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The next step to make Bonfire brilliant

On 2 Oct 2012 at 9:01am I repeat wrote:
It works with disco's and is great fun so why not have a SILENT BONFIRE? Bring your headphones and the societies can broadcast all the bangs you need to fulfil your excited little heads. You can all ohh and arr and 'cor blimey that was loud' all night long and no non bonfire people can moan or get kept awake. No pets will get agitated, no one will get rookie bungs in their eye and you can go on all night long to your hearts content. Maybe you could even transmit to spectators headphones to make them jump out of their skin. Brilliant. You can still have your torches and costumes and bonfires and aerial fireworks. Think of the money you could save too. Charities would love you all.
On 2 Oct 2012 at 10:00am I Repeat I'm a troll wrote:
I'm a troll folderol
On 2 Oct 2012 at 10:48am Ed Can Do wrote:
Not even a very good troll.

I kinda feel sorry for people like this to be honest. They get to live in or near (One assumes) one of the best towns to live in in the country which comes with one of the greatest, free spectacles on the planet. There are very few places one can experience something so primal and with such a perception of risk and thrill in such a safe environment. Last year it was estimated that over 20,000 people visited Lewes on the 5th and yet the number of injuries and arrests barely broke double figures. Compare that to any music festival in the country and you'll see that Bonfire Night is incredibly safe compared to events of a similar size that people pay through the nose to attend.

I'd also suggest that the disruption to those few people who dislike Bonfire Night is really minimal. It's one day of the year when you can't drive through town and there's a bit of noise in the evening. Compare that to people living between a mainline station and a Premiership football ground who have to put up with thousands of loutish footy fans parading up their road every fortnight escorted by a similar number of police we have in Lewes for Bonfire. What about the residents of Reading who have to put up with an entire week of festival goers and the thumping music that goes along with that?

