Bonfire night celebrations have returned in the UK as a giant effigy of Matt Hancock hugging his lover and Guy Fawkes wearing a face mask were set fire in Lewes.
The effigies are among those which were set alight in the historic East Sussex town which hosts the country’s biggest and arguably most famous November 5 celebrations, and which return after they were cancelled by coronavirus lockdowns last year.
A glum Matt Hancock is seen sitting on a rock while hugging a naked woman above a sign that reads, ‘CCTV in operation,’ a reference to his affair with Gina Coladangelo that was revealed earlier this year via his office’s CCTV cameras.
Below that, a painted caption reads `Hands, Face, Disgrace`, a play on the `Hands, Face, Space` messaging from the government that people should wash their hands, wear a face covering and social distance to protect themselves against Coronavirus.
An effigy of Guy Fawkes wearing a face mask and with vaccine needles in his arms was also torched. The giant figure sits astride two barrels of `vaccine` (rather than gunpowder) and in front of a green petrol can and a toilet roll with the words `panic buyers` – a reference to the recent fuel shortages at garages across the country and stockpiling of toilet paper at the start of the pandemic.
There was also an effigy of Dominic Cummings requiring an eye test following a trip to Barnard Castle.
US President Joe Biden also featured in the controversial event, depicted as a chicken, clad in red, white and blue being led from Kabul.
During the event, one group of men were shown running through the town towing barrels of burning tar.
Some years, the event attracts up to 60,000 visitors.
Several people were injured according to St John Ambulance volunteers who were dotted around the town, while one person was arrested by Sussex Police on suspicion of assault.
Also, one person was rescued from a river although they did not require hospital treatment.
Lewes is famed for its topical and sometimes controversial bonfire night effigies and usually attracts thousands if not tens of thousands of revellers.
In 2019 paper h atop a ‘Brexit rollercoaster’ which paraded down the street before being burnt.
Lewes Bonfire society created a giant effigy of Matt Hancock featuring his infamous clinch captured on CCTV in his ministerial office as he breached Covid-19 social distancing rules
A second giant effigy featured former No10 adviser Dominic Cummings who has since become a vocal critic of Boris Johnson
US President Joe Biden as also attracted the ire of bonfire societies in Lewes during tonight’s event
Locals in Lewis, East Sussex marched through the town this evening carrying flaming torches and burning crosses
Bonfire night marks the capture of Guy Fawkes, a Roman Catholic mercenary who planned to blow up parliament
The East Sussex town is renowned for its elaborate November 5 celebration which was cancelled last year due to Covid-19
Each year the bonfire features a main model normally involving a gratuitous caricature of someone prominent in the news over the previous 12 months
The Lewes bonfire is regarded as the largest in the country each November 5 although last year’s event was cancelled due to Covid-19
Participants wearing puritan clothing march through the centre of the town carrying flaming torches ahead of lighting the bonfire
Another of the effigies featured an illuminated Covid-19 model with a black death plague mask
And the year before that a giant portrayal of Boris Johnson holding an axe and Theresa May’s severed head was set on fire.
Two Trump figures were set alight in Lewes in 2016, at the culmination of its annual fireworks event.
Other effigies which went up in flames in Lewes included Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and David Cameron.
In 2014, Sussex Police investigated after two effigies of Alex Salmond featured as part of two bonfire societies’ displays after he lost the Scottish referendum vote as first minister.
In the same year Vladimir Putin was depicted in a mankini following Russia’s conflict with the Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.
The Pope, Syria’s President Assad, former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Angela Merkel have all been subjected to ridicule over the years.
A giant effigy of Guy Fawkes wearing a face mask with vaccine needles in his arms is seen in Lewes
A glum Matt Hancock is seen sitting on a rock while hugging a naked woman above a sign that reads, ‘CCTV in operation,’ a reference to his affair with Gina Coladangelo that was revealed earlier this year via his office’s CCTV cameras
Other effigies in Lewes feature more traditional portrayals of the gunpowder plot of 1605
The Guy Fawkes effigy sits atop two wooden barrels near a petrol can and a roll of toilet paper that says ‘panic buyers’
A giant effigy depicting Guy Fawkes with Covid 19 vaccine needles in his arms and a PPE face mask is seen before being set alight later today
Six bonfire societies burn effigies every year in the town’s famed bonfire display but their identities are usually kept a secret until the night.
