After all the build up and preparation for the event there was a strong possibility that the weather was going to be just plain awful. With strong winds and rain forecast Rottingdeans first torch lit smugglers procession looked like it was going to be for the hardy few. But the bonfire gods chatted to the weather gods and Rottingdean was blessed with a mild dry evening.
Once the High Street had been closed to traffic slowly the village began to change. A solitary one man band was joined by the Newhaven Youth Marching Band and further still the melodies of the Salvation Army built up the subtle layers of music to create a High Street full of festive cheer. Clowns and punch and Judy. Hot chestnuts and mulled wine. Brightly lit village shops and the High Street were slowly filled with an ever-increasing crowd curious as to what events the night would entail.
Samesky had been busy all day at St Aubyns building lanterns with the children ready for the evening’s procession. Then in their ones and two’s the pirates and smugglers started to make their appearance. Something was afoot. But what exactly.
In the Lower High Street the Smugglers began to assemble. Drummers dressed in outlandish costumes beat out rhythms into the night sky. Flares lit up the faces of curious onlookers as an army of torch lit pirates set off down the High Street inland towards the village green. Every type of pirate and smuggler was in attendance, people had to gone to great lengths with their costumes and their endeavours had made the spectacle quite extraordinary. We were amazed at the turnout and had originally made 200 torches for the processions. In the weeks prior to the night we realised we needed double that number and were kindly helped by South Heighton Bonfire Society to secure further supplies. Apparently further supplies were also needed at some of the village’s watering holes. Very thirsty creatures some of those pirates. Once assembled at the war memorial a drum salute exploded in to a red hot glow of flares that bathed the crowd at the village green in a single unifying moment of remembrance that will live with those present forever.
The fire carts trundled away and a second procession was organised to head back to the beach. Again we were lead off by the youngsters with their lanterns Then the pirates and smugglers with there torch’s. Three drumming bands and a very loud explosives barrel made this a much more boisterous trip back down to the beach. Once there after de torching and the burning of the customs official the main firework display erupted on the beach. Fireworks shot out into the sea and then bounced out to the horizon. Then cascades of shells were fired vertically high above the village. Welcome back Rottingdean Smugglers Night.
We didn’t get it all right this year though. Its hard to mix bonfire drummers with carol singers so apologies to Sean who put in so much effort and struggled against the general background noise of the procession reforming. An unplanned road closure occurred which will have inconvenienced some motorists but was made to protect the large crowd at the turn around at the green. Apologies for that.
The Plough won the Smugglers Cup for Best Pub which was awarded for fundraising, best selection of smugglers and all round enthusiasm for the evening. Peter………won the best costume award. The competition was intense with so many people worthy of the prize. Skulldrummery won best band. Frock Uk won the best window display and Gary Payne was made Life President Rottingdean Smugglers.
And next year……oh we have such plans
If you didn’t join the procession this year make sure you join Rottingdean Smugglers and process next year. If you didn’t fly a Pirate Flag from your shop, house, pub this year then fly two next year. The smugglers will be back and they like to know who’s on their side. The organizers wish it to be known that no customs officers were harmed during the celebrations.