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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Sussex Express Supp 2012 - Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations

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How the town is transformed – but for one night only…

How can a quiet, conscientious little town undergo such a dramatic transformation?, It’s been said in the past that for one day Lewes goes a little bonkers. November the Fifth, The streets are alight with fire, the air is filled with the deafening crack of fireworks and the bewitching smell of paraffin. Thousands of shadowy figures march in torchlight processions dressed in elaborate costumes that take their inspiration from the ancient world right through to science-fiction.

No wonder those witnessing Bonfire Night for the first time are sometimes left rubbing their eyes in disbelief, It’s not a new phenomenon. A delighted journalist obviously got caught up in the excitement reporting the Lewes celebrations of 1869 in the Daily News, He wrote “This genteel little town… was given over to Molech for just six hours. The impression made on my mind within this period have been these – that I was in Pandemonium; that I was at an out-of-doors pantomime; that I was assisting at a religious rite; that I was commemorating a noble event; that I was making an ass of myself”.

Lewes Bonfire Sussex Express Supplement 2012

Proof, if ever it was needed, that Bonfire Fever is infectious. And if the riotous reputation the celebrations attracted more than 200 years ago has long disappeared, there’s still that slightly anarchic and abandoned element to the evening. That’s all part of the fun. Don’t forget to keep a close eye on the Sussex Express website and Twitter account during the celebrations. The team will be out and about watching the procession and at the firesites aiming to bring you coverage of all the colourful events on the night. Go to for all you need to know about Bonfire Night 2012.

Lewes Bonfire Sussex Express Supplement 2012

Advice on travel to and from the town…

Visitors to Lewes should be aware of the practical difficulties getting transport to and from the event, Lewes District Council warns. Road closures will affect large parts of Lewes with diversions in place for traffic to travel outside of the town. Residents are advised to get vehicles home before 5pm to avoid any road closures in place. Visitors are advised not to bring vehicles but instead use public transport. The A26 and A27 will be open to through traffic only for the duration. No parking or waiting is allowed. Vehicles risk being towed if parked. There are likely to be long waiting times for trains in and out of Lewes. Last service are from midnight to 12.30pm.

Lewes Bonfire Sussex Express Supplement 2012

Doctors call for ban on ‘rookies’ after rise in serious eye injuries…

Doctors are calling for the complete ban on the controversial Deer-Scarer bangers at Lewes Bonfire to prevent serious eye injuries again this year. Rookies, as they are known, were blamed for the blinding of a man and a host of other serious eye injuries last year. The call comes from SIMCAS, the immediate medical care charity which is providing several doctors again this year to support the work of St John Ambulance and SECAmb at the Lewes Bonfire celebrations. For the first time a specialist eye doctor has been called in to treat eye injuries as a direct result of the number and seriousness of eye injuries that happened last year.

In 2011, in Lewes, bangers completely blinded a 58-year old in one eye and left a 13-year old partially sighted after fragments up to 1cm in size had to be removed from their eyes. In addition two other children as well as an adult had serious eye injuries that left them at long-term risk of glaucoma. Eye specialists from the Sussex Eye Hospital found these were all caused by damage from rope-banger deer-scarers. These devices, not classified as fireworks, are designed to be hung from a slow burning rope to scare away deer and other pests from farmland. At the Bonfire celebration processions last year they were removed from their fuses, lit and thrown.

Dr Neil Losson, a GP with SIMCAS, said: “We would like to see these deer-scarers and similar devices banned by Lewes Bonfire event organisers and frowned upon by everybody taking part. We love fireworks and the vibrancy of Lewes Bonfire Celebrations and want them to continue safely in the future.” Ophthalmologist Dr Saul Rajak said: “We would recommend that anyone attending the event, in particular the processions, give serious consideration to wearing good-quality eye protection. It only takes a fraction of a second for eyesight to be ruined permanently by an exploding firework.” SIMCAS doctors will provide advanced medical care at the event with support from St John Ambulance and SECAmb in a bid to reduce casualties needing hospital treatment.

