You can help keep the bonfire tradition alive by volunteering, or you can join us and become a part of this vibrant, friendly society. The Boyes and Belles meet for a monthly social drink at the Rose and Crown (when Covid restrictions allow) and get together for ad hoc working parties, for example to make torches and raise funds.
Members do not necessarily have to help on the night, and Family Membership can be a great way for the whole family to take part in an activity almost every Saturday evening from September to November.
As a member, you can join our walking group. As a Sussex Bonfire Society, we attend other similar events across the county with a walking group. Although the walking group has a costumed theme, we have a number of striped jumpers that can be loaned to members who wish to try out walking with us. Costumes can be simple to make (help is available) and we run a minibus to most events so you can enjoy the events to the full. We attend an event most weekends in September, October and November, and you can attend as many or as few as you wish.
To join the Society please complete the Membership Application Form available here or contact us using the form below.
If you would like to support the Society but are unable to commit time, then please consider becoming a Friend by setting up a standing order to help the Society’s funds. Every pound donated helps us keep the event alive, and Friends and Sponsors can be acknowledged in the Programme, or remain anonymous if preferred.
THE BOYES AND BELLES
It is a huge team effort to put on the annual Carnival, orchestrated for many years by the tireless former Chair, Jo Lee.
Work begins in early spring, when Ken Audsley leads a stick-cutting party to cut the thousands of torch sticks needed each year. Then Pete Allen and Kenny Streeter organise the cutting of 10,000 pieces of board and the drilling of 30,000 holes in preparation for torch-making. A group of volunteers, including the core team of Kevin Leeves, Stuart Neve, Mark Thomson, Christine and Michael Vangils, spend many an enjoyable summer Saturday morning assembling the torches outside the Scout Hut, with refreshments and encouragement supplied by Sylvia Leeves.
Meanwhile, Jo Lee and her twin sister Jill Pring, supported by their long-suffering husbands Allen and Malcolm, spend months getting all the behind-the- scenes activities organised. These include booking the fireworks, bands, Harvey’s beer, St John’s Ambulance and police support, writing the Health and Safety plans and applications for road closures, setting up the bar and catering, co-opting volunteers and liaising with the other visiting societies.
The Boyes and Belles also organise fundraising activities throughout the year, including monthly Bingo, the twice-yearly famous Quiz & Chilli, plus a summer music festival and bonfire plus the Build-a-Guy competition to raise the £9,000 it costs to host the carnival procession.
On the day itself, an army of volunteers is needed to help put up the signs and marshal the roadblocks, set up the radio communications and liaise with the police, set up and man the all-important bar, make cakes and sandwiches and serve refreshments for visiting societies, and carry collection buckets to raise funds for local charities. Most of the members and volunteers are helping behind the scenes, while up front, Alex Butcher dons his bespoke suit to commentate and a small group of Boyes and Belles dress up to lead the procession, carrying the Martyrs’ crosses and torches.
Other Sussex Bonfire Societies attend Mayfield’s procession and we also send a small group of walkers to represent Mayfield in their processions from September through to November. Some people love to walk every event, others just once or twice a year.
The year finishes with the Boyes and Belles hosting a festive lunch in December, providing a three course Christmas meal and entertainment for around 90 senior citizens, and distributing the funds they have collected to local charities, such as the Scouts and MAYFACS. Typically they collect £1,200 - £1,500 for charity in those buckets they shake at spectators during the carnival procession.
Many Boyes and Belles grew up with the Bonfire Society, walking in the procession as children together with past generations of their family, or helping collect the torches with the Scouts. People newly moving to the village have more recently joined the Society, and through this found new friends and a sense of shared purpose. The former directors, Jo Lee and Jill Pring, are now taking a well-earned break from many years of organising the Carnival, though the Carnival is in their blood and they will still be lifetime members of the Society.
It is so important to keep this history alive, and keep the tradition of the Mayfield Carnival going. You can help by getting in touch and being involved, either with the Society on the night, during the year helping with fundraising activities that raise the money to stage the carnival, or by joining the walking group that attends other societies events. These happen every Saturday in September, October and November, but you don’t need to go to every one! The walking group has a costume theme, but if you would like to try a few events out before making a costume, the Society has a number of striped jumpers that can be lent out.
Walking at these village events can be a great family evening out, being part of the spectacle, with some gentle exercise and usually a Bonfire & Fireworks at the end. For most events there is even a minibus to/from the village, so no need to drive!
PAST BOYES AND BELLES
Memories of our proud president, John Lewis
I joined the Boyes and Belles in 1950. The President was Mrs Steyning, landlady of The Middle House, the Vice-President was Harry Grinham of The General Store (now Middle House Deli) and the Chairman was Rev. T. B. Oliver, Vicar of St. Dunstan’s. Notable subscriptions to funds in 1950 were H. Buck newsagents, The Convent, Nappers Ironmongers, The Star Brewery, Tamplins Brewery, Westminster Bank, Miss Cummins (who gave the ground for the Bowls Club). Total collected £61 and 16 shillings. The committee included Jesse Mitchell, Olive Lausdall, Wyn Barton, Ena Rose, Alf Wicker, Charlie Smart (where the torches were made), Charlie Kingsland (whose wife made the costumes, later taken on by Jenny Bell) and Jack Richardson (who built the Queen’s float). Other members were Dr Shackell, Dr Taylor, Ted Law (the torch sticks were cut on his farm), C. W. Godden Haulage (later to become Wincanton in Love Lane), Luther Constable, who worked for Mrs. Sneyd-Hinneasley and Alec Isisuis of Mini Farm (the torches were dipped on his farm).
Bonfire was always held on 5th November and the procession stopped at The Rose and Crown, the Brewers Arms and The Railway Hotel, where the judging of the fancy dress took place in Station Approach. Homemade fireworks were let off all round the route they were called “Rebel Rousers”. The banner was made of cloth with the Village sign on it.
The parade was led by The Dagenham Girl Pipers, hot chestnuts were sold by people from London. It all ended on Court Meadow with a bonfire and fireworks let off by Len Harman. Top collector in the 1950’s was Mrs Morris. Later her daughters, Peggy Wicker and Eileen Smith, gave a cup for the best collector, which is given out to the present day.
In the 1950s South Street had its own Society, led by Arthur Slade, Alf Wicker and Charlie Kingsland and held their own night; Southmead Close also had their own night in November. I forget the year but along with Rotherfield, Crowborough, Uckfield, East Hoathly, Littlehampton, Seaford and Newhaven we formed The Sussex Association of Bonfire Societies and we moved our date to September to coincide with the Mayfield Martyrs.
We used to take a full coach load to all these events, winning Best Dressed society for many years in a row, with a new costume every year.
I took over as Chairman in the 1980s and spent 25 years in that role. Under my Chairmanship, we brought back the fireworks and wreath laying, which had been dropped several years before, and introduced the Burning Crosses. Membership dropped in the 1980s to around 15 compared to over 40 in the 1950s. In 1986 it was just Norman Bell and I who cut all the torch sticks from May to September.
Long live The Boyes and Belles!