Burning the Clocks is a unique festival of light and art that brings the city of Brighton together to mark the Winter Solstice. The festival was created in 1994 by the award-winning community arts charity Same Sky as a way to celebrate the holiday spirit regardless of people’s religious beliefs. Recently it has adopted a totally different purpose as a rebellion against the modern day excess of Christmastime commercialism.
Leading up to the event people are encouraged to create their own unique lanterns made from willow canes or bamboo and white tissue paper. Every year the organizers come up with a different theme related to the concept of time, ensuring new and exciting lantern creations; the theme for 2013 was “The Deep” and featured artist Graham Carter, whose illustrations were used to promote the event and capture the spirit of the celebration.
Lantern making workshops are held ahead of the event for homeless youth and other disadvantaged locals. The spirit of giving is truly emphasized as volunteers encourage them to create something they can be proud of– it’s great to see this passion and sense of community united through art.
Participants of the parade meet at the Corn Exchange (one of the venues of the Brighton Dome) at 5 pm. From here the lanterns are checked by officials to make sure the parade runs safely and smoothly. With lanterns lit the spectacle begins at around 6:30 pm, as the crowd of around 2,000 people representing all ages make their way down New Road. The streets are lined with eager spectators who cheer as the parade of light winds its way through the streets and down to the shorefront. In total some 20,000 spectators brave the cold to witness this motley procession of white shapes illuminating the darkness of the longest night for the year. At approximately 7:15 pm the last group of the parade arrives at the beach to the beating of drums and the fire show springs to action.