Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bonfire Beckons!

The legendary Lewes Bonfire celebrations are getting very close. This is always a special time of year which I really enjoy.

This year I am triply involved: presenting two shows for Bonfire’s radio station Rocket FM, processing as a Cluniac monk with the Southover Bonfire Society on The Fifth, and staging a special Bonfire Poetry session at Lewes Poetry at the Lewes Arms on Friday (25 October).

The Bonfire Poetry gig is particularly pressing. 

It is the first time I have attempted this and I really hope there is a good turn-out from the bonfire societies. The idea is that the entire evening will be devoted to poetry about Bonfire and remembrance.

I will be compering, in my monk’s habit, and also reading relevant poems. 

Matt Street, Commander-in-Chief of Southover Bonfire Society, wrote a good poem about the late Keith Austin, the Society’s Secretary, which will be read on the night. 

Other poems about Keith and the Lewes Bonfire movement that he so loved will also be read.
Remembrance is a very big part of Bonfire. In the Southover Bonfire Society, we have always majored on it, with an annual theme, commemorating those who have died for their country in wars and conflicts.

I have been working my way through books of war poetry to find suitable poems for the night. I hope the event gets the support it deserves. Doors open at 8.15pm, upstairs at the Lewes Arms, with a show from 8.45pm-11pm. A prize poetry contest for bonfire poems will take place, and there will be a late bar (till midnight).
Of course, I am a little worried that my back – I have torn a muscle – might make compering the show very painful. But whatever happens, the show will go on.
Rocket FM also beckons. 

I have been given two shows, this coming Saturday (26 October) from 7pm-9pm and the following Saturday (2 November) in the same slot, on 87.8 FM in Lewes and the Ouse Valley and also online at:

It is the fifth consecutive year of the Timewarp show – playing the best in “raves from the grave”, as well as featuring guests from the arts world.

This year, I will presenting my first show (on Saturday, 26 October) with the help of poet Laura King and artist and vinyl record expert Guyan Porter.

For the second show (Saturday, 2 November), I will be more than ably assisted by my old varsity friend, DJ E, a.k.a. John Eckersley) with whom I DJ-ed at the University of Hull in the early 1980s.
John is a superb disc jockey and did an amazing job last year when he guested on Timewarp. We chose the music between us. Playing the tunes, the memories came flooding back and the chat flowed like a river.

The Fifth is a bit of a logistical nightmare now I am not longer living in Lewes.
I have taken half a day off from work so I can get into the town easily before it is locked down, and partake in the first procession.

Processing on Bonfire Night is always a somewhat hairy experience. 

However, the bonfire societies have made a real effort this year to reduce the risk of injury by banning the horrendous blue rookies – super-powerful ground fireworks that scare the sh*t out of me.

With the recent demise of our Secretary, it will be an especially poignant occasion.

I always think that when the Fifth falls on a weekday it is particularly special.

When it is on a Saturday or Sunday, the event takes place on a Saturday (Bonfire Boys and Belles will not process on the Lord’s Day) and the town is flooded with tourists who have come from far afield.

I do not object to this as much as many Lewes folk do. Who can blame people from visiting a spectacle as enthralling and photogenic as Lewes Bonfire?
However, it is so much more of a purely Lewes and Sussex affair when the day falls in the week.
As a (re)founder member of Southover Bonfire Society and someone who was persuaded to sign up by Matt Street and Keith Austin, it is always good to see how remarkably the Society has progressed in a relatively short time.
Southover is quite a big chunk of the town and the Southover Bonfire Society’s reformation filled a need and a longing among all the residents of Southover, many of whom, myself included, would otherwise have never joined a bonfire society. (Some other members of the Society are pictured before embarking on the recent Seaford Bonfire Out Meeting.)
And, so, I will proudly and with peace and dignity be playing my part in this year’s Lewes Bonfire celebrations. 

* My NUJ (National Union of Journalists) branch meetings in Brighton used to be attended by one man and a dog! Over the past two years, there have been times when we have struggled to get even half a dozen members together in the back room of the Iron Duke. Now that seems to be changing.

The last meeting, on Monday, 21 October, was attended by more than 80 people, thanks in no small part to the guest speaker, investigative journalist Nick Davies (incidentally, from Lewes), who spoke brilliantly. 

I was particularly fascinated by his take on Julian Assange, currently holed up in the Ecuadoran Embassy, near where I work. A great meeting! It was a great meeting but can we turn an evening like that into a far more thriving branch for regular meetings?

·       * I have a new favourite public house in Brighton – the Foundry, on Foundry Street. I chanced upon it because I was walking back from my guitar lesson last week and needed a rest from the pain of my back. So, I dropped in. 

      There are incredibly friendly and pleasant in the Foundry and play Scrabble at the bar. Even an old bloke with a stick and a crook back seems to be welcome. The beer is really good and there is an acoustic group on a Monday night. If you don’t fancy an alcoholic drink, they are happy to make you a very pleasant coffee.

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