Bonfire comes to Heathfield
Last Saturday, October 26 2019 saw the staging of the much anticipated Heathfield Bonfire Society event. Over a year in the planning, the newly formed bonfire society brought bonfire back to Heathfield after a gap of 62 years. There was a festive atmosphere with many Heathfield traders opening up during the evening to serve food and drink; with crowds lining the procession route to cheer the marchers on.
Two members of the society have kindly shared their thoughts about the night with us. Jim Rutter and Kim Paynter of Broad Oak, are keen members of the society, and this is how they described their experiences.
“I moved to Broad Oak, just under five years ago, to be with my partner, Kim. Being a lover of history and tradition, I was taken to see the Mayfield bonfire carnival. I loved it! When we discovered that the Heathfield District Bonfire Society was being formed, Kim and I, along with her daughter Sarah and her fiancé Rob, immediately joined and became founder members of the society. Since joining, we were made to feel very welcome, and for a London boy, to become a part of the bonfire tradition and also the Heathfield community was a very satisfying feeling. I made lots of friends and really feel like I “belong”. The Society marched at several processions in 2018, and received a wonderful reception at them all. Both from other societies,and general public, who voiced their support for bringing the bonfire tradition back to Heathfield. This year we hosted our own procession, the first in 62 years in Heathfield.
“The amount of hard work, jumper knitting, costume creation and planning undertaken by the society, over almost 2 years, is the stuff of legend; but it all finally came together on Saturday evening. The nervousness began to turn to excitement as the hour approached and I cannot describe the feeling of pride felt by myself and Kim, and everyone involved as we stepped out on our first procession. Despite the wet weather, we got a fabulous reaction from the crowds, both on the outward march and then on the second march, people cheering us on and applauding us. We all felt so good, even if we were just a little bit wet. When we arrived at the bonfire site the nerves set in again but the bonfire started right on time and the firework display was superb.
“We are enormously grateful to the public for their support and the emergency services, the marshalls and all the other marching societies for braving the weather and making the evening so memorable. Anyone can become a member of HDBS and can join via the website. There is no need to wear costume, that’s only for the marchers, but we have various fund raising events throughout the year and new members can get involved in any way they feel able. As you can imagine the event needs funding and the society raises money for local charities and causes.
“May I also add that on the Sunday morning the Heathfield volunteers set out early, to clean up what they feared to be carnage only to find that Heathfield had never looked so clean! Well done HDBS again and the bonfire site was cleared and returfed too! ”
Welcome back bonfire!