby Milner- Gulland, both 13, weaved their way through crowds to sell their wares at £1 a piece. At the end of the evening, Guy Fawkes and his conspirator Robert Catesby were burned, and the crowd was wowed with a magnificent £2,500 firework display. Twelve-year old Borough member, Alexander Ham, described the fireworks simply; “Brilliant”
Tableau King Keith Gets The Night Off…
A family on South Street enjoyed at least one small consolation during the area’s flood-affected bonfire celebrations. Keith Muddle has been Chief organiser of the main tableau for the past 30 years. However, the cancellation of the main display, caused by the floods, meant that the tableau king was able to spend the evening with his family. “We’ve been married for 32 years”, said wife Rosemary: “And I only remember seeing him once in that time on Bonfire Night”.
An unfortunate – or fortunate – by-product of producing South Street’s main attraction meant that Keith would spend all night in the field where the display would be burned. But the fact that the flooding meant this year’s performance was impossible gave Keith the chance to join the parade on Lewes’ streets. The intended tableau would have shown Prime Minister Tony Blair being stabbed in the back by his cabinet – a la ‘Et Tu Brute’ – presumably referring to Gordon Brown’s ambitions for top office.
A street tableau created by Bill Fuller reflected the town’s reactions to the floods, after his original was destroyed in last month’s deluge. The South Street resident created an Arc, with the town of Lewes safely protected inside. Landmarks including Lewes Castle, the Memorial and Brian the Snail, near the Cuilfail Tunnel. “Creating a replacement street tableau has been my therapy”, said Bill. He wouldn’t reveal what the original idea was, in case it could be used in next year’s display.
The children’s procession, the traditional curtain-raiser to the programme, included 17 blazing crosses in memory of religious martyrs burnt at the stake in Lewes. One hundred members from Fletching, Barcombe and Rye joined South Street’s celebrations, swelling numbers to more than 300. Members were dressed in costumes depicting the English Civil War, Siamese dancers, and, in the original Bonfire costume, smugglers. Captain of Bands was Georgina Wadey and Pioneer Chief was Caroline Prince. The illuminated badge was carried by Captain of Banners Gavin Newman.
Nearly 4,000 torches were made for South Street’s six processions. An additional procession was included, from Railway Lane, to compensate for the loss of the tableau and firework display. The Newhaven Youth Marching Band and the Band of TS Zealous Nautical Training Corps provided the music. The ceremonial tossing of the blazing tar barrel into the swollen River Ouse was performed by Steve Hodges and his party. The wreath was laid at Lewes War Memorial by Society President Miles Jenner. The Archbishop of South Street was Brian Smith.
Sussex Express, Friday, November 10, 2000 www.sussexexpress.co.uk
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