When: 5th November 2016
Where: Lewes, East Sussex
£: Free to watch the processions. Admission to the bonfires are usually ticketed.
What is it?
Lewes Bonfire night celebrations are possibly the most spectacular in the UK. The annual event sees six bonfire societies holding separate celebrations throughout the town.
Each bonfire society holds a parade in a different part of town, rather than having one large procession. Society members take part in the parades by carrying torches, dropping bangers, carrying burning letters, or playing musical instruments.
Each society’s procession is slightly different, but all the groups parade in their societies’ specific colours (known as smuggler colours), and end the evening by heading to their own designated bonfire site to complete the celebrations.
Lewes Bonfire usually sees a host of effigies paraded through the town (and then burnt), the night is not just about Guy Fawkes. Amongst these, there is usually a giant topical effigy, and past choices have included Jeremy Clarkson and Sepp Blatter.
Each bonfire society has its own traditions, ‘smuggler’ colour (the colour clothing they wear in the processions), and motto. Each society also represents their own specific area of town.
One of the oldest bonfire societies is Lewes Borough Bonfire Council, established in 1853. Their motto is ‘death or glory’ and they represent the western part of town.
This year Lewes Borough will be holding a thunder roll finale, in remembrance of those who fell at the Somme 100 years ago. The thunder roll will involve a deluge of bangs, bringing their bonfire and firework display to a fitting end. Lewes Borough’s bonfire takes place at Landport bottom.
Celebrations on the 5th November have been taking place in Lewes, in one form or another, since 1606. Although some celebrations were, to begin with, more like riots. Bonfire societies have been involved with Lewes’ traditional celebrations since the 1850s, and will hopefully continue long into the future.