Burning of the Clocks 2020

6:30am - 8:00pm 21 Dec, 2020
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Brighton, United Kingdom

Burning of the Clocks: How the English do Winter Solstice

The Burning of the Clocks is a community procession of lanterns and costumes, that locals call ‘withies” (which are willow canes) and white light tissue paper, led by local bands and artists. The event runs with a truly dark winter-like artistic carnival atmosphere. The procession makes its way through Brighton city centre to the seafront where the festivities round off in a climactic lantern bonfire party, with loud music and fireworks thrown in for extra fun. 

The costumes that everyone chooses to wear include a clock face on there somewhere to represent the passing of time. Each year has a different theme, usually a reflection of the mood of people and of the nation in that year. Led by local artists, people gather together to make paper and willow lanterns to carry through the city. Local people make their own paper lantern and add them to the bonfire on Brighton beach to mark the end of the year. 

All the lantern makers who have been in the parade then become part of the finale as they in turn infuse each lanterns with their hopes, wishes and fears and then spiritually pass them into the fire. Each year sees more elaborate lanterns taking to the parade, with dragons, mythical monsters, aliens and goblins to be seen. 

The parade also plays host to a number of local samba bands, which are plentiful in Brighton, that liven up the atmosphere with music and dancing. A nice contrast to the darkness of winter, the music that will get you thinking of sunshine and cocktails!

‘Enjoy making paper lanterns, reflecting on the winters days that have passed and renewing the energy that sunlight brings by marching in England’s Burning of the Clocks Festival.’

Your experience at Burning of the Clocks

Brighton is truly sparked with an outpouring of passionate fun, blazing bonfire and fireworks that brighten up the dark winters night. Feel ready to wish goodbye to the old year. Usher in the bright one new with this unique celebration of community coming together through a dark time of year and comradery. 

Burning of the Clocks is certainly about the people you are spending the evening with, breathing in the fresh seaside air.  The evening combines a beautiful lantern procession through the streets of Brighton, with a spectacular fire and fireworks show to top it all off. You can walk in the procession, view it all streetside or meet everyone down at the beach at the end for the bonfire and finale. 

Watch dancers and artistic performers as they lead the procession down to the beach and immerse yourself as the majestic lanterns are passed down the crowds to include everyone. The festival combines lots of local art into the mix, as local artist Graham Carter designs a special print poster every year that encompasses the theme and feeling of each year’s festival. There are many specially made artistic lanterns made by the creative people in Brighton, which are on display around the festival and taken down to the beach. 

Burning the Clocks has a unique theme every year and in 2019 it is a reflective one, in response to the current challenges of global warming, community cohesion and migration. The title is taken from Marcel Proust’s masterpiece “A la recherche du temps perdu”. The theme relates to shared memories, lost things, things we want to keep and treasure and moments that we hold dear and that have “made us”. Above all how we all have a common humanity forged by sharing our lives, loves and memories.

Best views in Brighton

The very best view of the Burning Clocks is to be had right on Brighton Beach. Here there is an opportunity to fill the bonfire with lanterns from the parade and watch the fireshow from the beachfront. Special beachfront tickets are available from the Burning Clocks Crowdfunding page, which helps to fundraise for the annual event. You can also catch the beginning of the parade streetside at Madeira Drive. 

What to wear

As it’s exactly the middle of winter being the shortest day of the year, topcoats and warm clothes are a must. Scarves and beanies all the way. Many people wear costumes that somehow are linked with its yearly theme and that contain a clock face image on it somewhere. 

What to pack

Your pre-bought lantern, which you can pick up from local businesses in the lead up to the festival. You then must assemble the lantern yourself. 

Musical instruments – drums are quite popular

An open mind and your imagination, ready to brace the cool sea air!

Buy Tickets

Arts funding has become increasingly difficult to secure and with this in mind the festival decided to start crowdfunding as well as rely on sponsorship from local businesses in order to support the event each year. In the latest developments, you can now purchase special beachfront tickets, experiences VIP access and personalised lanterns from their Crowdfunder page.

While you can support them through crowdfunding, the Burning of the Clocks is a free spectator event. Volunteers also collect donations at various locations of the parade route. 

Burning of the Clocks Event schedule

The parade leaves from New Road at 6.30 pm and arrives at Madeira Drive at approximately 7.15 pm. The crowds pass the lanterns and place them onto the bonfire and the fire show begins. The event finishes at 8 pm. There’s still plenty of time afterwards to check out the amusements, late-night shopping or grab a bite to eat.

Starting at the Royal Pavilion Gardens in Brighton, the parade marches through the town’s hectic streets and along the seafront, past the Brighton Pier and down to an area along the beach called Madeira Drive. 

All the while, people are singing, playing music and having a joyful time. 

Thousands of people assemble here to watch the parade arrive. The amazing grand finish of the Burning of the Clocks Festival is the collection of the amazingly crafted lanterns. Adding more clock lanterns this volcanic-like mass of paper is then set alight. It burns ferociously for a few minutes along to some great loud music for the crowds to enjoy.

