Burning the Clocks is a unique festival of light and art that brings the city of Brighton together to mark the Winter Solstice. The festival was created in 1994 by the award-winning community arts charity Same Sky as a way to celebrate the holiday spirit regardless of people’s religious beliefs. Recently it has adopted a totally different purpose as a rebellion against the modern day excess of Christmastime commercialism.
The costumes that everyone chooses to wear include a clock face on there somewhere to represent the passing of time. Each year has a different theme, usually a reflection of the mood of people and of the nation in that year. Led by local artists, people gather together to make paper and willow lanterns to carry through the city. Local people make their own paper lanterns and add them to the bonfire on Brighton beach to mark the end of the year.
All the lantern makers who have been in the parade then become part of the finale as they in turn infuse each lantern with their hopes, wishes and fears and then spiritually pass them into the fire. Each year sees more elaborate lanterns taking to the parade, with dragons, mythical monsters, aliens and goblins to be seen.
The parade also plays host to a number of local samba bands, which are plentiful in Brighton, that liven up the atmosphere with music and dancing. A nice contrast to the darkness of winter, the music that will get you thinking of sunshine and cocktails!
Participants of the parade meet at the Corn Exchange (one of the venues of the Brighton Dome) at 5 pm. From here the lanterns are checked by officials to make sure the parade runs safely and smoothly. With lanterns lit the spectacle begins at around 6:30 pm, as the crowd of around 2,000 people representing all ages make their way down New Road. The streets are lined with eager spectators who cheer as the parade of light winds its way through the streets and down to the shorefront. In total some 20,000 spectators brave the cold to witness this motley procession of white shapes illuminating the darkness of the longest night for the year. At approximately 7:15 pm the last group of the parade arrives at the beach to the beating of drums and the fire show springs to action.
Brighton is truly sparked with an outpouring of passionate fun, blazing bonfire and fireworks that brighten up the dark winters night. Feel ready to wish goodbye to the old year. Usher in the bright one new with this unique celebration of community coming together through a dark time of year and comradery.
Burning of the Clocks is certainly about the people you are spending the evening with, breathing in the fresh seaside air. The evening combines a beautiful lantern procession through the streets of Brighton, with a spectacular fire and fireworks show to top it all off. You can walk in the procession, view it all streetside or meet everyone down at the beach at the end for the bonfire and finale.
Watch dancers and artistic performers as they lead the procession down to the beach and immerse yourself as the majestic lanterns are passed down the crowds to include everyone. The festival combines lots of local art into the mix, as local artist Graham Carter designs a special print poster every year that encompasses the theme and feeling of each year’s festival. There are many specially made artistic lanterns made by the creative people in Brighton, which are on display around the festival and taken down to the beach.