Honestly, why do people get so upset about Bonfire? It's safe, it causes a tiny amount of disruption and it's an incredible spectacle right on your doorstep for free. It brings joy to the thousands of local residents who are actively involved and raises money for charity too. Stop being so grouchy and just embrace Bonfire for what it is and try to enjoy it for once.
On 2 Oct 2012 at 10:58am Thomas the tank wrote:
Nice post ed , but think you will find 33,000 came in by train alone , that's the figure the train company were happy/proud to admit to ,
On 2 Oct 2012 at 12:12pm Gary Baldy wrote:
I don't think it's such a bad idea actually lol.
On 2 Oct 2012 at 12:33pm Old Cynic wrote:
Im not a huge fan - but I don't whine (much!) I take me and the dogs away for a couple of nights - no problem - I get a jolly nice mini-break!
There is no way I want Bonfire watered down or stopped or tinkered with - its fantastic and a woinderful tradition
If I didn't have a neurotic canine I'd be in town enjoying the atmosphere with everyone else - so good luck to bonfire!
On 2 Oct 2012 at 2:02pm Miss Queens wrote:
Lewes with no bonfire would be like Wise without Morecambe, strawberries without cream..........I could go on
On 2 Oct 2012 at 2:47pm BonfireLAD wrote:
Why are so many people set on destroying an amazing experience? Bonfire has been around longer then all of us and will continue to thrive when we have left this world. I am a lewes man born and bred, bonfire is my passion and many others feel the same. When you join bonfire you accept the risks that are there just as you should if you come to view it. If you do not like it stay in on the night! It is pretty simple! Don't ruin thousands of people's enjoyment because you feel the need to be a joyless fool.
On 2 Oct 2012 at 5:13pm Guy wrote:
Because it's hopelessly outdated and bigoted so has no place in the 21st century. Downright dangerous too. Enough reasons?
On 2 Oct 2012 at 5:27pm BonfireLAD wrote:
The whole town is outdated but you don't see any change happening there. If you believe Bonfire is 'bigoted' as you put it then you are an ignorant fool. Bonfire is filled with people from all walks of life and all creeds. Had you experienced it fully you would know this.
On 2 Oct 2012 at 5:45pm Clog Stomper wrote:
I struggle to understand why anyone can be negative about the 5th. As a recent arrival in Lewes (who has yet to experience Bonfire) it seems to me that the 5th and it's heritage is what makes Lewes what it is; an amazing and unique town. I know i'm new here but 'Bigoted and outdated', what a load of tosh. Oh yes of course we all have a choice where we live and if my view changes...I'll f*% off.
On 2 Oct 2012 at 5:45pm I repeat wrote:
Go along to Rotherfield this Saturday and get a glimpse of what Lewes will be like in say, 3 years max?
Moan all you like but mark my words. The society big chiefs are caving in to the authorities. They are not getting behind you. They are not standing up for the real bonfire tradition. Bonfire is doomed. Doomed I tell you.
On 2 Oct 2012 at 6:02pm BonfireLAD wrote:
Tell me where this great knowledge of bonfire is coming from? Everyone seems to know so much but can back up so little. I suggest you go sulk in the corner like a child because you are not getting your way.
On 2 Oct 2012 at 6:17pm seen it, done it wrote:
Ok bonfireLAD, i'll tell you the score. This is first hand as a born and bred Lewesian and someone who loves the 5th.
The 5th is an amaizing spectacle rivalled by nowhere on earth. The atmosphere, smell in the air and everything about it will be with me to my dying day.
However, i do not go into town these days as there's just so many idiots around. These idiots are both public and society members. The throwing of fireworks among a mixed crowd of all ages and abilities is disgusting. These are not just tin pot bangers but rook scarers which can cause severe damage to people and property.
So next time you think it's oh so hilarious to throw fireworks at people, just think of the consequenses.
Enjoy the 5th....safely.
On 2 Oct 2012 at 6:22pm BonfireLAD wrote:
Could you please point out to me where i said it was hilarious to do such a thing? Having trouble finding it? I agree with what you say 100%, but why should the people who have the common sense to practice it safely be penalized? Tighter rules are needed that is a given but a blanket ban is ridiculous and will not happen.
On 2 Oct 2012 at 6:28pm Little chef wrote:
Chucking fireworks into a crowd is never a good idea , and yes these bangs are getting bigger , please , please don't buy any from Percy's . Theses are the nasty banned ones that will blind someone ,
On 2 Oct 2012 at 7:54pm Sussex Jim wrote:
What's outdated or bigoted, Guy? Bonfire in Lewe
s is a 400-year old tradition; held in a traditional town with traditional people.
Look at the number of injuries or arrests each year. Answer: hardly any, compared with other public events on the streets with similar numbers.
If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen for the night.
On 2 Oct 2012 at 7:57pm Enoch wrote:
"I Repeat" Have you sat around the table with the Authorities and the "big chiefs"? Or are you just reading Society Programmes and getting on your high horse about rumours and conjecture? Lewes is pretty unique within the Bonfire community and just because smaller celebrations around the County have diminished in some capacity does not mean that Lewes will.
On 2 Oct 2012 at 10:51pm Ed Can Do wrote:
Actually, I wouldn't say the outmeetings have diminished all that much. Certainly they're quieter but they're all very well attended and although Burgess Hill skipped a year, there are new ones like Seaford starting all the time and a lot of villages are now invite only for visiting societies in order to keep the numbers down. You get some spectacular displays too, Firle and East Hoathly especially manage to do wonders with very little money.

I'd be amazed if you could find more than a couple of society members who'd even consider doing something as stupid as throwing a rookie into a crowd. Fair enough at a firesite you might blow up your mates but never someone you didn't know or at least never someone you hadn't already seen doing it to their mates, that's just firesite highjinks. It's idiots in the crowd who let off bangers in the crowd and who throw them into the procession. The societies self-police very well and don't stand for any kind of idiotic behaviour as that's the kind of thing that puts the whole thing under greater scrutiny.

There is no need for greater control of the societies, there's a big need for greater control of the crowds. Stop the trains running completely at four o'clock or so. Have bag searches as people leave the station and confiscate booze and fireworks off people as they arrive. The vastly diminished crowd numbers would make it much easier then for the police to pull out of the crowds any idiots left who were chucking fireworks about and make polite suggestions that the people letting their young children stand right at the front of the payment might want to move them back a bit.

Also, far from being more and more anti-Bonfire, my experience in recent years is that the police on the night are getting increasingly approachable and light-hearted on the night. No more then ten years ago we had hundreds and hundreds of police here, dressed in full riot gear or near to it, barking commands and being generally unpleasant. The last few years they've been calmly marshalling the crowd and there seems to be a lot fewer of them.
On 2 Oct 2012 at 11:31pm Southover Queen wrote:
I couldn't agree me, Ed. I've had rows with my family about idiots chucking rookies on quiet side streets on the run-up to Bonfire. I'm sure it's hilarious to make a trudging stranger jump out of her skin on a dark night, but I really hate it and I don't consider it does anything for bonfire tradition.

