Stories

Sussex Bonfire Tradition

Littlehampton, United Kingdom Cultural October 11 @ 12:53pm

The Sussex Bonfire Tradition began essentially as a glorified pub crawl. At the time it was common for workers to go house to house asking the residents for food and alcohol. To avoid repercussions as many of these homeowners were landlords or employers it was customary to either dress up in costume or to paint their faces black. This way the revellers were free to cause mischief and mayhem without fear of punishment. These nights of revelry date back much further into history than Guy Fawkes and it was much later that the existing pagan traditions were appropriated for Christian and political aims. 19th-century antiquary Mark Antony Lower is credited with starting the "cult of the Sussex Martyrs" aided by an etching by James Henry Hurdis of Richard Woodman and nine others being burnt. This led to the creation of local Bonfire Societies who commemorated these events. For example, seven separate societies organise events in the town of Lewes. On Fifth of November, the town hosts six separate bonfires.

Whereas Guy Fawkes' night in most parts of Great Britain is traditionally commemorated at large public fireworks displays or small family bonfires, towns in Sussex and Kent hold huge gala events with fires, parades and festivals. The tradition has remained strong for more than a century becoming the highlight of the year for many towns and villages in the Weald. The Bonfire Societies use the events to collect money for local charities.

Societies and processions can be broadly grouped into two main categories Carnival and Bonfire. Typically and not exclusively certain characteristics apply to each group. Carnival societies are generally much more family-oriented evenings where people turn out to have fun and make merry with music and laughter. Bonfire Societies are often the less family-oriented evenings typically with more drinking and debauchment occurring. However, with ever-increasing restrictions by Sussex Police, this is reduced.

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Single images or galleries of images available images will be shot on 28th of October at one of the Bonfire societies open to negotiation on this
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