Our 2023 bonfire
H&S, and All you need to know for Members

2023 Bonfire:  Everything we all need to know, where to be what to do and who to ask

This members info page is structured for you in two parts, and aims to give you everyting you need to know for our beach event: -

1  Procession rules - Heath and Safety is key to us as an organisation

Hastings Borough Bonfire Society Safety Rules

We are part of a long tradition of Bonfire in Hastings and East Sussex.  We are proud of this heritage and strive to maintain high standards.  To this end we have definite expectations of our members.


·       Only members of this Society or members of other recognised societies officially invited, in writing by the Society, may walk with us. All members must be in one of the Society’s official recognised costumes

·       Membership is not transferable. Only the member named on the membership form is allowed to wear their procession badge to show their current membership. [Visiting Societies are vetted separately.]

·       Do not invite non-members (friends, family or children) to join in the procession. We are not responsible for people marching with us who are not members of the Society and they will be asked to leave the procession as they will be at risk.

·       Whenever in a procession with the Society, we walk in orderly ranks of three (one on each side of the road and one in the middle).  This presents the Society at its best, and allows space for easy movement of marshals, torch runners, and other officials.

·       We keep a torch-and-arm-length distance from the person in front of us and next to us. Be aware of those in front of you as sometimes a procession may suddenly halt.

·       Officers and marshals will organise the forming of ranks in the procession, and maintain them throughout.  If you ignore the instructions of a marshal you may be asked to leave the procession.

Assembly - forming up for the procession

Grand Procession to Celebrate the Discovery of The Gunpowder Plot: -

HBBS Banners & Maces

Giant Effigy

Hastings Borough Bonfire Society

The Mayor, & Honourable Guests 

Section 5 Drummers

Lewes South Street Bonfire Society

Ewhurst and Staplecross Bonfire Society

Robertsbridge Bonfire Society

Raven Drummers

Battel Bonfire Society

Ninfield Bonfire Society


Northiam Bonfire Society

Rye and District Bonfire Society

Ryebellion Drummers

Lewes Cliffe Bonfire Society

Nevill Juvenille Bonfire Society

Chiddingly Parish Bonfire Society


Hawkhurst Gang Bonfire Society

Hailsham Bonfire Society

Rotherfield and Mark Cross Bonfire Society

Pentancle Drummers
[but likely to be moved back a society or two on the night]

South Heighton Bonfire Society

Lewes Southover Bonfire Society

Eastbourne Bonfire Society

Chailey Bonfire Society

Seaford Bonfire Society

East Hoathly & Halland Bonfire Society

Celebration Samba 
[but likely to be moved forward a society or two on the night]

Lindfield Bonfire Society

Mayfield Bonfire Society

Barcombe Bonfire Society

Lewes Commercial Square Bonfire Society


Uckfield Bonfire Society

Lewes Waterloo Bonfire Society

Littlehampton Bonfire Society

Who the Devil Are We

Burgess Hill Bonfire Society

Isfield & Little Horsted Bonfire Society

The Iceni Dance Troupe

Firle Bonfire Society

Newick Bonfire Society

Edenbridge Bonfire Society

Fishbone Ash

Buxted Bonfire Society

Other visiting Societies

HBBS Blazing Firecarts


Flaming torches are an important and spectacular part of the procession.  Torches are available at the beginning and specified points during the procession.

·        Your torch should be kept with you, and not handed on to anybody else.  Under no circumstances must torches be given to members of the public.

·        Only light up when instructed to do so.

·        Once you have a lighted torch use it until it is spent.

·        When a torch is spent or becoming dangerous discard it in the gutter for collection.

·        Discard torches away from large numbers of spectators and parked cars.

·        Avoid making mini bonfires.

·       Torches should be held upright above head height in front of you and to one side or other of your face (as the wind blows) and please be aware of distances from those down-wind from you.  Unlit torches are carried downwards. Torches must not be put over shoulders or held out at angles. Be especially careful that there is a safe distance from your lit torch and members of the public. Torches must not be swung around, carried or moved about in such a way that they can cause damage to other members, spectators or buildings.

·       Take care with torches near Society banners.

·       Do not kick or play games with any lit torches or torch heads that are on the ground where there are ANY members of the public. Any torch or torch head that might cause a trip hazard should be carefully moved to a safe place such as the edge of the road with a boot.

·       Hastings Borough Bonfire Society endorses the Sussex Bonfire Council recommendation that children under ten years of age should not use torches.  Society officials will not issue torches to such children.

·    Under no circumstances must anybody go ANYWHERE near the net sheds or the Cyril and Lilian Bishop with a torch, whether lighted or not!  Offenders will be dealt with promptly.