There is also no point in continuing to insist that rookies aren't dangerous and capable of causing injury because they are. That danger can be kept to a minimum by - as you say - making sure children aren't at the front of the crowd and aren't at adult waist height either - lift them up or put them on your shoulders if you must bring small children. And no-one should be chucking any kind of explosive around in the crowd - I watched the police nab two or three last year up by the Shellys for doing exactly that. At least the marchers know what they're doing and can handle them as safely as possible.
On 3 Oct 2012 at 6:59am Deelite wrote:
So far bonfire has been lucky. As far as I know no-one has been blinded yet. Judging by the drunken idiots throwing fireworks last year it is inevitable there will be an accident of this nature in the next year or two.

I agree with ECD, the crowd needs reducing and controlling. Reduce trains, reduce parking (perhaps remove the right for the noisy LowerStoneham Farm to run the carpark!) and police the streets outside of bonfire times, imposing on-the-spot fines on those that make many residents lives a misery by throwing rookies in the street on the days proceeding and following the event.

If a bad accident does happen bonfire is likely to become heavily controlled, much reduced... and a lot less fun!

The societies also ought to be made to contribute to the cost of rehousing pets during the celebration. It is not just 'neurotic' dogs that get frightened by the bangs... it is almost any dog with decent hearing.
On 3 Oct 2012 at 7:57am Little chef wrote:
@ dee lite , sorry to correct you but someone did lose an eye last year and another 4 had eye operations , ECD was spot on in his post maybe he could join the saftey team that meets all year , as was said in another post don't buy bangers from Percy's he's got the nasty blue ones that are responsible for these eye injury,s ( he's not the only outlet ) why not think about some saftey specs , like cycle helmets looked a bit daft to start with but now is common practice and quite normal ,
On 3 Oct 2012 at 8:16am In the know wrote:
All Societies do not want to see the "blue" or bunged rookies. These were the ones which caused the increase in injuries last year and ALL of the eye injuries. If anyone has any put them in a bucket of water - they are nasty fireworks and have no place in Lewes. Percy's have been asked not to sell them by the Police but they still have them in the shop. As Little Chef says safety specs are probably a good idea together with ear plugs. Yes this is a little overkill but if it stops just one injury it is worth it.
On 3 Oct 2012 at 9:15am Southover Queen wrote:
I'm encouraged by our consensus on the subject of rookies here, I must say. When I've grumbled about people chucking them around in the run up I've been told "that it's all part of Bonfire tradition" and a great laugh. I disagree and I think it undermines the spirit of the event, personally. It's different in the procession, and if the dangerous rookies are outlawed - by peer pressure as well as enforcement - then the future of Bonfire should be safe, at least in this regard.

There is another pressure on Bonfire though, and that's thousands of drunken visitors. They're a danger to themselves and to others - I understand that most of the injuries last year were to drunk students falling off walls and breaking limbs etc. It seems to me that the source of that problem is obvious - two large universities just down the road who all clearly believe that Bonfire is just an excuse for a boozy party/carnival. I do like the idea of stopping trains early (I know they ration them already) and I would also look at ways of restricting car parking too. My guess is that persuading drunken students to stay away in their thousands would be a great step forward, but I don't have a magic solution to that!

