Tuesday, 16 October 2012
A Good Burning
The residents like nothing better than a good burning, says Sam Taylor
By Sam TaylorIn 2004 it was a 100fthigh wooden sculpture of Katie Price dubbed 'I'm a celebrity'. The focus of their ire in 2009 was the Greedy Pig Bankers (three fat little porkers stuck on sticks), and last year the Hastings Borough Bonfire Society focused their creative protest against the feckless youth with a highly flammable effigy entitled 'Off With Their Hoodz'. When it comes to images of the devil incarnate, it seems they certainly like to cover all the bases. Such is the popularity of the Sussex Bonfire celebrations that the 21 participating towns start at the beginning of October and carry on till late November.
This Saturday it's Hastings' turn with over 30,000 people following a torch-lit procession through the back streets and ending up on the foreshore opposite the council offices to witness the burning of this year's effigy. The choice of effigy is always kept as a lastminute secret but the real mystery is why these pyrotechnic enthusiasts never consider turning their fury on the council offices themselves. An eyesore built in the 1980s, it sits right next to the incomparably lovely Pelham Crescent – a curved terrace of early Georgian houses built with underground tunnels into the caves behind. The council offices form the architectural gateway to the 'new town' and sadly set the tone for the ribbon of development beyond it. Fortunately for the mayor and his team, it is pitch black by the time the processors reach the buckled bits of plastic that form his office's façade and their attention is drawn seaward. The fiery glow can be seen from across the Channel apparently and visitors of a nervous disposition are advised to stay at home.
The Hastings Bonfire is timed to celebrate both the thwarting of Guy Fawkes and the Battle of Hastings on 14 October. Although a real crowd pleaser, it is considered less glamorous than the one held in Lewes on 5 November. Since 1858,
the Lewes flames have been lit in remembrance of the martyrs of the horrific Marian Persecutions, when Bloody Mary was at her maddest and Lewes had the dubious honour of playing host to the largest bonfire of humans the town, or indeed the country, had ever seen. In 1556, on one evening alone, 10 men who refused to embrace the Pope were burnt alive.
In total, the town dispensed with 17 Protestants this way, with many forced to climb into a fl aming barrel in the centre of a pyre. One, Dirick Carver, managed to throw his Bible into the crowd and it is on display in Lewes Museum today – his blood splattered on the pages of Judges, Zephaniah and Ruth. This weekend promises to be a less gory affair but
the authorities are taking no chances; drinking and dancing around the fire are forbidden.
Next week: The mice have arrived
Daily tip from the lady archive
“PEOPLE cannot help being influenced by their surroundings and their environment; therefore how all important it is that both of these should be healthy and cheery, for health and happiness both go hand-in-hand.”The Lady. The Blessing of Old Health, 18th November 1920
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