Bonfire Night

Bonfire Night

Commercial Square’s Firework Display, reflected in the Ouse, in this photo a friend of mine took.

Well, it was the 400th anniversary, and a Saturday, but I’ve discovered a wonderful spot (which I’m not going to disclose here) for watching the processions, where you get a good view and the crowds are thin.

I wonder what will happen to the Lewes Bonfires if the proposed ban on incitement to religious hatred becomes law. It’s a strange place, Lewes, on Bonfire Night. There are confederate flags, pagan foxes and North American Indians (lots of them) and I get very confused, because I don’t know who is serious or what they symbolise. For there are many who are seriously unequivocal in their authentic anti-Catholicism.

Some people try to claim it’s not about religion any more, it’s just an excuse to have fun. I’m sorry, WHAT? They BURN THE POPE. The banners say NO POPERY. What would you say if the banners said “burn the Jews?” But anyway, trying to disassociate the religious aspect from the calendar date seems a bit like joining in an Orange parade and claiming it’s just a bit of a party. It’s not any less offensive if there are only a few Catholics in Lewes or a vast community.

So the whole thing is indefensible but at least it doesn’t pretend to be harmless. There is a tangible sense of menace in Lewes on the night. And because I live here I can’t avoid it. But I do feel guilty for enjoying it so much…

And I can’t see a new law stopping it…if they’d wanted to stop it before, they could have done it years ago on health and safety grounds.

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See for more...

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