Last year there were reportedly something like 60,000 people in town. Yes it was a Saturday and yes I'm sure that made it a lot worse, but it makes the event miserable for everyone if the crowds are such that no-one can move.
On 3 Oct 2012 at 9:23am Dave wrote:
Percy should have more sense than to sell those blue rookies at this time of year.
On 3 Oct 2012 at 9:28am Annette Curtin-Twitcher wrote:
Imo, the throwing of fireworks by the public is far more of a problem than by members. I've marshalled for several years and on a couple of occasions have had to have a word with young members about getting a bit reckless with their rookies. Even then they have been keeping their fireworks in the procession, not in the crowd. I'm not saying bonfire boys never throw fireworks into the crowd, but in 15 years, I've never seen it happen and I watch them like a hawk.
I have, however, seen numerous incidents of fireworks coming in from the crowd, and have taken a couple of hits myself from them. The worst thing I ever saw was a member of the public drop a banger onto the open part of a bandsman's tuba, luckily, he'd spotted it too and dropped it out before it went off. At East Hoathly one year, a member of the public stood on the steps of the pub throwing rookies into a crowd of people drinking at an outside bar, under a gazebo. He couldn't even see that what he was doing was dangerous.
If anyone watches a procession closely, they will see that fireworks are not let off in the vicinity of musicians, or the formal street fireworks, and that smaller children are generally walking in a quieter, safer part of the procession. I always get children in behind a band, where they can be safe. There will be a few ranks in each section where the people who like to let off loads of rookies congregate, so those most at risk of injury are themselves most likely to cause it.
The vast majority of bonfire members know how to use rookies safely. The crowd don't, and I think Ed's idea of confiscating fireworks and booze from people entering town is a great one. After all, they succeeded in stopping booze being brought into football grounds, so it can't be impossible.
Maybe we should have turnstiles at all the entry points......
On 3 Oct 2012 at 9:50am In the know wrote:
British Transport Police have skips at Lewes and Brighton Stations which they fill with confiscated booze but the public can just come out of the Train Station and stock up again from either the Off Licences that remain open or the pubs which operate as an Off Licence for the night or Tescos and Waitrose (if they get in early enough). If you watch any YouTube videos of Bonfire you will see some really stupid behaviour from the public - such as throwing a lit torch at the CSBS tab and also throwing a glass bottle at it which missed and went into the crowd on the opposite side of the road! Cut the crowd numbers and you will cut down on the problems. Out of interest injuries are 0.03% of those attending the event which- includes drunks and those with pre-exisiting conditions such as Asthma, pregnancy or needing a new plaster for a cut finger they sustained the day before!
On 3 Oct 2012 at 10:14am Little chef wrote:
Whilst Percy is still stocking and selling theses , he doesn't feel it's his social responsibility , but I would ask all parents that have bought from there for their underage kids , and themselves WAKE UP , if you are not sure what you have bought take one to any torch making session any tab builder , and I'm sure in the interest of every ones safety they will put you straight , @SQ . You are wrong about the trains , they put more on to Cope , aplenty it's safer to bring them to lewes than turn them away at Brighton , can't believe that myself ,
On 3 Oct 2012 at 10:27am Southover Queen wrote:
Thanks Little Chef - in that case I've been misinformed. Perhaps some pressure on the powers that be then: restricting access to Lewes has to be sensible and will improve the experience for those of us who want to enjoy Bonfire safely.

I do feel that part of the problem with anti-social behaviour in general is that no-one thinks it's "their responsibility". If someone is selling materials which are then used in a dangerous way, then I'd have thought that it's definitely his "social responsibility". That's what being part of a community is all about (or should be).
On 3 Oct 2012 at 10:45am Little chef wrote:
SQ. believe me it's the same old chestnut year after year for 15 years now , it's the train operators legal responsibility to provide a service , so they tell us the station cannot be closed , if it was this would lead to road chaos , I think only for the first year whilst outsiders get the message , it's a can of worms , my feeling is 20 coppers at Brighton would be worth 50 here , we won't be druv , except we are being druv for how long and how far who knows , it will go underground if there is too much druv-Ing ,
On 3 Oct 2012 at 11:30am Barbara wrote:
When I arrived in Lewes in 1976, I had never heard of Bonfire. It was wonderful and I have never missed a year since. But I have had grandchildren with me for the last three years and I am sure I have noticed that it is getting noisier with those rookies. They DO throw them from the processions into the gutters at the feet of the spectators which is not very pleasant.
It used to be nicer than it is now, but I still wouldn't miss it.
On 3 Oct 2012 at 12:17pm Ed Can Do wrote:
Blue rookies have been flat-out banned by the Bonfire Council and certainly both societies I'm a member of have a zero tolerance policy in place regarding them, anyone found with any on them will be instantly removed from the procession and banned from the society and if they let one off they may well be arrested. There have been no announcements about dropping other kinds of bangers although I believe Southover are having none let off in the streets this year (Despite spending most of the evening wandering around lost in the back streets near the Swan). That Percy's are still selling blues seems a little silly on their part as hopefully no society members will be buying any and although they are entirely within their rights to sell them as a genuine agricultural product, I can't imagine the local farming community buy that many of them. If I were Percy's I'd have spent the last year trying to source an alternative without chunks of cement in, unless they have been doing that as I know that there are a bunch of members looking for a decent, widely available alternative to no avail as yet.

I would expect to see a lot more flares going off this year if people don't have as many bangers to drop so we'll probably have swathes of people with asthma needing medical attention and next year all the furore over blue rookies will be forgotten in a witch hunt against flares instead...

I fail to see how limiting the number of trains is really an issue or at least better controlling the numbers of people and what they're carrying. To draw parallels with football matches again, there is very tight control over who gets on what train near a Premiership ground, nobody brings booze into a ground and nobody is allowed in drunk. Now of course it's easier to restrict access to a stadium than a whole town but actually Lewes is pretty easily close-off-able, there are only three major roads in and only one station. They manage to contain and control much bigger crowds at Notting Hill carnival and that's bang in the middle of London. Already the roads are closed off a long way from the middle of town here so surely some form of checkpoint wouldn't be that difficult to set up? To limit people aquiring booze once they're in town, you simply need closer monitoring of the offies and pubs. Most publicans in Lewes will ony serve locals as it is and whilst limiting Station Wines opening hours would be curtailing their once a year licence to print money somewhat, I'm sure there are precedents for suspension of a licence on a temporary basis for events like this.

