Revisit Burgess Hill’s bonfire carnival of ‘82

Louise Tomsett, Lee Sutcliffe and Michael Jenner
Louise Tomsett, Lee Sutcliffe and Michael Jenner

The rain gods frowned upon the Aztec tribe of the Burgess Hill Bonfire Society at its annual carnival and bonfire.

A day-long downpour washed out a performance from a crack German band and cut down the size of what would have been the carnival’s biggest ever procession.

Nicola Smith, Simon Cottingham and Claire Birkenshaw

Nicola Smith, Simon Cottingham and Claire Birkenshaw

But hundreds of people lined the route despite the teeming rain and gave £452 for two local causes.

The response of the public in appalling weather meant the street collection was only £8 less than the previous year. It drew praise from the Bonfire Society’s chairman, Mrs Daisy Farrall, of Hassocks.

She said: “We feel it was a very good response in the circumstances. We would like to say a big thank you to all those who turned out to support us.”

The collection will be divided between the disabled Housing Trust and the fund for teenager Adrian Beveridge, of Burgess Hill, who was injured in a diving accident earlier on in the year.

Under 5's fancy dress winner and runner up

Under 5's fancy dress winner and runner up

The 30-strong band from Weisbaden, West Germany, huddled in their coaches instead of leading the bands in the parade. They decided the weather was too bad for the march, having left their protective clothing in Germany.

Translator Bruno Schoen said: “We are very sorry that we were not able to show what we can do. We are all very disappointed.”

The Germans planned to march in red velvet and white costumes. But Herr Wolfe explained: “We are afraid the red colour would run and spoil the costumes. We have to play some other places during our stay.”

Floats and walking groups joined bands and bonfire societies in the grand procession for the first time. The weather was wet enough to sag the stiffest of upper lips as the torch lit parade wound its way from Silverdale Road to the bonfire near Burgess Hill Boy’s Club.

Burgess Hill Boys’ Brigade lead the bands in the processions. Even in the dismal weather the musicians, marchers and floats made an impressive spectacle.

Some of the six floats had apt themes. Burgess Hill Theatre Club reminded everybody about the monsoon conditions by portraying and publicising “A passage to India”, which was a forthcoming production at the time.

There was determined attempts at cheerfulness as the rain-sodden societies re-grouped for the main procession. A Burgess Hill Aztec told a fellow warrior: “Eric your feathers are wilting and drooping” and Vikings from the Lewes Cliffe Society warmed themselves around some burning embers.

Only six out of the 20 advertised bonfire societies failed to arrive, but some of those that did march were thinner in ranks.

Mrs Farrall said: “We are very grateful for the other societies support. We rely on them a lot to make the evening a success.”