For the last two years I have spent the holiday season at my parents house. 2017 was going to be a Christmas in Brighton and ironically the first one after living there for 5 years. One on the things I’ve always wanted to see was the Burning of the Clocks.
Burning the Clocks is a winter solstice festival that takes place each year. Founded in 1993, the celebration is based on a procession of lanterns and costumes, made from withies (willow canes) and white tissue paper, led by local bands with a carnival atmosphere. The procession makes its way through Brighton city centre to the seafront where the festivities culminate in a lantern bonfire, accompanied by fireworks. The costumes all include a clockface to represent the passing of time, although each year has a slight change of theme. –Wikipedia
With GoPro in hand I bundled up but only lightly for the surprising mild night. I caught the 7 bus but quickly realised that it was on its diversion route as it turned right at north road because of the street it usually goes down was closed for the event. But it actually worked in my favour as I gathered my video equipment and made my way to the start.
Very quickly I found the parade with all the beautifully decorated lanterns by families participating and also large effigy like structure of various religious statues like Ganesh and some saints (not a 100% but that’s what it kinda looked like) but they too where these magnificent lit fixtures.
Immediately I felt an excitement over something so simple but peaceful. I took the GoPro out and started taking various photos and videos, playing with settings when I suddenly heard people say let’s start moving. So I was like “ok great” and proceeded to keep filming and enjoy the thumping drums and whistles from the instrumental groups in the parade. I thought everyone was joining in the procession. It wasn’t until we turned the corner from New street that I saw all the people barricaded on either side that I realised I had accidentally crashed the parade!
But luckily just being an army of one and a very unobtrusive camera I just kept matching with the group, always being mindful not to be in front of little kids and I stayed on the outside. We weaved our way through the lanes and I just subtly danced along to the music as I filmed various locations and people. We finally made our way to the crossing of Madeira Drive when we all came to a halt. That’s when I realised I had slowly swayed and danced my way to the front. The Hari Krishna like drummers kept the festive feeling going with members of the crowd joining in on the atmosphere. It felt like we were there for over 10 minutes and I started to wonder what the hold up was.
It wasn’t until the procession starting moving again that I realised that we were waiting for them to stop over 4 lanes of traffic so we could cross to the large sidewalk that runs parallel to the seas side. Once I crossed the road I was able to finally get out of the parade crowd and enjoy the display as a spectator and it felt like it were on for ages.
But I loved seeing all the dragons and other large scale lantern displays along with the army of handmade lanterns. It wasn’t until the air off the sea hit me that I finally started to feel to cold solstice air. And like that the procession was gone and I decided not to follow as I was now cold, batteries were dead and I had a very sick roommate at home.
But I will cherish the time I was accidentally part of a nighttime carnival atmosphere surrounded by beautiful lights. In about a week or so I’ll update this post with the footage on my YouTube channel