Lewes Bonfire Sussex Express Supplement 2012

Society’s talents go ‘beyond just blowing things up’…

South Street Bonfire Society’s tableau is so big members are unable to take it through the streets to the firesite at the railway land on November 5. Every weekend for the last month members have been putting together the mystery tableau and street piece at the society’s new site and in their homes. President Dilly Barlow said: “It’s very exciting having been able to use our own land. Next year we will have a new unit where we will be able to make our own pieces for our 100th anniversary.

South Street used to use a unit on the Phoenix Estate and then the Phoenix Theatre Group’s base but that was unavailable this year. Dilly said membership had swelled this year to about 400 members, due to new people joining and six very new additions born since last Bonfire. “It’s been a bit of a baby boom year for SSBS, as Pearl, our Chairmans wife remarked: “We are a very prolific and fertile society. Our talents extend beyond just blowing things up”, she said.

In the procession will be visiting societies Rye and Hastings, the Expedient Band, Newhaven Youth Marching Band, The Glen Duart Pipe Band and more than 3,000 torches. First Pioneers dress in 18th century colonial style and Second Pioneers in circa 1750 English Civil War costumes. Society smuggler stripes are dark brown and cream. Firesite tickets are on sale for £4 at various outlets in Lewes and £5 at the gate. Entry is free for accompanied under 16s. By Nikki Jeffery.

CSBS celebrates Red Indian past…

Commercial Square Bonfire Society’s famous Red Indian headdresses are a spectacular feature of a spectacular night, and the story of the man who inspired them is a fascinating one. He was Chief Oskenonton, meaning, Running Deer, a member of the Bear Clan of the Mohawks born in Canada in 1886. While he was working as a hunter and guide in Ontario in 1915, a group of white campers overheard him singing and invited him to perform at the Christmas tree lighting in Madison Square Garden, New York that December.

He subsequently appeared as the Indian Medicine Man in Hiawatha at the Royal Albert Hall in London and achieved international acclaim with performances throughout Europe and the USA. Chief Oskenonton also conducted lecture tours, promoting better understanding of Native American culture and traditions. It was on one such tour he encountered Commercial Square’s Mid Puttock and taught him how to make a traditional headdress. The skills were brought back to Lewes and the complex preperation was adopted by the society during the 1930s.

They can be admired on The Fifth as the First Pioneers, resplendent in their feathered finery, leading the way through the streets of Lewes. The Grand Procession, due to start at 9.30pm, will also feature a multitude of Indian braves in the shape of Sun Dancers, Medicine Men, Devil Dancers and Apaches in full tribal regalia join sqaws in their painstakingly constructed beaded costumes. The Red Indian theme is continued with the pyrotechnical facsimile of a totem pole and the fiery blazing banner depicting the Mystical Thunderbird.

It’s one of seven processions by Commercial Square that evening. Watch out for costumes from the American Civil War, the British Empire era and the famous Valencians. The society’s mammouth tableau this year is intriguinly entitled ‘Wipeout’, and as ever there will be effigies of Guy Fawkes and Pope Paul V. Musical accompaniment will come from the Corps of Drums Society; Lewes, Glynde and Beddingham Brass Band; Brighton and Hove City Brass; Barcombe Scout Band; the Barulho Samba Band and the Ouse Valley Samba Band. By Rupert Taylor.

Lewes Bonfire Sussex Express Supplement 2012

What next for Cliffe?…

If Cliffe Bonfire Society’s daring calendar is anything to go by, then this year’s procession looks set to be just as bold. Their programme displays photos from the calendar and features Bonfire Girls and Boys in their birthday suits, with strategically placed Bonfire paraphernalia. Cliffe was formed in 1853 and has something of a maverick reputation. Last year its tableau depicted former Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi sitting with a ‘don’t shoot’ sign and a machine gun in the back of a truck. It was being driven by a devil, with the grim reaper riding shotgun and a number plate which read; ‘To Hell’.

