Remember, remember the Fifth of November The Gunpowder Treason
Now is the time for marching Now let your hearts be gay Hark to
Sussex Express Supp 2004 - Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations
March 15, 2014 at 11:04 pm by v
Have fun on the Fifth – but do take precautions…
Lewes’s five bonfire societies take to the streets on Friday for their world-famous annual November 5 celebrations. Extra big crowds are expected this year because Friday is traditionally a popular day for people to come to Lewes for the bonfire festivities. The societies will, as usual, have their own parades, their own bonfires and their own fireworks, only coming together (excluding Cliffe) for the Grand United Procession.
This is the biggest night of the year for anything up to 3,000 bonfire members who have spent months preparing for the momentous event. Many of them have spent much of the year raising the cash to buy the fireworks which are largely used up in just half-an-hour of pyrotechnic splendour. Every society has made thousands of torches to be carried through the streets during the evening. All the members ask is that they be allowed to carry on their traditions without interruption from trouble-makers or over-strict officialdom.
Having said that, people are welcome to come to the celebrations. Indeed, as many as 50,000 people have been known to visit in the past. Thankfully, crowds have become smaller in recent years but there is still a crush, particularly where safety barriers have been erected.
It makes sense if you are in the centre of town to come armed with food and drink. It’s not easy to get out once you have arrived. There are also suggestions this year that it might be sensible to keep children under 10, particularly tots in pushchairs, away from the town centre where the crowds become so crammed that it is impossible to move. A child can easily become frightened and intimidated in such circumstances.
The crowds start trickling in around 4pm and most can expect to be in the town at least until 11pm. Few pubs will be open but there will be no lack of refreshments available in the areas allocated for that purpose. Don’t forget, you need tickets for some bonfire sites. In the event of an emergency there are safety zones in the centre of the town which are shown on the map. Enjoy yourself.
Steadfast society will be ‘sticking to its guns’…
South Street is planning a splendid celebration with five processions of members, more than 3,000 torches, two set-piece effigies, aerial displays, a blazing tar barrel and a top-secret society tableau. “I am looking forward to a safe and happy Bonfire Night”, said society Chairman Richard Todd. South street has a new President this year, as Mile Jenner, President since 1990, has retired. The role is part ceremonial, part leadership, part fund-raising and part public prestige. “Miles was well-suited to each of these aspects”, said a spokes-man. “He has set the standard as President for those who come after him”.
Bruce Wadey, the new South Street President, has been a society member for many years. He now lives in Kent, where he has discovered lots of interest in Lewes Bonfire traditions, particularly in the light of last year’s events at Firle. “All my questioners have come out in support of the Bonfire celebrations”, said Bruce: “No one has said we should change our attitudes, most think we are following tradition and, they say, there are already far too many groups giving up their history to appease the opinions of others, and we should stick to our guns”.
South Street Bonfire Society is well known for its steadfast nature. Originally called the South Street Juveniles, this was the children’s bonfire society, where youngsters were placed securely in the middle rank of marchers, flanked on either side by protective adults. South Street will begin this year with its children’s Procession, led by the 17 blazing cross pieces that commemorate the Lewes Martyrs, at 5.45pm.
Fifty years ago, in 1954, the Juveniles joined the other Lewes societies for the Grand Procession for the first time. The Juveniles led the united procession to allow them to set a comfortable pace for their shorter legs. Everyone should find the South Street bonfire and firework display enjoyable this year. It starts at 9.45pm at the fire site off Railway Lane; admission is £3 for an adult, £1 for an accompanied child under 16. Society members wearing their badges are admitted free.
No fighting shy of controversy here…
Whether you’re cheering from the roadside or studying the painstaking workmanship of their costumes, Commercial Square Bonfire Society’s parade is unmissable. The society’s themes of Pioneers and Indian braves and squaws give members plenty of opportunity to refine their decorative skills. Indian braves wear authentic costumes including the magnificent sun dancers, medicine men, devil dancers and Apaches in full tribal regalia. Meanwhile ‘squaws’ stay busy all year putting finishing touches to their intricate, hand worked beaded head-dresses and decorations, fringed riding trousers and flowing tunics.
Commercial Square seldom fights shy of controversy – details of this year’s tableau A Bird in the Hand have not yet been revealed but previous subjects included George Bush astride a nuclear missile. Members take part in the children’s procession from the society’s HQ at the Elephant and Castle from 5.30pm, then process behind a floral tribute for the Procession of Remembrance and laying of wreaths. Grand special remembrance set-pieces will be set off. At 7pm the third procession proceeds via White Hill, Abinger Place, Lancaster Street, Sun Street, Commercial Square, Fisher Street and High Street to St Anne’s Crescent.
Then the society joins Borough, South Street and Waterloo for the united procession from 8pm, followed by Commercial Square’s own grand procession from 9.30pm. This is led by the society’s celebrated Indian badge, the famous Indian First Pioneers and a pyrotechnical facsimile of the society badge. Accompanied by the Brighton Silver Band, Indian braves and squaws march along with society Staff Commander in Chief, Jamie Duc, ahead of the Second Pioneers wearing their Civil War costumes.
