Wednesday 13 February 15:53
Enrich your life and help to build a more inclusive, understanding and caring community…
I’m back! Been a bit useless with blogging recently but I’ve been inspired and thought I’d post something about a talk I gave the other day…
The Red Cross Centre in London Road, Bexhill runs a Wednesday club for deaf and hearing impaired people from across the area. They recently asked me to pop along to talk about scams, frauds and internet safety.
I’ve got to admit as someone who only just about knows the British Sign Language alphabet, how to say ‘my name is’ and ‘thank you’ I wasn’t entirely confident! Luckily there were plenty of people to interpret for me and although I don’t give many of these kinds of talks it apparently went well! After all, despite a few alien (to some) computer based phrases, being safe on the internet, knowing about scams and taking care not to get drawn in by fraudsters is, in the main, about common sense, so although I had to do a bit of research it wasn’t too difficult… the thing is with scam artists and fraudsters is that they will always be coming up with new ways to try to take your money or steal your identity, the important thing is to spread the word as much as possible; education and awareness are key!
Moving away from scams, the actual visit itself was a bit of an eye opener…
I’ve always wanted to learn British Sign Language (BSL), not just for my job (which it would benefit considering my role is about ensuring we communicate and engage with all members of our communities) but I think it would be a great skill for life too!
Visiting the Red Cross Centre just increased my resolve to ensure I do learn BSL in the near future… Being in an almost silent room with everyone communicating in a way I do not fully understand gave me a little glimpse in to how life is like every day for many of the people in that room. Whether born deaf, hearing impaired or deaf due to illness, accident or old age every day must come with frustrations many of us will never or rarely experience; one lady told me of her problems when shopping, so many don’t know how to deal with communicating with deaf people and so do not give them the service they would give to other customers and I think that’s just appalling.
Emergency services do a lot to make ourselves available to everyone, including things like emergency sms (click here to find out more), loop systems in Police Station front offices, various other accessibility options (which can be found on the Sussex Police website here) and training for staff, but we could all as individuals do so much more.
Even just enrolling on a deaf awareness course, of which there are many, would make a person so much more responsive to knowing how to communicate with deaf people and that wouldn’t just make their lives easier but would enrich yours and help to build a more inclusive, understanding and in some ways, more caring community.
I’ve already been on deaf awareness courses, among many other courses and training designed to make me a better communicator but I will have to wait until September to enrol on a proper British Sign Language course, and I hope, if work and life hasn’t changed too much by then I will.
Now, my final thought… If each person made a commitment to become more open to and knowledgeable of ways to communicate in ways and with people they wouldn’t ordinarily the world would be a much friendlier place.
Want to know more about BSL? Take a look here.
Friday 21 December 13:12
The four 'C's... Cracker, Cranberry and Christmas... Oh, and don't forget Communication!
Bonfire season is well and truly over but I’m continuing as a Sussex Police Person for the foreseeable future. I’ll be bringing you updates on what I and Rother’s Neighbourhood Policing Teams are up to.
So, firstly, and quite rightly, I need to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Whether you celebrate this time of year or not I hope you all have a wonderful festive period. Eat, drink and be merry but remember to do so responsibly and think about the emergency services working over this period to keep you safe.
I’ll be working quite a bit over Christmas although I am lucky enough to have Christmas, Boxing and New Years days off. But whilst at work I’ll be continuing my day to day role, which includes keeping Rother’s communities up to date via social media, community messaging email and liaising with local news media on community issues.
It’s also my job to make sure any campaigns, regarding crime prevention initiatives and awareness of various issues, are advertised as far and wide as possible throughout my district; including posters, leaflets, social media, press releases, local events and meetings.
This time of year that includes crime prevention advice about shopping and protecting your presents under our ‘Operation Cracker’ initiative, making people aware of our ‘Drink OR Drive’ campaign and our new ‘Talk to me, I can help’ campaign, which at this time of year is focused on encouraging people to report domestic abuse. It is a sad fact that we see a rise in domestic abuse reports over the Christmas and New Year period and so every year we launch our ‘Operation Cranberry’ patrols to help support those reporting and this year the ‘Talk to me’ campaign is aiming to further support those suffering by promoting ways in which they can find support, both from police and other organisations.