Of course there’s no hint from Cliffe as to what the tabs or Enemies of Bonfire could be this year, as the society keeps this a closely guarded secret until the night. Cliffe members will be dressed as Vikings, French revolutionaries and smugglers during Bonfire. Watch out for the 17 blazing crosses representing the 17 Protestant martyrs from Lewes, as well as the banner across Cliffe High Street reading ‘No Popery’. Bands will include the Tubthumpers, Heathfield Silver Band, Brazilian style Sambalanco, Uckfield Concert Brass and the British Airways Pipe Band.

During the second procession the members will throw a blazing tar barrel into the Ouse, signifying Cliffe’s intentions to keep the true meaning of Bonfire. After the wreath laying look out for the society detonating its set pieces. At the Bonfire site, just off Ham Lane, the Archbishop of Cliffe will deliver his annual address. In previous years a giant model of an aeroplane crackled on the bonfire, while Pope Paul V, Guy Fawkes, tabs and enemies of Bonfire were blown up. To find out timings and more, buy Cliffe’s programme for £2 from shops in Lewes, including the Tourist Information Office on School Hill. Calendars at £8 from The Gardeners Arms, The John Harvey Tavern and Lewes Con Club.

Lewes Bonfire Sussex Express Supplement 2012

Sad reflections this Bonfire…

Celebrations will be shot through with a little reflection this year as Waterloo Bonfire Society remembers the lives of two influential members who sadly died during 2012. The society’s programme remembers Christine Gladman, born in 1941. Her friend Marilyn Penfold remembers her as a lifelong Bonfire girl who thoroughly enjoyed making costumes. She joined Waterloo in the mid 1980s and was responsible for many of the Society’s unique costume styles, including Medieaval, Victorian, Spanish and Mongolian.

Bert Penfold, born in 1925 passed away in April. In November 1960 Bert Joined others to organise a firework display for residents. Bert then helped to revive the Waterloo Bonfire Society which had died out in the early 1900s. He became President in 1989 and did just about everything from presenting cups at childrens parties, to holding senior posts and was presented with Life Membership at the Society’s annual dinner in 1978.

The first recorded reference to Bonfire celebrations in Waterloo Place were in 1857. The next year the Waterloo Bonfire Boys were reported to be ‘out in great force’ with large banners, processions, blazing tubs and torches, the burning of effigies and a ‘very large fire.’ Not much has changed, although the Society sports a sophisticated set of costumes, effigies and a memorial – and often highly controversial – tableau. The Grand tableau this year is intriguinly named ‘Twatter’. Who knows what that will be?

Waterloo’s Grand Procession looks set to be a showstopper, with a variety of finely – worked and authentic outfits – fighters from the world-renowned Mongol empire; Puritans, Romans, Tudors (including King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth of course), Victorians and Greeks… look out for the Minotaur. The Waterloo Scottish Military Drum and Pipe Band, HMS Nelson Royal Naval Volunteer Band and Band of the Uckfield Fourth Holy Cross Scouts will accompany the processions.

New tricks from oldest Society…

The oldest bonfire society in Lewes is promising a few new tricks this year. Only three people know the secrets Lewes Borough Bonfire Society has up it’s sleeves as the countdown to the biggest night in the town’s calendar begins. Former Chairman John Winter said they had a ‘surprise’ which would replace the banned drop-downs but still ensure the celebrations went off with a bang. The Society’s 300 odd members are keeping tight-lipped about their tableau – instead, warning people to prepare for a host of surprises on The Fifth.

The Society’s ability to adapt and change has ensured the family-orientated LBBS has continued to thrive and remain as popular now as in its early beginnings as the Lewes Borough Bonfire Society in 1853. Until 1859 Borough was known as the ‘Lewes Bonfire Society’ – before a ‘rival’, and equally well-known society in the town, parted ways. It has been marching the streets of the town ever since. Mr Winter, the society’s former Chairman, has been part of the procession for 73 years, ever since his father pushed his new born son in a pram which had been turned into a ‘canoe’. The Society’s safety officer, said: “This year we’ve got a couple of surprises but we are not letting anyone know until the night.

