Lewes Bonfire Night 2006 and the various Lewes fireworks society displays will this year be held on the 4th November 2006 (Saturday). Train travel to the event will as usual be the best option as parking is difficult throughout Lewes. Be aware however that a queueing system is in place after the event - which often results in waiting times of over an hour for a train back to Brighton. Lewes fireworks are well worth it however! I've been for 6 years in a row now, and have never not got a train back - even an hour after the last scheduled train has gone - so you should be able to get one back (I'm not responsible if Southern are bastards this year!)
Bonfire night in Lewes, East Sussex is one of the most famous - and craziest firework celebrations in the South of England - and probably the UK. As with most fireworks displays in England on the 5th November, Lewes Bonfire night fireworks and celebrations mark the Gunpowder plot of 1605 by Guy Fawkes, although there are two other prominent historical events in Lewes which are remembered on this evening. Lewes, like most of East Sussex has a very sectarian past. In 1555, 17 protestant martyrs were burned at the stake in Lewes High street. This forms a major part of Lewes bonfire night celebrations, as well as the restoral of the protestant monarchy by William of orange on 5th November 1688. To be honest however, many who attend have simply come for a good time and have little idea what the celebrations really stand for.
Lewes bonfire night is not famous simply for the fireworks, but by the massive costumed parade through the streets of Lewes by the various Lewes bonfire Societies. Lewes has 6 Bonfire Societies - Most famously Cliffe, but also Waterloo, Commercial Square, South Street, Lewes Borough & Nevill Juvenile. Each society parades through the streets of Lewes wearing their own society dress - which ranges from traditional black and white stripes, to the flamboyant and outlandish - red Indian costumes to Tudor, pagan and other religious clothing.
Each of the Lewes bonfire society's parades travel from their bonfire sites, designated in 1906 after street fires were banned, down Cliffe High Street and Market Street, with burning barrels, flaming torches, burning crosses and floats of Guy Fawkes, The Pope & other political effigies from modern day news and current affairs. The effigies haven't been without their controversy in the past. In 2000 Peter Madelson was bent over with another famous politician stood behind him - need I say more. There was also the famous p1key incident - where an effigy of a Caravan was burned to highlight problems with travellers in Sussex!
|Here comes your smoking warrior||Waterloo parade||Fit - and she knows it, well, she did once we'd told her ;-)|
|Village societies such as crowborough come along too!||Congestion giving us time to enjoy the costumes||A flaming Sussex Indian|
The parades generally start around 5pm with the children's parade, just after it starts to get dark, although many people arrive earlier for a pre-parade drink or two. The Harvey's Tavern is one of my favourite places to start the celebrations, although last year the bar was closed with drinks only served outside. The traditional Harveys Hog roast was still available - and as delicious as ever.
At around 6.30pm until around 9, the main parade takes place with two precessions around the town - culminating in the throwing of the burning crosses into the river. Somewhere in between (i'm always pretty drunk by this time!) is the barrel race. This is a famous tradition started by local Lewes folk racing barrels of burning tar over the river Ouse. The tradition continues now, only with barells full of bangers flying down Lewes High street at a furious pace!
At around 9.30pm each society marches back to their site for the lighting of the bonfire, the burning of the effigies and the grand finale - the Fireworks!
|Lewes fireworks barrel race 2004||Parade over the bridge on Cliffe high street||Burning crosses - not as scary as it looks!|
|traditional black and white striped parade||Firle parade||Lewes bonfire patriarchy|
As I mentioned earlier, there are six bonfire sites around Lewes, with the Cliffe being a pay in advance event (tickets only available in advance in person from Lewes tourist office on the high street - sold out probably by now!!) I have been to the Commercial Square, South Street and Waterloo firework displays in the 5 years I have been going - all free - and they are equally as good. If you're not bothered about seeing the parades and want to see the fireworks more - why not go to the top of the 'white cliffs of Lewes' and watch all 6 displays from there!
|Lewes fireworks photos 2004||These were taken at the Waterloo fireworks||Cliffe is deemed the best, although its £5 with tickets only available from Lewes tourist info in advance|
|Waterloo, South Street and Commercial Square have been great in the past||Waterloo bonfire 2004||Lewes bonfire crowd enjoying the celebrations|
I was shocked the first time I went to Lewes fireworks. It really is quite daunting - so many people, so many load bangs, so much booze! It's certainly not a place for young children or animals. If you are not a fan of bangs either, its probably best to beware. Young lads in the parade place bangers at people in the crowds feet, there are bangers attached to slow burning ropes against many walls and the barrels in the parade are filled with bangers. I have never seen anyone injured, although I know some do. Its just a case of knowing the Firework code, not getting too pissed and playing it safe.
Travel - The train is definitely everyone from outside of Lewes's best bet, although be warned - it is packed on the way home and you will wait in a queue for a long while. We are always told trains do not run all night, although in my experience - being at the back of the queue and finally getting onto a train to Brighton at gone midnight - after the last train was meant to have gone - they have generally ran trains from Lewes to Brighton on bonfire night until the queue has gone. Lewes bonfire night 2005 is a saturday - so there will be many more people expected to go (The police estimate up to 70,000!), so be warned. I'm not sure what the buses will be up to, but they certainly won't be entering central Lewes. Check with Brighton and hove buses or Stagecoach for bus times.
Drink and food - I probably shouldn't advise people to do this but take your own drink. Although there are many pubs, they are all packed out. There is a large police presence at Lewes bonfire night - so be careful, don't act like a fool and have a great time! Food - try the hog roast outside the Sussex Harvey's tavern, over the bridge on Cliffe high street - supuyurb!