I do hope that all of this communication work, both out on the ground and via fairly new media (Facebook, Twitter etc) does help. There’s no doubt that with our increased use of social media and clearer initiatives targeting specific problems that we are reaching, and continue to reach, people that a year a ago would not have had much contact with their local police, and that’s only a good thing.
I’ll see you in 2013, when we’ll be continuing this increased communication and highlighting what happens when you commit crime in Rother district - Don’t bother in Rother!
Have a good one :-)
Friday 30 November 21:05
Rother Bonfire Season – The finale
So, I’ve attended every main bonfire event in Rother, I’ve sacrificed weekends, spent days off editing photos and videos, tweeted, facebooked, had meetings, conducted interviews, been interviewed (video here), and been given numerous funny looks… But was it all worth it?
Of course it was! This bonfire season has been the best I have been involved in so far!
Before joining Rother district (two years ago in Rye) I spent just under three years in the Lewes area either working at bonfire events or attending them off duty and I liked them enough, both from a policing and spectator point of view, to want to get even more involved when I got the job of Public Engagement Officer in Rother, but I can honestly say I have never enjoyed a bonfire season as much as I have this year.
Some may say, mainly my colleagues, that perhaps I enjoyed it because I was given the freedom to run around doing what I love, taking photos of these brilliant events, but I know the truth… The reason this season was so spectacular for me was the community atmosphere they all brought with them and the people I’ve met along the way.
Each event had a real sense of local communities coming together to enjoy a tradition so rooted in Sussex that bonfire societies are now a way of life, an important part of so many of our towns and villages and, if this season is anything to go by, I can only see them going from strength to strength; I’m not saying the events should get bigger, in fact I believe, and this is just personal opinion, that Battle’s event being scaled down this year brought with it a closer cohesion of local people instead of people from far and wide converging on a town too small for their convergence. I’d like to stress that I haven’t been to Battle’s event previously and have only made that judgement on how well this year went and how well it seemed to be received by others.
Battle was definitely a highlight for me but the first main event I attended, Ewhurst and Staplecross, was great too; it was an intimate family affair and the local PCSO Demi Georghiou knew almost everyone (including the Parish Council Chair who was nice enough to be involved in my first vlog) and made our job a breeze with local knowledge.
After Battle, where Battel Bonfire Boyes Chairman Hannah Thomas got engaged to their Health and Safety Officer Jason Griffiths (congratulations once again to them), was Rye.
Rye was much busier than the first two events and I used it to focus on what our Licensing Team and the local Neighbourhood Policing Team do before and during the event. It was challenging on our resources due to the amount of people and a number of problems throughout the night but still the good natured community atmosphere shone through and any issues were dealt with and resolved quickly and professionally.
Finally, Robertsbridge, with fireworks to rival that of Battle, which were incredible, ended our season on a high with no major problems, great leadership from all local services, including Robertsbridge Bonfire Society Chairman Sam (thank you to her and Inspector James Scott for helping out with my final bonfire vlog) and local Street Pastors, who did a great job at many of the events.
So, what have I learnt this year? Firstly, something I’ve known for a long time was reinforced, despite these events being challenging for public services and the like they are a great way of bringing not only local communities together but local services too; officers from across East Sussex Division all came together to work as a team in the policing operations for each event, which is something we don’t all get to do often so they are great for building a closer working relationship with people you do not see every day.