The famous fiery Indian totem pole is carried ahead of the blazing banner depicting the mystical thunder bird of the North American Indians. Other procession features include the Archbishop of St John Sub-Castro, papal effigies, the Hastings Corps of Drums, marshals and smugglers accompanied by Lewes, Glynde and Beddingham Brass. After the Landport Road firework display the procession returns to HQ then to Commercial Square where proceedings end with Bonfire Prayers and renditions of God Save the Queen and Auld Lang Syne.
Special display for society’s 40th…
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the reforming of Waterloo Bonfire Society and exciting plans to mark the event with something extra special at the Crown Inn, the society’s headquarters in Lewes High Street, are being kept under wraps until the big night. Waterloo existed briefly between 1857 and 1858 and again between 1876 and 1880, but it wasn’t until 1964 that it returned to the bonfire scene and, forty years on, the fire is still burning bright.
The society has decided not to have a tableau this year, but instead is to spend even more money on fireworks to provide an extra special display at an estimated cost of £6,500. In previous years, the society’s firework-loaded trademark cartoon character tableaux have included Mickey Mouse, Winnie The Pooh and Pokemon and last year’s fabulous creation, entitled Time Out Toony, featured Tony Blair relaxing with the Simpsons.
The society is, however, hoping to be able to take a small tableau, commemorating its 40 year anniversary, in the united grand procession, which starts in St Anne’s Crescent at 8pm. Waterloo always puts on an excellent show and this year’s looks set to be no exception, with processions running from 5.35pm. The society’s grand procession starts at 9.15pm from the Crown Inn, opposite the War Memorial.
Expect to see appearances from Genghis Khan, Henry VIII and Greek and Roman pioneers among the breath taking procession. The Waterloo smugglers will also be in abundance in their trademark red and white stripes. Music will be provided by the Band of the Parachute Regiment who are making their Lewes Bonfire Night debut with a rousing rendition of Sussex by the Sea, as well as the Band of TS Swiftsure Nautical Training Corps and the Band of the 45F Worthing Squadron Air Training Corps.
In silence and darkness, just the jingling of the bells…
After a spectacular celebration of its 150th anniversary last year, one of the oldest societies, Borough, will be present in all its glory this year. The society will start with a sombre first procession when the members leave their head-quarters at Westgate Street, White Lion Lane, at 6.25pm, in darkness, to the lone beat of the bass drum.
The Royal British Legion Band will play the dead march on their way to carry out the service of remembrance. The only other sound that will be heard is the jingling of bells from the Zulus as they move slowly and steadily to the War Memorial where the Last Post will be sounded, the wreath laid and a minute’s silence observed.
This is a tribute to all the bonfire boys and girls who lost their lives in all of our conflicts and to the 17 martyrs who lost their lives outside the Star Inn where the Town Hall now stands. The Borough procession will unite with Commercial Square and Waterloo in St Anne’s Crescent at 7.40pm and then they will leave the other societies and proceed to the river where the traditional blazing tar barrel will be hurled into the water.
A grand fireworks display and bonfire will take place at the fire site at the bottom of Motor Road. Also included is the traditional blowing up of the society tableaux. More than £5,000 worth of fireworks will go up in the air. Spectators will also be able to see the other four societies displays from the Borough bonfire field. To finish at 11pm, members will assemble in White Lion Lane to proceed via St Anne’s Crescent once more, before going down to the Law Courts via the War Memorial, where the proceedings will terminate with the traditional bonfire prayers and Auld Lang Syne, followed by the National Anthem.
Political correctness will never encroach, says Cliffe…
Cliffe Bonfire Society celebrated its 150th anniversary last year but taking it into the next 150 years will not be so easy, President Paul Mockford has warned. He says in the Cliffe programme: “I speak not for the society but from my own mind when I say that it seems that in today’s society there is less tolerance and less room for independent-minded people. We are becoming a nation where it seems we all have to be politically correct, and to learn and remember from our past history is becoming scorned upon. Personally, I feel that those who sacrificed their lives for their beliefs should be remembered, and those of us who agree with those beliefs have a right to remember those people and be free to express our gratitude to them”.
Vikings have returned as pioneers after making way for the smugglers in last year’s anniversary celebrations. However, members voted at this year’s annual meeting to keep the original bonfire costume as the bearers of the 17 flaming crosses that are carried down School Hill to commemorate the Lewes Martyrs. There are now second pioneers in the shape of the Moors and Saracens whose growing contingent has been recognised by their elevated position in the procession. There are a lot of detailed and very colourful costumes in this new group.
It is Aubrey Taylor’s 60th year Captain of Barrels, having been elected to the position at a meeting at the Prince of Wales in 1945 to recommence the celebrations after the war. The barrel runs are a quarter of an hour earlier this year. This, along with a route change for the 6.30 procession, has been introduced in an effort to keep things flowing more smoothly in the early part of the evening when delays are most likely to occur and affect later timetables.
The Archbishop of the Cliffe will be Dave Gander, his first year in the post. There will be around 900 Cliffe members plus a contingent from Firle Bonfire Society, five bands, 7,500 torches and a large number of fiery pieces. The society is continuing to use the Ham Lane fire site that it has occupied since 1989 while fundraising to finance work on its newly acquired site at Malling goes on. Committee member Andy Freeman said: “Political correctness will never be allowed to encroach upon our choice of tableau, enemies of bonfire or any other aspect of our celebrations”.
Sussex Express, Friday, October 29, 2004 www.sussexexpress.co.uk
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