We Burn To Do Good - Bonfire Night In A Small Sussex Seaside Town Called Littlehampton

Littlehampton Bonfire Night - Dressed in costumes, members of the Littlehampton Bonfire Society ignite a large bonfire by throwing flaming torches onto it. The society has been organising the event for 64 years and it attracts thousands of people each year to the seaside town. Photo © Scott Ramsey Photography

Across the UK, throughout the year, from the smallest of villages to the largest towns and cities you will be able to find a tradition or custom being celebrated. Often started hundreds of years ago, these sometimes unusual events are often continued by volunteers who choose to give up their spare time to keep the tradition alive. I decided a few years ago to document some of these events. 

One tradition that is widely celebrated across the UK is Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night on November the 5th each year. For several weeks before and even after the 5th, local communities and bonfire societies gather together to build bonfires, burn the guy and let off fireworks into the night sky. The tradition dates back to 1605 when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gun Powder Plot, was arrested as he guarded explosives that had been placed under the House of Lords in London. The plotters intentions were to blow up Parliament and kill King James I. To celebrate the discovery of the plot, people lit bonfires around London and soon afterwards Observance Of 5th November Act enforced a annual public day of thanksgiving for the plots failure. For the last 64 years members of the Littlehampton Bonfire Society have worked tirelessly to keep this tradition alive. They work throughout the year making plans for this one night, Bonfire Night, which raises money for local charities and good causes that benefit the local community. Their motto is 'We Burn To Do Good'. Last year I was handed an 'Access All Areas' pass, thank you to Laurenn, which allowed me to document the event. 

The first time I photographed The Littlehampton Bonfire Night I was a young boy, eager to learn about photography from my dad. I visited a few years later, but this time I was on assignment for a local newspaper who had employed me as a junior photographer aged just 17. Now some 20 plus years later I was back and loving every minute of it.

In the seaside town a few days before the celebrations start, a call is put out to the local community to help build a large bonfire on the seafront. People from the surrounding villages arrive at the site, cars and vans crammed full of wood. With help from the bonfire society members, the wood is unloaded, sorted and piled high creating a large bonfire. You can see for yourself by watching the video. 

On the night of the celebrations, local Bonfire Societies are invited to join the procession through the town. Dressed in different costumes (a tradition that originally started to avoid arrest), each society member carries a flaming torch. The procession is also joined by marching bands and local community floats, who then all make their way through the town watched by thousands of spectators. Upon their arrival the torches are thrown onto the bonfire, igniting it and soon after fireworks fill the sky. 


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