Also, this was the first time someone in police uniform has been seen at these events taking photos and videos from a community side of things, we have evidence gathering teams whose job is to record police arrests etc but me running about with a camera around my neck taking nice photos of the entire event was new to people and this brought with it funny looks and suspicion; people asked me where the photos would end up and trying to explain that they’d be on my blog, facebook and twitter, became difficult if they didn’t believe me, I even had people laugh at me when I mentioned a police facebook page, it was incomprehensible to them! Which I find so strange… Social media and internet use continues to be a fundamental shift in the way we, as a society, communicate so it goes with reason that if the communities we serve are using these mediums to communicate so should we; it would be utterly narrow minded and in some ways irresponsible, considering we are a PUBLIC service, to ignore what ‘the public’ (all of us, including services) are doing to communicate and engage with each other…
I think the people I spoke with took my explanation fairly well as since an increased use of facebook and twitter over the bonfire season, including the posting of my photos, videos and blogs, we’ve seen a great influx in the amount of people not only visiting our facebook photo albums from the events but engaging with us through social media via Rother’s facebook pages and twitter accounts and that gives me a great sense of achievement; I love that I have been able to use my creative skills to increase our engagement with people who, before finding out about our social media use, may not have even spoken to an officer in the street, and at the end of the day that is what my and local Neighbourhood Policing Teams jobs are all about.
I was also told recently that my blog has one of the highest view rates of all of the Sussex Police People so I thank you for reading, I hope you’ve all enjoyed my updates and learnt a bit more about both the policing and community aspects of bonfire season.
Lastly, thank you to all of the bonfire societies, spectators, colleagues, partner agencies, emergency services, tweeters, facebookers and bloggers who have made this bonfire season so successful, enjoyable and above all safe.
Although this is my final bonfire blog I’ll be staying on for a bit as a Sussex Police Person to bring you more insights in to what I and the rest of our teams here at Sussex Police do. I’ll also have something a bit different for you in the near future so watch this space :-)
For more photos from this year’s Bonfire Season click here for the Battle area and here for the Rye area.
Tuesday 20 November 22:35
My final Rother Bonfire Season vlog.
Robertsbridge Bonfire was brilliant, the rain hindered my photos a bit at first, you can find them here: Battle Police Facebook, but overall it was a great night, the fireworks were just incredible and we only had to deal with a minority of issues.
I hope you enjoy my video, including words from Robertsbridge Bonfire Society’s chair and Inspector James Scott.
This is my penultimate bonfire blog, next week I’ll be giving you a round up of my thoughts about how the season has gone then after that, you never know, I may stay on as a Sussex Police person and bring you insights on more of our work.
Monday 12 November 21:13
Rye Bonfire went well on Saturday (10 November).
Yes, there were a few arrests and we did have to seize alcohol off of some underage youths but these issues were only caused by a minority and in the main the good natured atmosphere of the evening shone through.
I hope you like my short video highlighting what Rye Neighbourhood Policing Team and the Licensing Team thought of the night.
For more photos from the night go and check out the Rye Police Facebook page’s Rye Bonfire album by clicking here. I’m not as happy as I’d like to be with the photos but hopefully you still like them.
Thursday 8 November 14:40
Bonfire events… The stuff you don’t see!
Policing a bonfire event, or any large public event, isn’t just about turning up on the night; there’s a lot more to it… Planning officers and a joint agency command team (including council etc and other emergency services) work with organisers to plan every aspect of the operation to account for any eventuality; this planning takes months of meetings, emails and a lot of coffee!
As well as all of those various agencies a number of Policing teams also have an input, these include Neighbourhood Policing (NPT) and Response Teams, Police Support Unit (the guys you’d probably refer to as riot police) and the Licensing Team… today I’d like to focus on them.
Yesterday (07 November) Rye Neighbourhood Policing Constable Paul Fielder was joined by Licensing Officers Alan Whitehead and PC Richard Wilkes from the East Division Licensing Team (Twitter @ESPolLicensing) in visits to licensed premises in Rye to discuss plans for the influx of people the town will experience on Saturday. You can see them pictured to the left with The Standard Inn’s Jonathan Breeds.
I spoke with Richard and Paul about their day to day jobs and roles when it comes to large events.
Richard, what is your day to day job in the East Sussex Division Licensing Team?
My role is the Neighbourhood Licensing Officer for Rother District NPT (encompassing Bexhill, Battle Rye and surrounding villages). My main objective is in striving to reduce incidents of alcohol fuelled violent crime and disorder linked to licensed premises and the sale of alcohol, through effective enforcement of licensing laws and through working in partnership with licensees at all off and on-licensed premises to ensure a culture of good working practice and adherence to promoting the licensing objectives.
