BURNING FOR THE COMMUNITY
Bonfire has been part of Sussex life for over four hundred years and is as alive today as it has always been. Over the centuries, Sussex has witnessed the ebb and flow of armies and ideologies from across the Channel. It provided fertile ground for the new Reformers of the 16th century and perhaps because of its proximity to London, has always been loyal to the Crown. Yet, until quite recently it was a poor county that used the coastline to its nefarious advantage. A smuggler’s life was very much a Sussex life for the folk of the coastal towns and villages. Perhaps then, it is not so surprising that when Catesby and his co-conspirators were apprehended that Sussex would be one of the counties to celebrate most vocally. Indeed, it was on such nights of riotous abandon, when the hardships of life were laid aside, drink abounded and perhaps the old rancour against authority was rife that the revellers would seek the anonymity of disguise.
Even today, many societies still wear stripes. They provide both a sense of identity and a nod to the past. While in days of yore, they provided security, for one man in the colours is very much the same as the next as can be seen in the painting of Lewes Borough on the march in the eighteenth century. Nowadays, we live in easier, more tolerant times. Nevertheless, the Bonfire Tradition still brings together societies from across the county to light the torches and set the fires least we forget from whence we have come.
However, Bonfire is a living flame. To be part of the Tradition is not only to keep this aspect of our nation’s rich heritage alive, but also to celebrate how we have come together as a society in recent years. These values are at the heart of Eastbourne Bonfire Society, because it is through this sense of community and roots that the great Fire Festivals of Sussex will always burn.
We meet to plan our acts of sculduggery and dabloon-raising at the Crown & Anchor in Eastbourne. You can click on the link above to find us and to have a look around this fine establishment.