Burning of the Clocks

This year’s Burning of the Clocks will be held tomorrow, Tuesday 21 December. This is a contemporary British folk tradition of Brighton, which originated in 1993. A magical winter white lantern festival, it takes the form of a street procession with thousands of performers, many wearing huge paper lanterns. It ends in a spectacular fireworks display and bonfire of the lanterns on Brighton beach.

Mother Time Keeper
Mother Time Keeper

Mother Time Keeper, a costume used in the 2000 procession, presides over one of the entrances to Brighton Museum & Art Gallery’s Performance Gallery. The night sky behind her is illuminated with fireworks. At intervals the lights that brought this lantern to life in performance are illuminated. Ticking at an urgent pace the lights sweep round Mother Time Keeper’s dial.

Burning of the Clocks – a spectator’s view

‘It’s a cold wet December night. The sky explodes with light. A procession of huge paper lanterns makes its way to Brighton seafront. Time is passing in front of you: the Four Seasons, Death, the Grim Reaper, Hours and Years. You are part of a contemporary community festival. It emerged at the 1993 winter solstice as an alternative to the commercial Christmas and New Year. Already it feels like a timeless Sussex tradition.’

Burning of the Clocks- A performer’s view

‘This is our collective celebration, a chance to say goodbye to the Old Year and welcome in the New. Thousands of people join in. Carnival, soca and samba music urges the procession forward. Inside the magical white lanterns, we dance our way through the mass of people. Brilliantly lit from within, we dance lanterns with wet bodies and heavy batteries. We place our fragile creations on the bonfire. They fuel the blazing fireshow.’

Burning of the Clocks – A maker’s view

‘The opportunity to make a lantern is open to everybody in a series of workshops where beautiful and elaborate images are created.
‘Winter, time, frozen in time, death, mother time, the not so grim reaper, frozen to the bone, skeleton, cycles, clocks, webs were all used to create Mother Time Keeper.
‘The Old Year is burnt with ceremonial splendour and fireworks (weather permitting) making way for the New Year and the coming of Spring” , Nikki Gunson (artist).

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