Bonfire night in Lewes is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s organised anarchy. And you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it.
The town’s November fifth festivities mark the exposure of the gunpowder plot in 1605 and the burning of 17 Protestants in the high street. In preparation, roads into Lewes are closed early and shop windows are boarded up, as thousands of people descend onto the streets. I started to wonder what the hell I’d let myself in for.
As darkness falls, Bonfire Societies from all around Lewes start to parade through the tiny streets carrying flaming torches, effigies and burning crosses. Gently at first.
An hour or two later and things have gone up a notch. Piles of discarded flaming torches have created small fires on the roads, bright red flares are lighting up the crowds, firecrackers (so loud you have to ram your fingers right into your ears) are being set off everywhere, huge effigies of Boris Johnson, Theresa May and Guy Fawkes have made an appearance and the air is smoke filled and smoggy.
Each bonfire society then leads the way to their designated bonfire site, which means there are six different bonfires and firework displays going off in the town at the same time! After the fireworks people take to the streets, light fires, set off more firecrackers and do crazy things like jumping through flames.
It’s a long, noisy yet exciting night. You’ll jump out of your skin several times as a firecracker lands by your feet, so it’s definitely not for the faint hearted. If you go prepared with drinks, snacks, earplugs and a big happy smile on your face, then I defy you not to love it.