This weekend, Saturday 16th November, see’s the last of the public holidays by the famous Bonfire Societies taking place (the final ones for Robertsbridge, Barcombe, and Hawkhurst are ‘invitation only’ events).
The Nevill Juvenile Bonfire Society has over 400 members and they continue the tradition of torchlit processions which began with just two men, who had suffered the indignity of having their Bonfires destroyed before the 5th 1967. They decided that they would band together, create a new bigger Bonfire and invited 40 friends and family to take part in the first torchlit processions.
Each of the SBS (Sussex Bonfire Societies) has its own set of ‘costumes’. The Nevill Juvenile societies are Suffragettes, early 20th century military uniforms and medieval dress.
Although the Nevill society is termed as a ‘juvenile’ society, the members are of all ages and backgrounds. Their ethos is to build on the community spirit and primarily to get the youngsters away from their electronic devices into the fresh air, learn skills that have been taught from father and grandfather to son and daughter through the years as well as having a good time.
The most famous (or infamous as the case might be!) of the SBS is Lewes Borough. They ALWAYS hold their event on the 5th November and are generally joined by the representatives from Commercial Square, Cliffe, South Street, Southover and Waterloo societies.
Each of them creates a Guy Fawkes with a difference that is more of an effigy, usually representing something in the media which has caused some drama along the way. Previous examples have been Wayne Rooney (amid allegations about his private life and of course his U-turn on his football contract), Katie Hopkins (the very opinionated woman who spouts drivel in the press at every given opportunity) and even Donald Trump has come under fire (or on top of the fire, depending on your viewpoint). This year’s effigy of note was of the current Prime Minister Boris Johnson urinating on newspapers aboard a Brexit rollercoaster and one about the charge for the TV licence fee re-introduction for the over 75’s.
Firecrackers, torches, burning tar barrels, a huge bonfire, and spectacular fireworks are the order of the day. Over at Edenbridge Bonfire Society, they are set to set fire to an effigy of the speaker of the House John Bercow.
It is not as over-crowded as the more publicised one at Lewes but it certainly gets you out of the house to celebrate an event which has been taking place since the introduction of the Act of Parliament in the earliest part of the 17th century. Indeed, the Bonfire Societies, whilst indelibly connected to the occurrences of the 5th November 1605, were actually set up in the middle of the 16th century, as a result of the slaying of several local men (and women) who were accused of heresy because of the ever-changing Catholic-Church of England power struggle at the hands of Queen Mary I.