·        At the end of the procession we throw our torches onto the fire together.  Do not throw your torch onto the fire until signaled to do so, normally after the Bonfire Chant.x§ from another society on the other side of the bonfire.  Just don’t be silly please.  This is H&S and it is important.

Fire-Site Safety

      Nobody is to enter the fire site at any time without the express permission of the Captain of the Fire Site [Liz].

      The firework area is a completely restricted area with no access.  Please don’t use it as a cut-through, as it wastes pyro team time chasing people away.  Only authorised personnel enter, with the permission of the Captain of Fireworks (Renegade Pyrotechnics [Sam]).

      STAY AWAY from any of the display fireworks, set pieces or effigy which will be protected by barriers / orange fencing.

      Do not climb over, cross, break down or open up any barriers or fencing.

      After the main event the bonfire is barriered off and only members of the Society may gain access. Do not invite non-members into the restricted area.


      The discharge of fireworks in a public place is a criminal offence.

      The Society cannot be held responsible for any arrest, prosecution or any insurance or similar claim against any member who chooses to use fireworks incorrectly or illegally.

      The Society does not accept the throwing or misuse of fireworks in any circumstances.

      All projectiles are banned except as part of an organised display.

      Members of Hastings Borough Bonfire Society are not insured to throw ‘bangers’ or ‘rookies’. Many societies ban them though some societies allow these in designated private firework areas. Any HBBS member throwing ‘rookies’ / ‘bangers’ will be personally liable for any accident or insurance claim that may arise from their actions. The Sussex Bonfire Council do not permit any “bangers” larger than a “rookie”, Spanish number two, or small Chinese.

Juniors – under 18 year old

Young people are welcome as they are our future.

      All children are the responsibility of the member, with designated parental responsibility, as named on the membership form.

      The designated adult member must accompany the junior at all times. 

      The adult member is totally responsible for the well-being and behaviour of the child/children.

      The adult member may be appropriately disciplined if the child behaves in a manner that could be dangerous or bring the Society into disrepute.

      Non-members may not accompany juniors.

      Our society allows junior members over the age of 10 to carry lighted torches, subject to parental judgement and oversight.

First Aid

Trained first aiders (St John Ambulance) will be in attendance along with marshals and members of the emergency services who should be made aware if you require medical attention. The Tri-arg medical centre is located at the west end of George Street.

Emergency Services

The emergency services are there to help us put on a safe and well organised event as well as to protect us and members of the public.  The directions of the emergency services must be followed, even if this deviates from our original plans.  It is the job of the officers of the Society to liaise with all the emergency services and make any decisions that need to be made. Please comply with these decisions/directions.

Out-meetings and other Events

      You are fully expected to behave in the same way at other events, to which the Society has been invited, as we would expect people to behave when visiting us.  The above rules still apply.  Remember you are representing the Society and our town.

      Officers, senior members of the Society and those appointed as Procession Marshals have the full authority of the Society to ensure the safety of all members, participant s and the public; as well as to uphold the Society’s good reputation. All members need to follow their instructions. Those members behaving inappropriately may be asked to leave the procession or event.

Complaints and Problems

It is important to remember that as a society we have a range of different backgrounds and skills. Members may have various challenges in their life that affects them. We aim to sort all problems in an informal and respectful way.


All members must follow these steps if they have a complaint, problem or are unhappy about something. It is not appropriate or respectful to openly discuss matters concerning individual or small groups of members at Members’ Meetings.

1. Speak informally to the member concerned. You might choose to ask another member to support you.

2. If your issue is unresolved: Speak to the relevant Captain / Membership Secretary / Health & Safety Officer / vice chair

3. If your issue is unresolved: Speak to a member of the ‘Top Table’ (Chair / Secretary / Treasurer)

4. If your issue is unresolved or if it concerns a member of the ‘Top Table’ (Chair / Secretary / Treasurer) write to the Directors and Trustees of the Society c/o the registered address at the bottom of this page.

2. Call To Arms! How and when to get involved in our society's main event

Everything we all need to know, where to be what to do and who to ask

Our event, the biggest single Bonfire in Sussex, goes “live” on Thursday night 12th October. Please see the schedule, below, showing the type of work, place and times at which we are all needed. Please also note the captain to report to for the plan/ instructions.

·       2 weeks beforehand advance warning road signs

·       2 weeks beforehand, Car leafletting and car parking meters - see Jeanette

·       1 week before hand “this Saturday” signs go up round car park area

·       From Thursday “this Saturday” signs go up around the fire-site

·       Barriers and road signs out- logistics/security

·       Get the WHAT3WORDS app on your phone. From 2023 we will formally use this app. for identification of key areas.

·       For fire-site access, entrances and exits, no go area (pyro-side) and disability area see map below.


People from other societies or performance groups might well ask you where they need to go in order to line up, get a beer, loos etc. People start gathering at the White Rock Hotel any time after 5pm and enjoy the atmosphere as it builds up.

