Effigy of Guy Fawkes in mask with vaccine needles in his arms in Lewes

Giant effigies of ex-Health Secretary Matt Hancock with his lover and Guy Fawkes with Covid19 vaccine needles in his arms will burn tonight in Lewes as November 5th celebrations return after the pandemic

  • Effigies will burn tonight in Lewes as country’s bonfire celebrations return after lockdown stopped last year’s
  • Lewes is famed for its topical and sometimes controversial bonfire effigies it has burned over the years
  • In 2018 Boris Johnson was portrayed holding an axe and Theresa May’s severed head before being set alight

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 spotted in Lewes. 

The effigies will burn tonight in Lewes as the country’s biggest November 5 celebrations return after 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.   

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 papier mache versions of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg were seen atop a ‘Brexit rollercoaster’ which paraded down the street before being burnt.

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 

Firle bonfire torchlit procession near Lewes last Saturday which dates back to 1879 

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.  

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 the 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.   

The East Sussex town’s annual celebration is one of the biggest in the country and many dress up as spear-carrying Zulus to mark the occasion.

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.  

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