Increased incidents of anti-social behaviour and violent crime & disorder linked to the sale of alcohol, can have a negative impact upon the everyday lives of people in the community in terms of their fear and perception of crime, their quality of life in general and confidence in local Policing.
Why do you visit licensed premises before large events such as Bonfire celebrations?
Large events such as Bonfire celebrations and their associated traditions create a feel-good factor in our communities and an opportunity to bring all parts of communities together. It is also an opportunity for Pub landlords & licensees to establish a good trade through the sale of alcohol, during tough economic times.
Given the hundreds, sometimes thousands of people visiting and attending the celebrations, this inevitably presents a greater challenge to both the local Police and licensees at all licensed premises in their commitment to ensure safe and well-run premises for everyone to enjoy and free from crime and disorder.
Visiting licensed premises before and during these events helps to support and advise licensees in effective planning and implementing various safeguards, measures and good working practice in preparation for the events. Examples include the use of polycarbonate drinking vessels, deployment of SIA door-supervisors at a number of venues and advice in relation to preventing the sale of alcohol to those underage, including the awareness of proxy sales (when an underage person asks an adult to buy alcohol for them).
This kind of partnership working, often supported by the presence of a local Pub watch scheme helps to promote a safe and successful event for all by creating a hostile environment to those individuals who see such events as an opportunity to cause trouble and spoil things for those in attendance. It also demonstrates a sensible and well-managed approach that the Rye community deserve and expect.
What advice would you offer those planning on visiting Rye’s pubs this Saturday?
Enjoy yourself, support the licensee, be prepared for busy crowds of people in all areas and above all revel in the atmosphere - but please drink sensibly and responsibly, be sensible and know your limits, plan your transport to and from the town well in advance and do not be tempted to drink and drive.
Thank you Richard…
Paul, how long have you been Rye’s Neighbourhood Policing Constable?
I first came to Rye in 2006 becoming the local ‘beat officer’ in 2008.
I know Rye has a Pub watch scheme. What is the main role of this scheme?
I would suggest that the number one aim is to reduce alcohol related crime, violence, disorder and anti-social behaviour in Rye. Although there are many more; In essence this is achieved through information sharing between the licensee’s and the police. The Rye Scheme has been running since July 2010 and recently joined the national ‘Pub Watch Online’ scheme which aids communication and aligns the scheme with a national model of best practice.
Why do you think it’s important for you to join Richard in his visits before large events?
On a very basic level, as the local officer I know all of the licensee’s by name and have been working with them for the past four years. I am also familiar with the layout of the town, the location of all of the pubs coupled with the local policing priorities and problem individuals. Simply put, local knowledge.
What advice can you give those attending this Saturday’s Bonfire event?
Enjoy what will be without doubt a great family event. The cobbled streets of an ancient town steeped in history create an amazing atmosphere that is unrivalled. Rye Bonfire night is unique.
Thank you Paul, I look forward to joining you on patrol this Saturday.
Keep an eye on the @Rye_Police twitter account and #RyeBonfire throughout the night for live updates (subject to signal) and check out Rye Police’s Facebook page a day or so after for photos of the event.
See you all there…
Sunday 4 November 21:10
Spectacular Battle Bonfire
Battle’s bonfire celebrations last night were spectacular, I can’t think of any other word that fits…
Yes, the large bonfire on the battlefield and accompanying fireworks were cancelled, but did that stop Battel Bonfire Boyes, their around 250 members (who weren’t all at the event), visiting bonfire societies and the local community from creating a night to remember? No! Most certainly not!
Despite the change in plans I had numerous members of the public telling me how nice the smaller bonfire and reduced procession was and I think I’d have to agree; it was bigger than I was expecting and to be honest I thought it was a perfect size, including the smaller intimate bonfire and incredible fireworks.
The evening was exceptionally well organised and Police, lead by Inspector Connaughton, Inspector Lyons (Twitter: @Insp_Lyons) and Bonfire Liaison Officer Sergeant Russell, only had minor problems to deal with. The Ambulance Service and St John’s Ambulance did a brilliant job and as far as I am aware most of the casualties (under 10 people) they had to deal with were not firework related, including one man who collapsed in front of me; and I don’t think the Fire and Rescue Service had too many issues either.
