bonfireYes – the two words go together, like, well… they just go together. Ask any Lewesian or anyone who’s come into Lewes for Bonfire on any 5th of November. It’s the big deal here. The members of the Bonfire Societies work towards the 5th preparing floats, banners, the firework displays, and of course, the costumes.

I’m asked to be a judge of South Street Bonfire Society costume competition, mostly on the basis of having no Bonfire connection at all. I think about what to wear and decide on my best suit out of respect. My fellow judge is the radio producer, David Blount (he knows nothing, too – so we’re impartial, you see).

We watch a parade of members in their costumes – mostly colonial pre- American War of Independence and English Civil War, in different categories: Under 5’s (girls), 5-9 (boys, girls), 10-15 (girls, no boys!) and so on. Great imagination and craft have gone into the making of these costumes, and somehow we have to decide who gets the gold, silver and bronze medals. It’s tough. Young Thomas (4) gets a joint bronze. He chews the ribbon in contemplation of…

The Men’s, the final category, and there are only two contestants. In any normal situation, Benjamin would have won. In his perfectly recreated Civil War musketeer’s costume. But Tony (landlord of The Snowdrop Inn) sashays in as a Time-Travelling Steampunk Medicine Man! I say Tony but he’s hard to recognise: his face has been unzipped and opened out, revealing a ghastly skull encrusted with glittering cogs and wheels and gems, the brim of his topper topped with optician’s instruments and a raven’s wing, his leather-strapped coat writhing with worms of light… on his gauntlet is perched a brass multi-barrelled revolver…  No contest.