Words by Will Potter, Staff Writer
The UK’s largest bonfire night was reintroduced to the town of Lewes on Friday night as an estimated 30,000 people returned following a year’s break due to the pandemic.
The Covid themed parade was organised by seven local bonfire societies and was attended by over twenty, some of which date back past the 19th century, who then hosted the large crowds for firework displays and bonfires.
Many of the elements that made Lewes’ November 5 celebrations so renowned were back after last year’s cancellation, including the famous bonfire effigies that have become a modern staple of the historic event. This year, these included former Health Secretary Matt Hancock in a tribute to Rodin’s ‘The Kiss’, Dominic Cummings getting an eye test, a twenty foot chicken with the head of US President Joe Biden, and a masked and vaccinated Guy Fawkes.
Despite warnings from the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service cautioning people to “stay local” and stick to smaller celebrations, attendance levels surpassed the last time the event was held in 2019.
Police have said six arrests were made through the night and paramedics saw around 50 people for injuries largely relating to the street procession, adding to the 896 injuries reported at the parade since 2010. One woman was also rescued after falling into the River Ouse around the same time the parade began at 6pm, but she did not require any medical treatment.
Nevertheless, the Fire Service described the night as “largely trouble free”.
Chief Superintendent Howard Hodges said: “I’d like to thank the community of Lewes for behaving responsibly and allowing tonight’s bonfire celebrations to pass without significant incident.”
“A very small and isolated minority of people chose to engage in crime and/or disorder but were dealt with effectively by our officers on the ground, minimising any disruption to the proceedings and helping us to keep people safe,” added Hodges.
The Lewes District Council said on Twitter following the event that over 7 tonnes of waste was produced and thanked clean-up teams that began at 1am so that roads could be reopened by the morning.