Behind the Scenes at the Bonfire

Bonfire with effigies under construction

I was interested to learn about the actual organisation of the Rye Bonfire Night, so I spoke to Ian Foster of Adams Stationers, an ardent supporter. He estimated that as many as 10,000 people could be in the town on Saturday night, to watch the procession and join in the celebrations. The event needed public safety supervision with the active co-operation of the police and other services. As many as 45 police officers could be on duty on the night, including an anti-terrorist presence this year.

There were transport police on the railway, to ensure order on the four-carriage trains from Hastings and Ashford. Then there was the Bonfire Society’s own team of marshals, directing traffic and helping maintain crowd control, generally achieved with good humour all round. St John’s Ambulance was in attendance, and a treatment centre set up in Station Approach, with paramedics on hand to treat minor injuries.

The interruption of normal traffic flows had been well publicised in advance. In particular the temporary closure of the A259 had been crucially negotiated with the Highways Authority, helped a few years back by the intervention of Michael Foster our then MP, when permission had initially been refused. The strength of tradition won the day.

The event costs some £10,000 to put on and the fund-raising continued through the year. On the night itself, some £4000 could be raised with Rye being the highest-collecting society in the whole of Sussex. This was in part due to the sterling efforts of Pat Hughes and her team of ‘bucketeers’.

The building of the bonfire is also expertly managed, with a core of straw bales, donated by a friendly farmer, with a structure of pallets, donated by Jempsons Transport Ltd, supporting the conjoined effigies this time of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, cleverly made from wicker and papier mache by Willie Wicking, who lives locally in Udimore Road. The culminating attraction of the evening was of course the magnificent fireworks display, another area of expertise which the Society has developed in providing this spectacular public entertainment.

Neale East, from Rye Bonfire Society adds, “Very many thanks to Patsy and her team of collectors who have this year raised over £5,500, a new record!
The top collectors this year are Bill Wickens (£699.75) Sham (£373.23), Simon (£377.75), Jackie (£308.04), Rebekah (£300.82), Team Jimper (£287.46) & Penny’s gang (£604.25).
Top Junior Bucketeer was young Charlotte (with Sarah & Sham) who collected £214.66!
Rye Bonfire would like to thank all who attended our successful event this year; we were lucky with the weather and managed to host another night to remember!
Congratulations to the person who has the Rye Bonfire Pageant 2017 programme number 786, you have won £200 cash prize! Please come along to Ian at Adams on Rye High Street with your programme”.

Photo: Kenneth Bird


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