Given the time it takes to build them, the figures are usually media villains in the spotlight in the weeks leading up to the event.
But emergency services fear that tonight`s event may draw packed crowds which could cause the spread of coronavirus.
So warnings have been issued urging people not to be complacent over Covid and the message to stay local is ‘doubly important this year’.
Precautionary measures include no trains running after 5pm from Lewes, Glynde or Southease, while several roads around Lewes will be closed overnight and people have been encouraged to not take cars into the town.
This effigy of Donald Trump sitting on a wall was burned in Lewes in 2016
Another Trump figure was set alight in Lewes in 2016 as he rode a donkey in a sombrero and held a clown mask
An effigy of Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May paraded through the streets of Lewes in East Sussex in 2018
Effigies of Britain’s Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson are paraded through the streets of Lewes in East Sussex i n2019
Chief Superintendent Howard Hodges, who is Gold Commander for Sussex Police’s Lewes Bonfire operations, told the Lewes Argus: ‘If people are going to come, we ask them to wear masks, take lateral flow tests before and certainly not come if you have any symptoms. Don’t be complacent because the pandemic is still here.’
But bonfire-goers may be deterred from attending the event due to sub-zero temperatures seen across the country today with a very chilly start to the morning.
Temperatures dropped to -5C in southern England and -3C in the North, making it the fourth day in a row this week that the mercury has fallen below freezing.
The past three days have brought sub-zero temperatures of -1.7C at Bridgefoot in Cumbria yesterday, -2.5C at Hurn in Hampshire on Wednesday, and -1.8C at Benson in Oxfordshire on Tuesday.
Bonfire societies parade through the streets during traditional Bonfire Night celebrations in 2019
Participants parade through the town during the annual Bonfire Night festivities in Lewes in 2019
And below-average temperatures observed this week are likely to continue later this month, with forecasters expecting that high pressure near Greenland will help to push colder air from the North towards the UK.
Lewes’s controversial event found itself in hot water in 2016 when revellers who ‘blacked up’ as Zulu warriors agreed to stop after a raft of complaints.
But campaign group ‘Bonfire Against Racism’ called it a ‘racist act’ and asked the Borough Bonfire Society to ‘stop painting faces black’.
In 2016 after a visiting dance troupe from KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa threatened to boycott the event they were booked to perform at, organisers have agreed to not black up.
Troupe leader Thanda Gumede called the practice a ‘gross misrepresentation’ and Mick Symes, a committee member of the Borough Bonfire Society, agreed to stop.
Who is Guy Fawkes and what is Bonfire Night?
Bonfire Night is held on November 5 every year in the UK, and commemorates the failed ‘Gunpowder Plot’ of 1605 – when Fawkes and a mob of co-conspirators attempted to blow up the House of Lords in London to kill King James I.
The group wanted to take out the Protestant ruler and replace him with a Catholic head of state.
Fawkes managed to smuggle a staggering 36 barrels of into a cellar of the building that is home to the British Parliament. It would have been enough to level the entire palace.
But the plan was stopped when a letter was sent on November 4 warning William Parker, the 4th Baron Monteagle, to stay away from the building the next day.
As a result of the tip-off, Westminster Palace was searched, and Fawkes was found just moments before he was able to bring the house to the ground with what would have been a devastating explosion.
Although Fawkes was not the mastermind of the plot – that infamous honor belongs to Robert Catesby – he is the man most remembered and associated with the would-be assassination.
In addition to burning effigies of Fawkes on Bonfire Night, people in the UK also set off fireworks and parade through the streets.
Masks of Fawkes’ face are also commonly worn, and in recent years they have been adopted as a symbol by the online hacking group, Anonymous. They were also featured in the 2006 film, V for Vendetta.