It was pleasing to read that this year’s bonfire celebrations in Lewes were judged (by most at least) to be a success, especially in relation to the number of firework related injuries compared with the previous year. No doubt this can be attributed in part to the lower numbers attending this year, although I would very much like to think that the ban on ‘rookies’ or ‘drop downs’ was also a major factor in making the event safer.
I was concerned, however, to read that the ban on ‘rookies’ was not a universally popular policy amongst some contributors to your Bonfire Souvenir Edition. My concern stems directly from personal experience of last year’s bonfire procession in Lewes where, sadly, my wife lost most of the sight in her right eye after shrapnel from a ‘drop down’ passed at high velocity directly into it. Anyone who has witnessed at first hand the damage that these so called fireworks can do would never support their continued use in the crowded and confined streets of Lewes; the injuries they cause have been described by the doctors who treated my wife as being directly analogous to those which might be incurred on a military battlefield.
Everyone wants to see the culture and tradition of Bonfire continue, but surely this cannot be at the expense of ensuring that those who participate and come to watch have a safe and enjoyable experience. The powerful explosives released onto the streets of the town last year were never part of this tradition and it is a contradiction in the context of current firework and heath and safety legislation for such practices to be allowed to continue. Regrettably I fear from reading the comments of some in your columns this year that voluntary restraint in this area may not be enough to ensure that others do not continue to suffer serious injury in the future. Consequently you will not be surprised that both myself and my wife are in no doubt that the law needs to be changed to make ‘drop downs’ illegal.