With special guests Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, Rye bonfire night lived fully up to expectations.
Bonfire Societies from all round East Sussex joined in and the streets were packed with both residents and visitors – all shepherded and controlled with good-humoured firmness by the patient and hard-working marshals. At the time of writing, estimates of the numbers of spectators were not given – although the figure of 10,000 has been mentioned. Certainly Southern Railway, having learned the lesson following their lack of service to the Lewes bonfire and subsequent complaints, enlarged the Marshlink service from its usual two carriages to four.
There was reputedly also a large police presence, more than have been seen in the town for many a day, but relatively discreet and with, fortunately, no incidents of any consequence, one must hope they enjoyed the spectacle as much as the rest of us.
The parade followed the usual pattern – flaming torches, loud drumming, occasional fire crackers, painted faces and each society in its own distinctive dress. It is certainly possible to see how, many years ago in less organised times, the ritual could descend into brawls and settling of old scores. No sign of that now, however, just fun, excitement and a lot – an awful lot – of noise!
After circling the town Caroline Snowden – who had won the honour at auction – aka Rye Fawkes, was chaired down to the Salts to put a match – actually a flaming torch – under the nether regions of Mr Kim and Mr Trump and the 20ft high bonfire was lit.
Once the bonfire was well and truly going the firework display began. The Rye Bonfire Boyes have developed no little expertise in this over the years, and expectations of a good display were well and truly fulfilled. It is impossible (for this writer, at least) to describe firework displays, the variety, the colours, the different noises, the sudden surprises, but all too soon it was over and the town was quiet for the first time for several hours. Or as quiet as a small town can be with several thousand extra visitors and an enormous bonfire crackling away.
Apart from keeping alive a centuries-old tradition, one of the objects of the Bonfire Societies is to raise funds to distribute to local good causes. There are various fund-raising events but on the night there is also a “bucket collection” inviting contributions from the spectators. It is understood that, this year, the bucket collection raised around £5,500. Well done, to the collectors and, we are sure, much thanks from the Bonfire Society.
Photos: Main photo Tony Ham, others John MInter, Kenneth Bird and Neale East