Obviously Hastings, as in HBBS, is at the front of the procession and at the front of that are some particular named people- banners, maces and enemies of bonfire carriers.

Hessian torches are carried upright away from the body. Keep an arm’s length PLUS your torch length behind the person in front. Be watchful of your lines beside you and in front so our formation stays sharp and impressive. People in stripy jumpers (stripes) process behind the banner. 

The first couple of rows behind the banner must be able to support the banner carriers. These rows carry spare torches for the banners.

Tap your torch on the ground if it is burning low to loosen the hessian and reinvigorate it.

·       We start at the White Rock, the Hastings banner is lit first by the torch from the Hastings runners back from the beacon. After this other torches may be lit as you move into Robertson Street. The procession moves into Robertson Street for the America Ground observance, where there is a pause, before making its way onto the seafront, into the Old Town and back to the fire-site. 

·       The 2022 route change is now a fixed feature to allow the procession to see itself at the bottom of High Street while the front turns to the fire-site

·       We walk in strict rows of 3 people across the width of the road with the person on each side walking close to the kerb / crowd for full effect.

·       Keep hold of your torch. Members of public may not have your torch. Hastings torches are built to last.

·       Expect 4 Cracker-points.

·       Walk around the Bonfire when we arrive at the fire-site and wait for the chant before throwing your torch on the bonfire. This may take a little while as we wait for the back of the procession to reach the fire-site.

·       Keef, Heather and Albert are at the front pacing the speed for the banner carriers. If you’re unsure during the procession, find Jeanette. Strictly stripes at the front with the banners and enemy heads. All other costumes at the back (e.g. excise men/Halton Boyes/naval/ black top hats /sundry). Remember NO nylon, blue jeans.

·       The procession has 4 stops: for the reading of the Declaration of Independence in the America ground; to re-torch the banners at the Stade; to acknowledge the life-saving work of the Cyril and Lilian Bishop (gather in a wide arc around the lifeboat NO torches near the lifeboat); Swan Garden (raising hats for those who lost their lives in the wars).

·       Remember to wear your 2023 procession badge

Stay on the bonfire-side of the fire-site. No one may enter the pyro side (pyrotechnic i.e. firework) except the named (and trained) pyrotechnic crew. This includes after the display as there will be fireworks that have not gone off in both the main display and/or the effigy. No rookies.

Reg is on the beach announcing, you will walk past him as you enter.  Senior members of the society, wearing arm-bands and possibly a customs & excise costume are on hand at all points if you need help/advice/instructions.

At the end of the fireworks, allow visiting Societies to exit first for a quick exit and to maintain a clear presence so that we are able to prevent members of the public entering the fire-site.

In the unlikely case of an emergency evacuation of members of the public onto bonfire-side, all members of the society move to the pyro barrier to prevent access onto pyro-side.

The schedule below helps indicate what jobs are required on the Sunday morning before we gather at the White Rock Hotel from 1pm-ish.

Overview for crew requirements.

Some captains have the crew they need already (e.g. pyro, fire-carts) other captains have sole responsibility and some captains oversee a more general crew for which many hands make light work. Procession safety and the fire-site are our joint responsibility. The schedule below gives an indication only, not a definitive or by any means exhaustive list of the job roles that need to be covered over the weekend which is only a few weeks away and counting.

Members schedule

If the table below is not clear on your device then please download this file (or view below): Call to arms - Schedule 

Schedule 2023

This year the procession torches are lit a little later than before, into Robertson Street, and the procession comes back around WInkle Island again for a re-torching.

3. Fire Site planning


1- Lance work on Pete Thompsett banner. Secured next to Memorial Garden on post for the turn of procession route. Keef/Albert/Heather halt procession as salute.  Brian lighting before procession moves around the bonfire

2- Memorial Garden – poppies and crosses, no fire due to grass and plants

3- 3 crosses on beach next to path between fire-cart tip out and mayor’s lighting area. Heather lighting.

4- HBBS large letters on path near pyro-side – Brian lighting as procession goes by.

5- Junior banner to be secured to scaffolding 6pmish

6- Plastic chair/s for Eileen – going where?  LO/EH.

7- VIP/wristband guest area needs better identifying clearly for all. Guests marshalled.

8- Fire-site equipment store area

9- Lamp-post where giant Guy tied down in strong winds.

10  Other banners not in procession secured to scaffold tower

11  Tech Event van in carpark by scaffold tower

12  Fire-cart tip out point

13  Quick match point for mayor – Keef/Heather

14  Beach bonfire


NB Brian moves into pyro-side after the HBBS letters, banners on the fire-site, the crosses, and bonfire have been lit.

Pre-set Pyro-Side - incursions

·      Enemy heads

·      Generator lighting

VIPs and Wristband holders