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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Lewes Bonfire Night

Being a Sussex born and bred lad, one of my fav events on the local calendar is Lewes Bonfire Night, which falls on the same night as the main British celebrations which marks a failed plot to blow up King James I and parliment, plus the Lewes Protestent mayrtrs killed by Queen Mary I of England (not to be confused with Mary Queen of Scots) for the last 150 or so years there has been a popular bonfire night in this small county town of East Sussex, with the majority of Sussex's major bonfire societys from various towns and villages ( the exceptions being Lindfield who host their own one 10 miles north on the same night). In the build up to Lewes each Saturday from September to November each one ranging from Burgess Hill, Littlehampton to Hastings hosts a bonfire parade in their respective towns. On November 5th its the turn of the various Lewes Bonfire Societys to host the biggest show for Guy Fawlkes Night in England and the world.

After finishing work experience I went to Crawley Station only to be greeted to a little delay to due leaf falls in the tracks, the drama though really began at Haywards Heath station, when the 1734 train to Eastbourne (stopping at Lewes of course) was invaded by various revellers, with the passengers being packed like sardines, and some refusing to move to areas where there was space to the annoyance to passengers not intrested in going to Lewes! Next stop was Wivelsfield where a group of teenage girls bundled into the already packed carraige I already was in! For a minute I thought I had been virtually fused with the various men and women on the train. Next stop was Plumpton Station where a few non Lewes bound commuters got off. However the few kind souls that got let them go were not allowed back into carraige! There was also a swarm of teenagers running up and down the station platform screaming trying in vain to get into a carraige! Was this part of a ploy to kick off all under 18s on the train? were over 65s next at Cooksbridge? Or were they the scores of people on the roof that were forced off trying to get to Lewes! At Cooksbridge no one entered or left the carraige! Then we arrived at Lewes free at last! The Burgess Hill teenage girls came out of hiding in the carraige dispelling the age discrimination myth! I began the long walk round to the west end of the High Street and the next few hours enjoyed a parade of loud random bangs, fireworks men and women in hooped jumpers with flaming torches, various national flags, Victorian dressed women, American Indians, Gurkhas effigys of various politicians, random conversations with friendly locals and foreigners not just from Brighton, but from America, Turkey, Portugal etc! In addition to exploding Magners bottles at the White Hart pub, and the BH teenage girls reappearing one more time dancing on the side of the road trying to kiss bonfire lads that went past them!

The main effigy was a site to behold David Cameron with his beloved puppet Nick Clegg, there was some strange random minor ones including Donald Duck, a Tory in a cannon and Barrick Obama (thought this was a harsh and debateable one by Commercial Square Bonfire Society esp the week Barrick has had), as well as Guy Fawlkes and The Pope! Once the parade was over I made my way to the only free entry Lewes bonfire/ fireworks show hosted by Commercial Square! There are other ones around the town hosted by Lewes BS Cliffe BS etc but they charge to get in! Meanwhile back to Commercial Square I waited for about 20 or so minutes on a dark hill with a few thousand other souls! Why does it take so long! Ggggggggggggrrrrrrrrrrrr Eventually what looked like coconut mountain with Guy at the top was set alight, in spectacular style along with the effigys on show, and lots of great fireworks, that carried on as I walked back to Lewes station the fireworks were better viewing in a dark alleyway with some friendly residents having their hot choclates outside! The rain had managed to stay away from here all evening and was very warm with me baking in my rain jacket. Eventually I avoided the carnage of getting the last trains out of Lewes, and got a train before them back home that was no where near as packed and no incidents unlike the one I used to get there, and no teenagers bundling into the train this time.

About 40,000 people gathered in the cramped streets of town with 14 hospital casualities and 23 arrests for either drunkenness or use of Class C drugs to celebrate according to Sussex police! It was claimed as the biggest and the best!

All in all a great night! Certainly something that should be done once in a lifetime! They should bring back Third Class carraiges!

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