Littlehampton Bonfire: Annual procession fans the flames of love

On the night of the Littlehampton Bonfire Society celebrations in 1971, one of the members of a marching band from Portsmouth met a cowgirl in the procession, and the rest is history.

Kevin and Sheila Bond have now been together for 50 years and they hope their story will prompt others to come forward with tales linked to the annual bonfire night.

On the last Saturday of October each year, Littlehampton comes alive with a traditional costumed torchlight parade that winds through the streets down to the beach for a huge bonfire and awesome pyrotechnics display.

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Sheila was a member of the society who was dressed as a cowgirl while collecting for charity.

Kevin and Sheila Bond have been together for 50 years, having met at the Littlehampton Bonfire Society celebrations in 1971

On the night of October 30, 1971, she was marching with the torchlight parade through the town to the beach. Her dad was a respected businessman in Wick, owning the third generation Biggs Bakery.

Sue Baker, LBS press officer, said: “Sheila was marching with the society carrying one of the many charity collection buckets.

“Also in the parade that year was Kevin Bond. He was marching with Portsmouth City Band entertaining the crowds along the route.

“They met after the parade. Sparks flew. Romance was kindled.”

Kevin and Sheila on their first date, after they met at the Littlehampton Bonfire Society celebrations 50 years ago

The couple got married on July 16, 1977, and their wedding reception was held at the Beach Hotel.

Sue said: “For those who did not know the town back then, this was on the green opposite the firing site for the annual pyrotechnics display and where today there is a crescent of houses facing the sea.”

After the wedding breakfast, the couple returned by road to Sheila’s parents’ house in Highdown Drive and, ironically, their vehicle was delayed on its journey by congestion in the town caused by the summer carnival procession winding its way through the streets.

Sue said: “This year, as in 1971, October 30 is again the night of Littlehampton’s annual traditional torchlight parade, with awesome bonfire and impressive fireworks display.

“And for this happy couple, it will mark exactly 50 years since that fateful day back in 1971 when they met for the first time.

“Sheila and Kevin are hoping that someone may have an old programme, or some photos, or press cuttings of the town’s bonfire event from 1971 to bring back some happy memories.”

The society is also keen to add to its archive any old programmes, photos or stories of the bonfire over the years.

If you think you may be able to help, please contact the bonfire society via or email [email protected]