Because bangers and drop-downs are banned this year we have thought of something to replace them – and we think we’ve come up with the answer. It’s something no-one else has done, but at the moment only three people know what’s going to happen and that’s how it stays until the Fifth. “The ban on bangers will be a good thing because it’s going to stop injuries but I think it will be a bad thing for Bonfire – but we have to draw a line and think what’s best, and just let it go.” The drop-downs might be gone but the Society’s eye-catching Magnificent Zulus, its First Pioneer Group, will still be marching through the town on The Fifth.

Sticking with tradition dating back to 1863 the ‘Borough Boys’ will also carry the Monster Iron Key of the Ancient Borough of Lewes which signifies they have the freedom of the Borough. The famous Key weighs nearly a quarter hundredweight, (over 12 kilos). The same key that was carried more than 150 years ago is the same one carried in the Borough’s final procession. Mr Winter said: “We have got the name of the borough and we carry the town key which represents the freedom of the town. We are the only society which can take it out of its home at the Anne of Cleves House. The holder of the key is whoever volunteers, same as the banners, somebody comes along and asks to carry it for the night. But, not any Tom, Dick or Harry, they have to be a member.” By Paul Crompton.

Drums to mark Society’s march…

The town always knows when members of the Southover Bonfire Society are on the move. Hooded Cluniac monks and dramatically-costumed Buccaneers and Pirates process from HQ at The Kings Head pub through the town accompanied by a steady, eerie rhythm of the Pentacle Drummers. This year the programme is dedicated to the memory of Paul Millmore, and tribute paid to his ‘vision, dedication, work and support for SBS, Lewes and its traditions as well as the South Downs Voluntary Ranger Service’. A piece of history is commemorated with the illuminated piece marking the bravery of the Cockleshell Heroes, when over 30 men or women with a Lewes or Southover connection died 70 years ago at the raid on German shipping at St Nazaire.

Southover Society started life in 1886, almost at the height of Empire. It stopped marching after 1905 due to a ban on street bonfires. Reformed in 1950, faltering in the late 1950s but rising like a phoenix from the ashes again in 2005, Southover has grown to a 600-strong membership and is widely regarded as the Society for every member of the family. Its firesite is snugly and picturesquely located on the Stanley Turner Recreation Ground in the South Downs National Park. By Susan King.

Take care of your pets this Bonfire…

Fear of loud noises, particularly fireworks, is a common problem in dogs and cats and is likely to be particularly relevant in the next few weeks. A badly frightened animal might tremble, salivate, hiss or bark, lose control of bowels or bladder, try to hide or run away, possibly causing damage to themselves or your property in their attempts to escape. These reactions not only become more marked the longer the noise continues, but are also likely to worsen with repeated exposure. In extreme cases, firework fear eventually escalates to a more generalized fear of all sudden noises, making life miserable for you as well as your pet all the year round.

The best method of dealing with this problem is a combination of desensitization and counter conditioning (associating the trigger factor with a pleasant experience). This is not a quick fix solution; it requires time and commitment from the owner and should be started well in advance of the firework season. However, if done properly, periodic brief refresher sessions should ensure that you have a calm and relaxed pet come firework time. However, there are many ways of helping at the time: Do not sympathise or show any fear yourself – this just re-enforces your pets feelings. Remain upbeat and unconcerned. Soften the trigger factors by drawing heavy curtains, playing loud music, heating scented oils to counteract the firework smell.

Be safety conscious – exercise dogs before dark then keep doors locked; secure the cat flap and provide a litter tray. If your dog is microchipped you are more likely to be reunited with one another after any escapes. Feed an early supper containing lots of carbohydrate such as rice, mashed potato or whole wheat pasta, along with a sprinkling of brewers yeast to decrease anxiety. Provide a suitable hiding place – warm, cosy and dark. Make this area attractive by feeding treats there for some time beforehand and/or using a pheromone spray or diffuser. Finally, consider medication. Sedatives not only increase sensitivity to noise, but by making the pet feel woozy, are more likely to lead to a panic attack. There are many alternatives which do not have this affect – see for more information or ask your vet for advice. By Susan King.

Sussex Express Friday, November 2, 2012

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