Advice for visitors to Lewes bonfire celebrations
Lewes bonfire night is a long evening. Quite often it's wet and it's always cold. Most of the fire-sites are at the same level as the river which makes the air cold and damp too.
Make sure that you wear warm clothes and appropriate footwear as the fire-sites are often muddy. I find it best to wear several layers with old clothes on top. Sparks fly from bonfires and torches in the street processions which can damage clothing.
Animals and children
Do not bring animals to Lewes bonfire! Apart from the noise of the fireworks, the crowds make the evening totally unsuitable for them.
Lewes Bonfire Council advises people not to bring children, particularly those in pushchairs, to Lewes bonfire night. The routes to the fire-sites are unsuitable for pushchairs and children in pushchairs are very vulnerable to the 'crush' of the crowds when watching the processions.
Having said that, plenty of children do attend Lewes bonfire and have a jolly good time. Only parents will know if it's suitable for their children.
If you are on any medication which you might need during the evening, bring it with you. If you are asthmatic, bring your inhaler as there is a lot of smoke around.
Unexpected and very loud bangs occur throughout the evening at Lewes bonfire, so if you have any concerns about this, think twice about coming!
Money, food and drink
Bring some money! Food and drink is on sale at Lewes bonfire (although hard to get to sometimes!) and you may wish to contribute to the charity collections which take place during the processions.
Do not expect all the pubs to be open. Some close early and many only admit regulars. Many have bouncers on the doors!
The Lewes Street Drinking Prohibition is always enforced!
I always take something warm to eat and drink. Sausage and onion rolls and warm soup help keep the cold at bay when waiting for the firework displays to begin.
What happens and when?
The first procession starts at 5:30pm and the last ends around midnight.
Programmes are on sale with timings of events but the proceedings are often delayed and nothing is guaranteed to take place when expected.
In my experience, all the firework displays start later than planned!
Do not bring your own fireworks as the police will remove you if you let fireworks off yourself.
Do not pick up discarded torches. A burnt out torch is still very hot and there are Bonfire Boys and Girls who collect them at the tail end of each procession. Leave it to them.
Do not drop litter as it may cause others to slip and fall on the crowded pavements.
Be patient when making your way through the crowds!
Should you come to Lewes for bonfire night?
If you read the Lewes Bonfire Council's website blurb you will be discouraged from coming to Lewes for November 5th.
They have good reason for this. Apart from the fact that the event is for the Lewes townsfolk(!), when you add up to 135,000 extra people to a town of only approx. 15,000 it becomes obvious that it will be a bit of a squeeze!
Personally I think this adds to the atmosphere. When you're in the middle of thousands of people all carrying flaming torches, letting of bangers ( locally known as 'rookies') and shouting, it can be quite a heady mix of fear, anticipation and the unknown. You never know what might happen next, a flaming red torch will light up the whole street, a banger will go off near your feet or the Bonfire Boys will let of a deafening string of fire crackers to frighten even the hardest of hearing!
Needless to say, the best advice is, if you like this sort of thing the you should definitely come to Lewes bonfire once in your life. On the other hand, if you are not happy around large crowds and very loud noises then it might be best to visit a smaller event nearer to your home town.
Again, personally, I love it and look forward to the next year, every year!
Final piece of advice
Have a great time and consider staying to the very end of the evening when the Bonfire Boys say their prayers. Anything can happen at this time and it's usually worth hanging around the War Memorial at the top of School Hill, outside the law courts or the Police Station.
Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents - www.rospa.com
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