Tens of thousands of visitors crowd to Lewes every Bonfire Night to enjoy the town’s famous parade. Boasting the ‘biggest celebrated Fifth November event in the world’, Lewes has become indistinguishable from Bonfire festivities. Lewes’ controversial Bonfire night makes headlines every year, not least with the traditional burning of effigies – victims including Donald Trump and David Cameron (who was featured with a pig’s head). With around 40,000 attendees last year, despite the train strike, Lewes is an incredibly popular choice for those looking to celebrate Bonfire Night.
However, this seems set to change this year, with authorities urging the people of Brighton to ‘stay local’ for the Bonfire festivities. This joint message comes from the British Transport Police, East Sussex County Council, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, East Sussex Highways, Lewes District Council, Southern Railways, South East Coast Ambulance Service and Sussex Police.
To ensure Brightonians are forced to remain local for Bonfire Night, no trains will stop at Lewes or any neighbouring stations from noon on the day of festivities, which takes place this year on Saturday 4th November. These travel restrictions mean there will be no service operating at London Road, Moulsecoomb, Falmer, Lewes, Glynde or Cooksbridge until normal service resumes on Sunday 5th November. There are also traffic restrictions, with closures on the A26, A275, A27, Brighton Road and Kingston Road, beginning from 4:30pm on Saturday, and limited parking in Lewes and the surrounding area.
As if the travel restrictions weren’t enough, for further precaution, this year the event in Lewes is ticketed.
So, why not Lewes this year? The East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service cite the 81 people that were treated by St John’s Ambulance last year, alongside the multiple arrests made due to dangerous misuse of fireworks, and the lack of bus capacity for the huge volume of attendees.
These imposed travel restrictions however, have been met with backlash. Train service stops at midday on Saturday, whereas the road closures do not come into affect until 4:30pm. This disparity will directly impact those who use the train service between Brighton and Moulsecoomb. Despite attempting to prevent people from reaching Lewes, those with commitments in London Road and Moulsecoomb on Saturday 4th will also face transport problems. Brighton Kemptown’s MP Russell-Moyle has referred to the transport restrictions as ‘draconian’, due to the effects these restrictions will have on those who are not planning on attending Lewes Bonfire Night.
For those who were planning on attending Lewes Bonfire Night, do not despair. Despite the dominance of Lewes on Bonfire Night, there are plenty of other, more local, Bonfire celebrations:
The Family Firework Spectacular, Nevill Road, Hove takes place on Saturday 4th November, and promises a beautiful firework display for the whole family, with food stalls, glow sticks and flashing toys. Gates open at 5pm, and the firework display begins at 7pm.
The Brighton Lions Fireworks Display calls itself ‘possibly the biggest and best firework display on the South coast’, and takes place at the Racecourse on Bonfire Night, Sunday 5th November. Gates open at 6pm, with the firework display beginning at 7:30pm.
Sussex Cricket’s Firework Night also takes place on Sunday 5th November, and boasts an attendance of 9,000 people last year. Gates open at 6pm, and the display starts at 7:30pm. The event supports the Rockinghorse Children’s Charity and the Sussex cricket Foundation.
However, if you’re still determined to attend the Lewes Bonfire festivities, go to the Lewes District Council website for full details on road and train closures, and good luck.