We were going to watch people burn things. The attraction for many, like moths to a flame was in Lewes, near Brighton. A town built by a cliff which had established Bonfire Societies from as far back as the 1820’s where Bonfire Boys started running wild with torches and fireworks. The best way to curb this was to organise it into a march and the celebrations now are the largest bonfire display in the UK.
The sources of the party stems in response the failed plot to blow up Westminster in 1605 – this was seen as a Catholic conspiracy of the time. In the past, effigies of Guy Fawkes and the Pope where paraded and thrown on the fire, but this has in recent times extended to current political figures and the occasional celebrity. The theme is very much a nationalistic one. Putin and Alex Salmond (Scottsh First Minister who led the 45% Yes Vote) were this years victims.
As people lined the side of the high street, thousands of participants in costume marched past with flaming torches, fireworks, burning barrels and banners. The costumes were a varied mix of pirates, French revolutionaries, Aztecs, Vikings, Roman soldiers and Brazilians. The high street procession lasted for three hours and culminated in a large bonfire lit with flames leaping ten stories high.
On our return we journeyed into Westminster to see the polar opposite left wing political protests, stemmed from the Anonymous movement. Such a stark contrast between the nationalist and anti-establishment. The protestors were being herded out of the main centre, vastly outnumbered by police, large contrast to Lewes. We managed to duck around this and get home a bit late, smoky and crisp, but unscathed.