There were moments on Saturday when Uckfield felt and sounded like any other Carnival weekend.
- Shops had Carnival themed windows
- Parade leader Steve Crow was in full voice
- A decorated truck brought pleasure to many as it wound its way through many of Uckfield’s housing estates
- Bonfire prayers were said, illuminated by flaming torches
- The fireworks were spectacular
- Familiar processional banners flamed: UBCS, We Won’t Be Druv and We Burn for Charity
- There was even that familiar smell that percolates the town when the torches burn.
However, of course, all was not what it should have been, writes Paul Watson.
Covid-19 ensured that this was a Carnival like no other.
Uckfield Bonfire and Carnival Society could have thrown the towel in months ago and called off the 2020 iteration.
However, members were not prepared to let nearly 200 years of tradition go and – like many businesses and individuals – embraced technology, the internet and staged a Virtual Carnival, which had some of the physical highlights from a normal year.
Saturday (September 5) began with bonfire and carnival society members, some in full costume, going through many parts of the town, led by MC Steve Crow and backed by a decorated ‘float’ blasting out music.
They soon turned into a bit of “Pied Piper” as children rushed to see what was going on and followed the music.
Members walked nearly ten miles after setting off from the Rocks Park Estate, visiting West Park, and Hunters Way before heading to Harlands.
In the end, they ran out of time but their efforts were rewarded by buckets full of cash.
Carnival streamed on Facebook
Money raised from the collection and a crowd funding page will allow the society to make its traditional donations to charity.
The evening celebrations started with a video film, shown via Facebook, of past carnivals and photographs from local residents.
Once the film was finished the piece de resistance was live streamed when Bonfire ceremonies were held on Holy Cross Field with only a handful of people watching.
Normally, thousands will witness the carnival processions.
Uckfield Town Crier, Ian Bedwell, opened proceedings before Bonfire prayers were said by Father John Wall, Rector of Uckfield.
The traditional banners were lit – something that normally takes places outside the Cinque Ports Club in the High Street.
As those flames died down, a spectacular fireworks display illuminated Uckfield’s night sky.
Many people watched from vantage points around the town, instead of cramming in the school field, as is normal on the Friday night of Carnival weekend.
Social media users hailed the display as the “best ever” and congratulated the society on its efforts.
A spokesperson for Uckfield Bonfire and Carnival Society said: “Next year we will back.
“We will be stronger and we will have one of the best carnivals ever.”
There was an extra banner on the Holy Cross school field – one that had never been seen before and one people will hope will never re-appear.
It was away from the main banners and said: Covid-19.
The aim was to blow this banner to smithereens and total destruction.
Unfortunately, a problem with the mechanisms prevented this from happening and the Covid banner flickered on – almost a perfect analogy for the problems the pandemic continues to cause.
Uckfield Bonfire and Carnival Society proved on Saturday that, whatever the challenges, life must go on and be as normal as possible in these strangest of strange times.
And, however out of the ordinary it all was, Uckfield Carnival 2020 is one that will be remembered for many a long day.
More photographs from the fireworks display:
You may like to see (or look again) at a film made five years ago by Wayne Sharrocks for this website which tells the Uckfield Bonfire story.
It is still available to view on the Bonfire society’s website and shows what a normal Uckfield first Saturday night in September is usually like. Click here