Tomorrow evening (Saturday) it’s the 25th anniversary of Hastings Borough Bonfire Society’s annual torch-blazing procession through the town – the longest single file of blazing torches in the county “and therefore the world!”, according to the Society’s website. Up to 40 bonfire societies, drumming bands and other groups are expected to participate.

There will be the usual elements of drumming and fireworks along the route, burning of a giant effigy on the fire, and the grand finale of a fireworks display on the beach. Present weather forecasts suggest that elements of wind and rain may also play a part.

For reasons not entirely apparent, the day will start at 11.30am with an artillery and infantry display by the Southern Skirmish Association, an American Civil War re-enactment society, at the harbour arm and in the Old Town. More traditionally there will be a guy-making competition held at the Stade for kids under 16.

The identity of the effigy has not yet been revealed. Though there may seem a proliferation of public candidates worthy of being charred this year, the Bonfire Society are unlikely to opt for any individual antagonist: in 2002 it was Saddam Hussein, but in 1997 parking attendants, in 2008 a certain art gallery, and in 2015 seagulls. “We do not have an opinion when we burn the effigy and blow it up with fireworks”, the Society insists. “The idea is to make people think about and discuss that topic”. Guy Fawkes perhaps hoped to inspire a similarly broad-minded reaction when he prepared to blow up Parliament in 1605.

The Society has issued various safety instructions to the public: don’t light or throw any fireworks or bangers, don’t wear flammable clothes, keep pets away. The event might appear a nightmare for a health and safety consultant, but the record of previous years is generally reassuring.

The procession is due to begin at the America Ground end of Robertson Street at 7.15pm, pass through the town centre, then eastwards along the seafront, round the Old Town circuit of All Saints Street and the High Street, and back to the bonfire opposite Pelham Place. The bonfire and fireworks are timed for 9pm. 

PICTURES: Ben Bruges

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