Photos of the evening can be found by clicking here and interviews from Inspector Lyons and I, filmed at Battle by SC Natascha Lampert-Montier (Twitter: @TashLampert), can be found here.
Lastly, I’d like to wish Battel Bonfire Boyes’ Chairman Hannah Thomas and Health and Safety Officer Jason Griffiths congratulations on their engagement which took place outside Battle Abbey last night.
A few days before the event I met with Hannah and interviewed her re Bonfire Season. I’ll leave you with my interview… (oh and I’ll see you Rye)
What is your role with Battel Bonfire Boyes?
My role is Chairman and my duties include chairing our committee meetings, a variety of PR type activities and I attend the SAG planning meetings throughout the year as well as leading the procession on Bonfire night. I also help out at the fundraising events throughout the year.
How long have you been involved with the society?
I have been involved with the bonfire from about the age of five, I have always loved it, dressing up for the old fancy dress competitions in the Guide hut and making guys for the guy competition and going in the procession with my Dad. My parents and grandparents were involved before me. I started to take an active role when I was about 17, taking part in the street collection, then my friends and I set up a fund raising group. I’ve done lots of jobs since then! This is my third Bonfire as Chairman and it’s a great honour and responsibility for me.
What does the Bonfire Season mean to you?
As a child it was the most exciting time of the year, better than Christmas. I suppose it was scary but fun and it gives you a sense of freedom that nothing else in life seems to offer. There’s something to be said for doing something that you know generations have done before you in the same place, at the same time and there’s something very primeval about fire that satisfies a very basic human instinct. It just feels right! Lots of us describe it as being in our blood.
I’ve heard that over the years the only time the society have had to cancel their bonfire event was during World War 2, but even then a candle was lit to mark the event. Is this true and why do you think it is such an important tradition in Sussex? And in Battle?
Yes, that is true. I imagine at that time during the wars it was as much about remembering those who were at war but would normally be at home building the Bonfire. Battle is a close community and the Bonfire society is its own community of friends within that. We stick together, look after each other and remember those no longer with us. That’s something that has long been the case. There are a number of possible reasons why Bonfire remained so important to Battle. The gunpowder production here must have played a big part. I’m sure skills were passed father to son where its use was concerned. Battle Abbey also must have helped in drawing visitors to the town to watch the Bonfires over the years and keep them popular. There’s also a theory that because the roads into Sussex historically have always been very bad and that Sussex was, at times, almost cut off from the rest of the country we carried on with traditions that had died out elsewhere. Mostly though I think it’s down to the fact that the people of Battle love it.
From a Bonfire Society’s point of view are there any safety tips you would like to offer those attending bonfire events?
Where safety is concerned; be sensible, don’t play with fireworks, stand well back from the procession, don’t pick up anything that’s burning and listen to the safety announcements. Bonfires are noisy and smoky so it’s best not to bring young children who may not like it and it should be avoided if you have a nervous disposition.
I know many societies raise money for charities during Bonfire Season. What else do you do for the local community throughout the year?
We raise funds for local charities on the night through our street collection, so please remember to be generous! Through the year we hold fundraising and social events for the whole of the town and beyond to enjoy. This year we had our first Carnival procession for years including the carnival queen. That opened our summer fayre which was our biggest ever and a great day out. That evening we had a music night and the night before we held a barn dance. They all helped raise money to put the Bonfire on and everyone had a great time. As well as that we have our popular annual 10k race, a clay pigeon shoot and we have a craft fair on 17th November in Langton Hall. As well as that we offer firework displays at really cheap prices as none of us get paid! We annually do the fireworks in Ely, Cambridgeshire for their local display and we do displays for locals too including Battle and Langton School. This year we talked to the year 6’s at Battle and Langton about the history of the Bonfire in Battle and we have our Children’s procession, fancy dress competition and guy competition on Bonfire day. We are always thinking of new ways to involve the community and raise money.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to say about Battel Bonfire Boyes’ contribution to the local community?
