Lewes: More Than Just The Host of England’s Best Bonfire Night
Remember remember the 5th of November. Gunpowder, treason and plot. I see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot! It seems nowhere more so than in Lewes in the UK’s South Downs, which seems to have become a magnet for Bonfire Night celebration in Britain.
We look here at the extraordinary creativity and endeavor that goes on in this small quintessential British town.
Bonfire Night is one of our most spectacular celebrations with many areas organizing fireworks displays in representation of the houses of parliament exploding, had the plot been a success.
The burning of an ‘Guy Fawkes’ effigy atop a bonfire is also common, however Lewes never fails to disappoint with the extraordinary lengths that the Bonfire Council goes to, in preparation for this one night, and other performance spectacles that draw in crowds from every corner of the globe.
Home to the Lewes Castle, Anne-of-Cleves’ House, and nearby are Glyndebourne Opera House, Southover Grande Gardens, and the infamous Brighton Beach. Lewes is more than a tourist stop: it’s a bohemian epicenter that is drawing in creatives, artists, performers, and expressionists from around the country.
The 5th of November is has an impact that lasts year round in Lewes. (Except that this year it will be the 4th of November, as tradition has it that Bonfire night can’t be celebrated on a Sunday!).
Expanding into more of an expressionist and culturally relevant event that sees the burning of major figures and politicians in our world today.
The seven bonfire societies in this area get together to put on several parades and firework displays, with tens of thousands of visitors attending each year and several thousand participants.
The competition between the societies to outdo each other with the most extraordinary effigy means that some of these take the whole year to plan and build.
Lewes also pins its loss of 17 local protestant Martyrs to these celebrations hence the disproportionate effort and political emphasis of the effigies, which have ranged from the pope (naturally) to more recently, Donald Trump (what a fabulous subject, making history with the most number of effigies in one year) Putin, Sepp Blatter and Osama Bin Laden.
Attracted to the free-spirited and opened nature culture of Lewes, fortified by the town’s continued support of the effigy burning, people are flocking from around the country to take part in what could be described as a cultural Renaissance.
From Treason Comes Innovation
Lewes is earning a name for itself as a welcoming hub for any kind of thinker or dreamer and is proud of its expressive and alternative label and being one of the least “modernized” towns in England.
But the biggest intrigue is how a sinister act of treason (or plot) can inspire such a creative outcome, which attracts people from around the world to visit. We like to think that even out of bad situations, inspired and inspiring manifestations arise.
If you’re planning to go this year, by train, then you’ll find that SouthWest trains aren’t playing ball! Trains aren’t running, so take your hiking gear, fill your DoddleBags with your toddy, and parade!
Also, this website has helpful tips from timings of the events to travel and safety aspects.