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| November 19, 2018

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A Local Bonfire Night?

A Local Bonfire Night?
Brogan Meaney
  • On October 10, 2017

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.


  1. A Bonfire Boy

    Last year some 40,000 people as well as the 5,000 or so bonfire participants beat the train service problems and attended Lewes bonfire night, of the 81 people who attended first aid stations 80 had minor injuries sprains splinters smut in the eye requiring a quick eye wash etc, 1 person only had a serious injury a damaged finger where they had failed to let go of a fire work, no serious injuries were reported what so ever making the night one of the safest yet, while demonstrating the ease of which first aid can be obtained due to the qualified medical assistance that attends the Lewes celebrations, not least because all the Lewes Societies ensure adequate first aid cover as a matter of routine. the arrests to were minimal 5 infact which included a person known to Brighton police with an arrest warrant outstanding and two people who decided to have a toke in public (1 officer dealt with all three incidents) making it one of the most law abiding nights in modern times.
    Brighton & Hove Buses are running a special shuttle serve Brighton-Lewes_Brighton Big lemon have a prebooked ticket service with all their buses taking part. The Borough Firesite (turn Left at Prison) off Nevill Road at the entrance to the race course is accessible by both early bird tickets bought on line & with tickets usually available on the day pre purchase guarantees entry to LBBS, watch out for fliers on the night usually the lucky ones can grab a discount. Other fires around the town are not necessarily so accessible, Cliffe is presold ticket only, Waterloo are pay on the gate, others have smaller sites and do not wish to entertain large crowds, Southover are near the dripping pan this year close to the (Closed) railway station. Lewes traditionally get very crowded at the bottom of the high street & cliffe is always chockablock, the upper high street and western road up to the prison afford excellent viewing opportunities stay put let the various processions come to you and watch out for the follow me to the fire site banners, plenty of food and refreshments can be obtained around the town, and on some of the firesites. the days of dodgy burger kiosks has long gone, they were run out of town by the bonfire societies and local council, Wrap up warm, wear stout footwear Have a good time, Lewes Bonfire is Colourful, Loud and exciting, nothing like it happens on this scale anywhere else, 6 bonfires, 6 sets of fantastic aerial firework displays and 6 topical tableaux, who will be the favourite this year, for the first time in bonfire history last year 5 were on the same theme, 4 trumps and a mexican/us wall. Take care, be safe, enjoy.

  2. A Bonfire Boy

    On minor point Guy Fawkes, Catesby & the 16th century pope are effigies, the magnificent creations of each society are “TABLEUX” No difference in how they end up, blown up in blaze of fire & colour, but the 1st 3 are the tradition bad guys, rolled out every years. the others well judge for your self.

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