About This Festival
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.
If you are looking to participate in the parade you need to purchase a lantern kit from one of the authorized outlets as the kit contains a wristband you will need for entry to the parade.
Participants of the parade meet at the Corn Exchange (one of the venues of the Brighton Dome) at 5pm. 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 6:30pm, 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 7:15pm the last group of the parade arrives at the beach to the beating of drums and the fire show springs to action.
Lantern Burning and Fireworks Display
The second phase of the festival shares some similarities with the symbolic burning of art at the iconic Burning Man festival held in the Nevada desert. One by one people pass their handmade, combustible lanterns into a flaming bonfire. The burning lanterns carry the hopes and dreams of the participant for the year to come. As the music builds the larger lanterns are ignited and the crowd roars with excitement. The evening ends at around 8pm with a crescendo of fireworks exploding over the coastline.
For the best vantage point, spectators are recommended to watch from the elevated Madeira Drive. Temporary fencing prevents access to the lower levels purely for safety purposes.
Those wishing to participate in the parade must adhere to safety guidelines set by the organizers. All lanterns must be checked prior to the parade and people are asked not to bring Chinese sky lanterns or their own personal fireworks to the event. It is recommended that spectators requiring disabled access arrive early as the space is limited and allocated on a first-come first-served basis.
The event will take place, regardless of the weather, unless deemed unsafe by officials. So far there has only been one cancellation due to weather, when in 2009 a cold snap brought freezing temperatures and dangerous icy conditions.
The festival receives some funding from the Brighton and Hove City Council but relies heavily on sponsorships by local businesses and donations from the community.