We are very pleased at the way all the local groups in the town work together at the moment. It really feels like a proper local community again. We try our best to support local businesses as national businesses and chains are sneaking into the town and they have never done Battle any good. We hope to continue working with everyone to create the very special atmosphere that Battle has.
Thursday 1 November 16:35
Pinch, punch, first of the month and happy bonfire season…
That title was supposed to rhyme! It didn’t, did it?
Right… It’s November; which means its only 2 days (not including today) until Battle Bonfire and 4 days until the 05th! So, I thought as we get deeper in to the bonfire season I’d offer you a bit more advice about bonfire safety.
No matter the size of event you attend over the next few weeks safety, along with fun, should be at the top of your agenda… So here are some facts to be aware of:
- In a recent year, there were 990 injuries caused by fireworks in October and November
- If three sparklers burn together they will do so at the same heat of a blowtorch used for joining metal
- On average, calls to emergency services double on November 05th
- If you’re pet owner remember that in the wild loud noises usually indicate danger so please be aware of this and research ways to help your pet through the night
For more advice on bonfire night safety, including some information for pet owners, please click here.
For advice from East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service please click here.
Finally, in my next blog, after Battle Bonfire, I will bring you an interview with Battel Bonfire Boyes Chair Hannah Thomas including a few photos from the night. So, as a teaser I’ll leave you with this bit of advice from her:
“Where safety is concerned; be sensible, don’t play with fireworks, stand well back from the procession, don’t pick up anything that’s burning and listen to the safety announcements. Bonfires are noisy and smoky so it’s best not to bring young children who may not like it and it should be avoided if you have a nervous disposition.”
To find out more about Battle Bonfire click here. See you there :-)
Sunday 28 October 20:04
It was the first time I had been to Ewhurst and Staplecross Bonfire (Saturday 27 October) and it lived up to its fun, family orientated, well run expectations.
This is also the first time I’ve attempted a video blog (Vlog), I think it’s okay and I hope you do too, please let me know what you think over on Twitter (@Armstrong26455).
Head over to Battle Neighbourhood Policing Team’s Facebook page for more photos of the night.
I’ll leave you with this… Quote of the night from PCSO Demetrius Georghiou: “These events are great for the local community but are also brilliant for officers from across Rother District to get together and work as a team”
Oh, and see you at Battle Bonfire next Saturday (03 November :-)
Monday 22 October 19:28
Vlog failure, breaking news and Ewhurst & Staplecross Bonfire prep
Today’s blog was meant to be a little video of me telling you what I’ll be up to at Ewhurst and Staplecross Bonfire on Saturday (27 October) and giving you a bit of advice… That went out the window (along with the video camera after my 20 or so takes!!)…
I’m sure the footage itself was okay but I just didn’t like it and thought it wasn’t interesting enough sooooo… I will be filming a video blog (Vlog) soon but hope to make it a bit more dynamic and interesting with some cool action footage of this Saturday’s event.
In the mean time I thought I’d throw some facts your way about bonfire event safety, but first some breaking news about Battle Bonfire (which is due to be held on 03 November)… Unfortunately, due to the condition of the battlefield the organisers are not able to hold the large bonfire they ordinarily would. It’s a shame but rest assured the event will still be going ahead including the precession and a smaller bonfire on Abbey Green.
For more information please visit Battel Bonfire Boyes’ website.
- Did you know a sparkler can reach 20 times the boiling point of water? And we just hand them over to children! I don’t want to patronise anyone but please be careful, if using a sparkler please wear gloves and put it out in a bucket of water.
- A rocket can get to 150mph and they are one of the main causes of injury at bonfire events so please take care. Never go back to a fire work once lit, even if it hasn’t gone off it may do… explosives can be unpredictable!
- Discharging fireworks in any public highway, street, thoroughfare or public place is a criminal offence. The same applies to letting off fireworks within 50 feet of a highway. Both PCs and PCSOs can issue fines to those throwing fireworks in a public place.
Thanks to Sergeant Hodder (@SgtRoyHodder on Twitter) from Littlehampton for a few of those handy facts.
Ewhurst and Staplecross Bonfire (ESBS)…
So, this Saturday (27 October) I’ll be running around Staplecross taking photos of what we’re up to… I’m looking forward to tagging along with the local PCSO, Demetrius Georghiou, who I trained with almost five years ago, and getting a bit of video footage from his evening.
Keep an eye on the @Battle_Police Twitter account for up to the minute information about the precession, emergency service activity and anything else I think you’ll be interested in during the night, obviously dependant on signal and how busy we are.
If you want more information about ESBS, including the road closures, timings and a bit of advice take a look at their website here.
See you there :-)
All posts >
Monday 15 October 20:53
An introduction – Bonfire Season
The ‘bonfire season’ is well and truly under way with Hastings (Rother District’s neighbours) holding their festival on Saturday (13 Oct) and a few others before that. To kick off my first blog I thought I’d give you a bit of an idea of what I am hoping to offer you over the bonfire season, giving you some background of Guy Fawkes Night and share with you my passion for these incredible events.
Right… Why is the Bonfire season such a big deal in Sussex?
On 5 November 1605 Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed under the House of Lords in an attempt to blow it up during the State opening of England’s Parliament. If successful this act of what we would now call terrorism would have murdered King James I so to celebrate the plot’s failure people begun to light bonfires around London. A few months later the introduction of the Observance of 5 November Act enforced an annual public day of celebration in the plot’s failure.
This celebration later become known as Guy Fawkes Night but is now more well known as Bonfire or Firework Night.
But this isn’t the only reason for it being such a big deal here in Sussex. Our celebrations mark both Guy Fawkes Night and the burning of 17 Protestant Martyrs in Lewes’ High Street from 1555 to 1557, most of who were from the local area.
Sussex, with East Sussex boasting a majority, has around 40 Bonfire Societies who all take part in various festivals across the county. Many of these were formed following the beginning of the “cult of the Sussex Martyrs” in the 19th century by Mark Antony Lower; their numbers have grown over the years with some being defunct and others becoming large organisations raising money for local charities. Due to the sheer number of societies in Sussex a bonfire season was created to ensure all got to hold their festival even if it wasn’t on 5 November.
Why do I/should you care?
The history of Guy Fawkes Night and the Sussex Martyrs is of interest to me but it’s not my main reason for enjoying these events and wanting to share them with you.
These celebratory festivals giving a nod to past tragedies and almost tragedies, which some historians suggest also serve as a Protestant replacement for the ancient Celtic and Nordic festivals of Samhain, pagan events that the church absorbed into All Hallow’s Eve (Hallowe’en), may still be about what happened centuries ago for some but for me and many others they are also about bringing communities together.
At a time where all in society are struggling financially and, in some cases morally, bonfire season seems to be a time where everyone gathers round in wonderment of fantastic parades and firework displays, centuries old traditions and the warm glow of not only bonfires but a sense of community.
Finally, for me, bonfire season sits right in the middle of some of the most heart warming weeks of the year, with Hallowe’en in the middle bringing out the child in all of us and a bit of magic for young trick or treaters, and Remembrance Day at the end, a time where we all stand shoulder to shoulder together to remember those who have fallen in the line of duty to protect us, with many bonfire events, especially those a day before 11 November such as Rye on the 10th, providing tributes to Remembrance Sunday.
So… What will I be getting up to?
During Rother District’s bonfire season, starting with Staplecross on 27 October and ending with Robertsbridge Bonfire on 17 November, I will be donning my full uniform, getting out and about with my colleagues and blogging about the part Police have to play at these events. I’ll be giving you videos, photos and a bit of post event round up too.
I also plan to bring you up to date information/commentary on precessions and emergency service activity at these events via Rother’s Neighbourhood Policing Team Twitter accounts (@Bexhill_Police, @Battle_Police, @Rye_Police and mine @Armstrong26455), and photos via their Facebook pages (click here: Bexhill, Battle, Rye Police) when able.
If you see me out and about (I’ll be the one with a camera hung around my neck) say hello, you never know, you may get featured in my blog :-)
References: Mainly my brain but thanks to Wikipedia for a few links
Photograph: By me. Taken at a 2011 bonfire event