Back with a bang!

Rye Bonfire Boyes lead the parade through the Landgate

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.

Rye Fawkes – Chris Emson being chaired

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 .


  1. As a longstanding member of Hastings Section 5 Drummers, I think I speak for the majority of us when I say what a joy it was to be back in Rye! For me, Hastings and Rye Bonfire sum everything up about where I live.

  2. A great evening. The atmosphere was lovely. Everyone seemed so pleased that this brilliant tradition was back. The bonfire was huge and we thoroughly enjoyed the fireworks. Well done to all involved with the setting up and running of this totally enjoyable event. Even the weather behaved!

  3. I see from the picture that the bonfire did look huge. Was it larger than other years ?
    If so was this in defiance of climate change and air pollution being discussed in Scotland this year ?
    May be a smaller bonfire would have been in order to mark the fact we are to help in improving the environment we live in.
    The fire works I heard and observed from my door step. ( no good listening to the remembrance programme from the Albert Hall drowned out ) Were spectacular. Amazing. Gorgeous.
    As Rye bonfire and fireworks is held the night before remembrance Sunday . I always think the noise of the fireworks sounds like I imaging the men and women on the front in WW1 heard as they fought.( It was said that my school in Chislehurst Kent. that was a home that those who lived there could hear the noise of the guns from the First World War.) I then think how they would have wondered and approved of explosives being used for celebration not the beautiful colours and shapes of the firework display that were enjoyed by so many people..even if the dogs and cats and wildlife do not.


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