The event ends with an explosion of fireworks over the sea. 

Top Tips

No home-made lanterns: The festival organisers ask that you not to bring home-made lanterns to the event as they compromise safety. Volunteers are then required to safety check every lantern. Festival officials and council also ask not to bring Chinese sky lanterns or your own firecrackers to the event.

Weatherproof: The Burning of the Clocks event will always go ahead, even if it rains or snows. It will only ever be canceled due to a severe weather event. 

Take part: If you aspire to enter into the parade and take part, you must purchase a special lantern kit made by organisers. It includes your parade wristbands. Arrive in a timely manner and pay attention to the information on the directions. Have your lanterns lit and line up safely ready to begin parading.

History

Burning of the Clocks started out as a way for the close-knit community to remember the 150-year anniversary of the founding of the Co-operative Movement. The festival had its first parade in 1993. It was celebrated as an antidote to an excess of commercial Christmas practices and was also a way to celebrate the festive season regardless of faith.  It proved to be a fabulous way of including the entire community. Brighton is a very inclusive community and prides itself on this. 

The festival brings people together from all ages and walks of life to celebrate the uniquely artistic city of Brighton with an ethos to share the things that bind us all.

Today, Burning the Clocks is run by Same Sky, the largest community arts charity in the South East of England. Same Sky was set up in 1987 and its mantra is to create imaginative events and workshops to strengthen communities, inspire individuals and brighten people’s lives.

Last year about 20,000 people came to watch Burning the Clocks and another 2,000 people joined in to take part in the lantern parade.

Things to do in Brighton

Brighton has a unique pebbly beach. At the pier the kids can enjoy rides and amusement centers whilst you grab some food from the kiosks. The area is popular for visitors looking for good nightlife, arts scene, shopping and festivals. 

Every Saturday Upper Gardner Street is buzzing with a market of all sorts of odds and sods. Head there for old records, artisan jewellery and cool vintage finds. If you like to get more active, hire a bike and either enjoy a cycle along the promenade or make it a slightly bigger excursion and cycle along to Rottingdean.

What to eat

Oh my, where to start! Brighton’s food scene has become increasingly hip, with London’s fine dining moving right into town. Whether it’s swanky top shelf or fish and chips on a budget, it’s all good down at the beach. 

The Salt Room serves gin in gold goblets, while you slurp down glorious oysters with three dips, including a bright pink shallot vinaigrette. You can also munch on salty cod fritters with taramasalata. You must leave room for this dessert called ‘Taste of the Pier’. It is a barmy selection of candy floss, ice-cream cones, doughnuts and pebble-shaped chocolates.

A must visit in Brighton for a scrumptious and budget-friendly meal is Pompoko. This popular place offers delicious Japanese food in the centre of the city for only £5 per head.

From zinging curries to filling donburi rice bowl dishes, this place gets packed to the gills. Get in early if you want to grab a table, if not then takeaway is available.

How to get there

Brighton is a seaside resort on the south coast of England. It is part of the city of Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, 47 miles (or 75 km) south of London.

Brighton is located just a half-hour drive from London-Gatwick Airport. There is a train shuttle or bus shuttle available to take visitors into the city. The city has a direct rail link from the Eurostar Service at St Pancras, as well as being easily accessible from the major ports of Dover, Portsmouth, Southampton and the local port of Newhaven.

Where to stay in Brighton

Being a popular seaside town, there are hotels, hostels, guesthouses and Airbnb’s available in Brighton.

Nineteen is a hip Bed and Breakfast. It has seven rooms spread over a long grand Victorian townhouse, with comfortable trimmings such as internet-connected HDTVs, late check out and complimentary weekend Bloody Marys with breakfasts. That’s some top-notch comfort. 

Kipps Backpacker Hostel budget accommodation that is more ‘guest house’ in feel than a hostel. Spacious dorms and private rooms mix with a bar, lounge, games room and terrace. Its games room has Wii consoles, board games, an Xbox and Sky TV.

For the best deals in Brighton head to the map here.

How to get around

Brighton is a big area and you can bike around the beach or make use of its vast transport networks. National Express coaches also regularly service the city. It is easy to get around the city in the local taxi service or use of local buses. UBER and ridesharing options are available.

Do you enjoy bonfires? Read more about Lewes Bonfire Night, an infamous and legendary celebration on Guy Fawkes Night and Ottery Tar Barrels where flaming tar barrels are carried through the streets of Ottery St Mary.

 

United Kingdom Travel Tips:

Plan ahead: Book your perfect trip with our United Kingdom travel guide and destination information. Does United Kingdom require a visa? Check the visa requirements before you get caught up during your travel.

Stay safe: Even the best-laid plans can head south. battleface can help you stay safe in dangerous or hostile situations as well as that epic road trip or catching a few waves. How to stay safe during Burning of the Clocks 2020? If you’re not covered for your trip yet, get your quote here.

Spend money wisely: Take public transport and dine in from time to time are common saving tips during traveling. How to spend money wisely in United Kingdom? Make use of technology. There’s an app for everything.

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