Nevill, Eastbourne and Firle Bonfires 2009

This week we take a quick look at Nevill, Eastbourne and Firle Bonfires which are all taking place on 24 October 2009!

Nevill Juvenile Bonfire Society was formed, almost by accident, in 1967, when two local men had their own bonfires destroyed before the 5th November, and decided to have a community bonfire, with forty of their friends and 50 torches, along with fireworks and a small set piece, on the local allotments.

Within two years the society were using 1500 torches in four processions and within five years they had over 500 members.  Today the society marches with a large number of visiting societies, making an impressive snake around the Nevill estate, headed up with their own colourful costumes and green and white striped guernseys.  Topical cartoon or toy related tabs are usually the order of the day with Nevill, last year a giant Lego Batman was hauled through the streets to meet a firey, explosive end, in recognition of the 50th birthday of Lego and the Batman film, the Dark Knight, which had been released earlier in the year.

Events kick off at six when the first procession forms up in Highdown Road for a march to the green, where poppies will be lit and the Martyrs’ Memorial will also be set off.  The Last Post will be played and there will be a minutes silence, before the procession returns to Highdown Road.

At half seven the main procession will form up and leave at around quarter to eight.  Taking around seventy five minutes, it will wind its way around most of Nevill before heading down to The Green and up the Nevill Road to the firesite at Landport Bottom, which, confusingly, is neither where the Landport Estate is or the bottom of anywhere!  It’s more commonly known as “The Race Hill” and it’s where Borough Bonfire have their fireworks on the fifth!

After the fireworks have completed the final procession will form up in Highdown Road, do a loop of Firle Crescent and Mount Harry Road before returning the the headquarters for Bonfire Prayers!

Don’t forget to support Nevill by buying a programme, which are available from the shops on the estate and by paying the small £3 charge for adults to enter the firesite.  Don’t forget that accompanied kids are free!  There will be a collection for charities along the route, please don’t forget to give generously!

If you want to support and up and coming bonfire society, then maybe Eastbourne will be the night for you.  Reformed after a long absence in 2001, Eastbourne is a small yet friendly society, who can be seen with their distinctive banner and unevenly spaced Guernsey stripes at all of the main events in Sussex.

Advertising themselves as a family friendly event, the discharging of rook scarers, flares and other scary things in the procession is strictly prohibited and the procession will actually take place along the promenade in the town, rather than along the road.

It’s no great secret in bonfire circles that Eastbourne have had a hard time with the council, who have made it difficult  even for torches to be part of the procession in the past, I believe citing reasons such as “fire risk to buildings” as an excuse not to have a torchlit procession.

The procession will leave about 7:30 from Silverdale Cross and end with an explosive firework display and beacon on the beach around 8:30, behind the bandstand, so a nice early one and good for the kids, with the added advantage that the area is well lit and policed, making it one of the safest events on the calendar.

One final note, it is illegal to drink on the streets in Eastbourne, and accordingly drinking is prohibited both in the procession and in the crowd.

Our final bonfire preview this week is for Firle, who have a long history and are the only big society that don’t invite other societies to attend their procession.  Not because they are an unfriendly lot, but because there are so many members and such a small village, that there just would be room for everyone!  Famous for its fire banners coming down the hill, Firle is a great destination, but being small, it’s often overcrowded, so  hopefully the clash with Fletching this year will help relieve some of this.  Winner of the “Where In Sussex Best Bonfire Brew” in 2005, I will be sad to not be attending this year.  There is usually a charge for parking at Firle Place and the fireworks are always spectacular.  Those heading to Firle hoping for something controversial will be sadly disappointed, as Firle bonfire is, as it always has been, a celebration for the villagers of Firle.

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