After an enforced cancellation in 2020, Rye Bonfire was back with, quite literally, a bang on the night of Saturday, November 13. As a maroon to mark the start of the procession of bonfire societies through the town exploded over the rooftops, there was a cheer from spectators packing the ancient streets – Rye traditions starting again. No better sign that life was at least beginning to return to something approaching normality.
And for the Bonfire Boyes from around the county, back to normal it certainly was: the streets lit with the flickering light from hundreds of flaming torches, the drummers beating out their rhythms, the participants themselves dressed in every form dress one could imagine, from the historical to the plain weird – soldiers, pirates, smugglers, monks, Romans, all were there – even some escaped prisoners in their broad-arrowed prison denims.
As is customary one Ryer was chosen to be Rye Fawkes and chaired for the last part of the parade, down to the bonfire on the Salts and to be the one to fling the first lit torch on to the mountainous pile of pallets waiting to provide their final service as the highlight to the evening. This year it was the turn of Chris Emson to have the honour of being chaired. The previous evening she had been presented with her scroll confirming her as a freeman of Rye for her unstinting work for the community over many years.
Before the bonfire was set alight by Chris, the parade was drummed onto the bonfire site by Ryebellion drummers, ready for them to toss their torches on to the rapidly spreading blaze with flames soon stretching into the sky.
And finally the fireworks to provide the finale. Were they a little muted this year? It seemed so to this writer, but no matter, the Rye bonfire was back with all its noise and organised chaos and enormous thanks must go to the hard work of the Rye & District Bonfire Society for resurrecting this most ancient spectacular of Rye traditions and one that undoubtedly provided fun, pleasure and excitement for the thousands who had come from far and wide to watch.
Image Credits: John Minter , Gillian Roder , Nick Forman .