Emma Tucker has been attending the local November the Fifth celebrations in Lewes since she was three. Awkward, politically incorrect, difficult to explain, she still sees the whole celebration of local anti establishment sentiment:
On the night itself the societies march through the steep streets of Lewes carrying paraffin-soaked torches and crosses and parading effigies of Guy Fawkes, the Pope of 1605, and other “enemies of the bonfire”. The marchers wear fabulous costumes – Vikings, Zulus (faces blacked up), Elizabethans and Red Indians and are trailed by noisy marching bands. Bonfire Boys run with burning tar barrels to Cliffe Bridge where they toss them, flaming, into the River Ouse. Later the societies reconvene at sites around the town to light mountainous bonfires. Members dressed as bishops conduct bonfire prayers and repeatedly ask the crowd: “What’ll we do with him?”. The answer, of course, is “Burn him!” at which point the popes and Guy Fawkes go up in flames and the firework displays begin.
In spite of what it sounds like, the truth is that Lewes is no more anti-Catholic than any other town in England – that is, not anti-Catholic at all. Plenty of Catholics take part in the celebrations and my chosen vantage point for watching the processions has always been from outside Lewes’s Catholic church. I have never witnessed anything ugly and always take my own, gunpowder-hardy children to watch from the same place.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty