Fireworks ban at this year’s Ouseday raft race

Crowds on the banks at last year's Ouseday event. Photograph by James McCauley
Crowds on the banks at last year's Ouseday event. Photograph by James McCauley

Fireworks will be banned at the annual Ouseday raft race and regatta on Sunday, July 1. Stewards will be on patrol and spectators will be urged to point out anyone throwing bangers or other dangerous missiles.

Organisers considered cancelling the regatta after two rafters were injured last year by fireworks thrown during the annual Lewes to Newhaven charity raft race. One man’s knee was blown open to the bone. He was off work for months and has still not fully recovered.

Rafters were bombarded with 20,000 eggs, some hard-boiled; frozen tomatoes; ice cubes; buckets of pig excrement and even a metal ball hidden in a bag of flour. Raw eggs have been a part of the tradition since the Round Table raft race began 43 years ago, but the deluge increased dramatically since the event was revived as part of a new regatta in 2015.

A spokesman said: “We all agreed it would be wrong if this much-loved event is destroyed by the actions of a foolish few so we ask everyone to help with Operation Where’s The Wally? Anyone throwing fireworks or similar will be located and expelled by stewards. Police have been invited to attend.”

More than 500 people are expected to take to the water for Ouseday events in the river at Malling Recreation Ground and Newhaven Harbour. Up to 35 rafts will line up for the ‘Rock the Boat’ charity raft race, Entry forms available through www.Ouseday.Com or by email: lewesraftrace@gmail.com. Other events include a pirate boat parade, canoe, seven-mile rowing and sprint races between legendary Lewes bonfire societies.

Organisers are the Riffrafters formed with Lewes Rowing Club, Round Table, Lewes Gig Club and Lewes and Newhaven Town Councils. Round Table chairman Liam Jackson said: “We were shocked and saddened by last year’s injuries and even felt unsure we wanted to go on but many people encouraged us including rafters who had such fun.”