Bonfire society pulls out of Lewes November 5 celebrations

A bonfire society has announced that it will not be taking part in the famous Lewes November 5 festivities this year because of coronavirus.

Cliffe Bonfire Society said on Sunday that it was a “difficult but, in the end, inevitable decision”.

It is one of only a handful of times in its 167-year history that it has been “druv” (driven) to the move in order to save lives, the others being the First and Second World Wars, the 1960 Lewes Flood and the typhoid outbreak in the town in 1874.

The East Sussex town is famous for burning effigies of controversial politicians and celebrities every year on Bonfire Night.

Effigies created by the seven bonfire societies that make up Lewes Bonfire Council are paraded along the narrow streets before being burned in front of thousands of onlookers.

Last year’s celebrations featured a runaway Brexit rollercoaster featuring a frantic-looking Boris Johnson and a lounging Jacob Rees-Mogg.

The other six societies have not made any announcements about cancelling 2020 festivities.

Bonfire night 2019
An effigy of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg during the parade through Lewes last year (Gareth Fuller/PA)

A spokesman for Cliffe Bonfire Society said: “It is with a heavy heart that the committee of Cliffe Bonfire Ltd, trading as Cliffe Bonfire Society, and the directors of Brightnight Ltd formally announce that our celebration of the deliverance of King James I and Parliament from the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 and its associated protection of our democracy on November 5th 2020 is cancelled.

“As before, this decision has been taken primarily to protect our members’ and community’s safety, but also to ensure that we do not burden our emergency services when their presence may be needed elsewhere.”

The society said that being run by part-time volunteers would make it “almost impossible” with social distancing requirements for the thousands of people who attend.

They added: “Rest assured, the Cliffe will be back, hopefully in 2021, more spectacular, louder and better than ever.”

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