Burning the Clocks
Founded in 1993, the celebration is based on a procession of lanterns and costumes, made from withies (willow canes) and white tissue paper, led by local bands with a carnival atmosphere. The procession makes its way through Brighton city centre to the seafront where the festivities culminate in a lantern bonfire, accompanied by fireworks. The costumes all include a clockface to represent the passing of time, although each year has a slight change of theme.
Same Sky, an arts initiative first organised the event with Brighton Co-op to commemorate the founding of the Co-operative Movement, 150 years before. Brighton Co-op provided the finance for the firework display and Same Sky organised local schools producing the lanterns for the parade. They explain: "Burning the Clocks is an antidote to the excesses of the commercial Christmas. People gather together to make paper and willow lanterns to carry through their city and burn on the beach as a token for the end of the year ... The lantern makers become part of the show as they invest the lanterns with their wishes, hopes, and fears and then pass them into the fire. Same Sky are masters at creating new urban rituals to replace those traditional festivals that were lost in the dash to be new and non superstitious."
In 2000, Brighton Museum commissioned a costume from Same Sky artist Nikki Gunson. She created "Mother Time Keeper" and performed it in the parade before returning to the museum. Incidentally the festival took place on New Year's Eve' that year. Local colleges also participate; Sussex Downs College have been contributing since 1998 and, in a more traditional participation, enjoy seeing their work go up in flames.
In 2009, the event was suddenly cancelled in a "joint decision by Same Sky and Brighton & Hove City Council" in the "interests of public safety". This was because recent snow, and temperatures oscillating above and below 0 °C (with associated melting and refreezing of the snow cover) left the streets and pavements of Brighton slippery and unsuitable for the processions and anticipated crowds.
Although the spirit of the festival is carried unanimously, there is a small confusion. Same Sky confidently share that "...(they) take elements of the past… the delight in seasons… the celebration of place and home… the giving and sharing of thoughts and wishes… and put them into a secular format that can be enjoyed by all regardless of faith or creed" and "...(create) new urban rituals to replace those traditional festivals that were lost in the dash to be new and non superstitious". Conversely, local newspaper, The Argus pointedly prefer "...(creates) new urban rituals to replace traditional festivals lost in the politically correct drive to be modern, secular and non-superstitious.", though elsewhere they make little mention of it.
- Burning of the Clocks homepage accessed November 23, 2007
- Burning the Clocks Gallery Theme from Brighton and Hove Museums accessed November 23, 2007
- The Argus Monday, 21 December 2009
- "Huge crowds turn out for Burning the Clocks procession" as published in The Argus accessed November 23, 2007
- Search for "Burning the Clocks" on the archives of The Argus