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Thousands brave heavy rain in Lewes for bonfire night celebrations

Published 05/11/2015

Participants parade through Lewes
Participants parade through Lewes

Thousands of people braved heavy rain to cram the narrow streets of a county town for its world famous bonfire night celebrations.

Lewes in East Sussex - dubbed the UK's bonfire capital - turned into a riot of colour and noise as a series of torchlit processions weaved through the town.

A tableau of David Cameron, in Union flag underpants and holding a pig's head, was created by one Lewes bonfire society following claims, dismissed as nonsense by sources close to the prime minister, that he took part in a lewd act with a dead pig while an Oxford University student.

Former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson was also sent up. A figure of him, complete with boxing gloves in a nod to the infamous bust-up with a colleague which led to him leaving the hit BBC show, was paraded through the town.

Other famous names who were the focus of the town's bonfire societies' jokes this year included suspended Fifa president Sepp Blatter following a series of scandals at the football governing body.

Crowds jeered as a tableau of Blatter sticking his middle finger up while sitting surrounded by piles of cash in front of a sign saying Thiefa was seen in the town.

Another of Lewes's bonfire societies - Borough - created what its members claim is the world's largest guy standing at 50ft tall.

Borough Bonfire Society chairman Jason Winter said: "It's a world record but it's an unofficial one because Guinness World Records won't return my calls or emails.

"The wind has started to batter it a bit and it's strapped to 20 tonnes of scaffolding. We've been working on it all week."

Lewes has earned a global reputation over the years for its riotous Bonfire Night celebrations - and for its controversial effigies which have sometimes sparked criminal inquiries.

Last year, Sussex Police launched an investigation after an effigy of ex-Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond was created, but prosecutors later ruled that no criminal offence had taken place.

Shops and homes were boarded up throughout the day as an estimated 80,000 people were expected to descend on the town. However, heavy rain appears to have kept many away.

In Lewes, Bonfire Night not only marks the date of the uncovering of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, but also commemorates the burning of 17 Protestant martyrs in the town's High Street in the 16th century.

To mark their demise, 17 burning crosses are carried through the town, and a wreath-laying ceremony takes place at the war memorial.

A flaming tar barrel is also thrown into the nearby River Ouse, said to symbolise the throwing of magistrates into the water after they read the riot act to bonfire boys in 1847.

The town has seven bonfire societies, six of which hold their celebrations on November 5. Each has its own costume, ranging from Tudor dress to Mongol warriors, their own bonfire site and procession route.

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