Think how much is spent on policing the event. If you could cut the numbers coming in by limiting train access and cut out the drunkeness by stopping people bringing in booze or buying it once they're here then you'd save a ton of cash and could spend some of that on compensating the off-licences for shutting early. Also if you had a locals only rule in every pub, it might encourage some of the commuter types in town who never venture anywhere other than their home, the station and Wickle to visit some of the pubs in town on a night other than Bonfire Night, thereby shoring up their finances and hopefully curb their desire to make as much money as humanly possibly on the 5th.

It's not a perfect solution and would require a lot of organisation and agreement from several disparate parties but I think something along those lines is the only way to stop the whole thing getting watered down to the point where it's no longer recognisable. I'm sure those publicans who operate an open door policy wouldn't take much persuading to limit their customer base, a suitable compensation package or just arbitrary licence suspension would get the offies on board and if it meant getting his name on the news then Norm would surely help out getting the train companies on-side. The only real argument any of those parties could have is that they're losing out on money but it's money they make off the back of all the hard work put in by the societies. If there was no more Bonfire Night then they'd make no more money out of it.

Rant over.
On 3 Oct 2012 at 12:42pm Southover Queen wrote:
Brilliant post, Ed. I'd endorse everything you say.

The funny thing about the boring old "bonfire haters" debate which flares up on the forum on a regular basis is that most advocates of both sides (ban it vs keep it) totally miss the point that anti-social and dangerous behaviour (which many of the "keep it" brigade insist is "an essential part of Bonfire tradition") is what threatens the future of Bonfire. The event as the societies want it to run is fantastic and a totally brilliant example of how a community can run a potentially dangerous spectacle safely. That's the key though, isn't it: a community which understands and upholds the rules and which is willing to challenge dangerous behaviour rather than expecting the police or a BS marshall to do it for them. It's up to us, as residents of the town and members of the community, to understand the rules and do our bit to ensure that they're followed. In my humble opinion, anyway.
On 3 Oct 2012 at 2:40pm Annette Curtin-Twitcher wrote:
I was told by a senior police officer many years ago that police powers do not include any which would enable them to stop trains or prevent people getting on or off them. The powers used on football trains are, apparently, exercised with the consent of the train operators, who don't want their trains messed up or services disrupted (after all, they are very good at disrupting service themselves, why should they let anyone else steal their thunder).

The police are then faced with the Hobson's choice of not letting people leave the station precinct, with its risks to public order and safety, or letting them spread out round the town.

You both make excellent points, ECD and SQ. Part of the thrill of bonfire is that it's risky though - pulling a tab through the town is risky, carrying a huge burning cross or other fiery piece is risky (especially on a windy night), street fireworks in set pieces are risky, even the torches can be risky. What bonfire lovers fear is that a wholesale ban on bangers in the streets would be the thin end of the health and safety wedge.
Any injury is to be regretted, but given the numbers of people out on the night I think injury rates are low (as are arrests - probably no more than on an average weekend most years). Most of the risks are to bonfire boys and girls, who accept them willingly. I think the societies and bonfire council have behaved very responsibly with regard to the blue rookies, and given the lack of suitable alternatives, this year may be a lot quieter than usual.
On 3 Oct 2012 at 3:37pm Southover Queen wrote:
ACT wrote: "Part of the thrill of bonfire is that it's risky though - pulling a tab through the town is risky, carrying a huge burning cross or other fiery piece is risky (especially on a windy night), street fireworks in set pieces are risky, even the torches can be risky. What bonfire lovers fear is that a wholesale ban on bangers in the streets would be the thin end of the health and safety wedge. "

Exactly! I marvel at the spectacle and the fact that in spite of ubiquitous elfensafety nonsense, Lewes Bonfire survives. And exactly as you say, the only reason it survives against all the odds is because the vast majority behave responsibly and understand that Bonfire is a privilege not a right. Long may it continue...

On 3 Oct 2012 at 7:21pm Hold em up wrote:
Flares are being looked at as well , would you believe because they get hot ! And still are when discarded ,
On 4 Oct 2012 at 6:45am Annette Curtin-Twitcher wrote:
Torches will be next, and fiery pieces.

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