Brighton’s ‘Burning the Clocks’ celebrated in special set of Royal Mail stamps

Besi Besemar July 9, 2019

Royal Mail’s new stamp collection depicts much-loved winter solstice event, along with other curious UK customs.


Caroline Lucas MP and John Varah holding a stamp on Brighton sea front
Caroline Lucas MP and John Varah holding a stamp on Brighton sea front

ROYAL Mail publish today (July 9), eight colourful and engaging illustrations, depicting and capturing the spirit of well-known, and some not so well-known, annual customs that take place around the UK.

Amongst this eclectic mix of customs and festivals is Burning the Clocks, organised by local community arts charity Same Sky. Celebrated since 1993, the annual procession has become an iconic part of Brighton’s calendar and is open to everyone, promoting a feeling of community pride and togetherness.

Participants carry the paper and willow lanterns they’ve made through the streets and down to the beach. There, the lanterns are passed onto a bonfire, allowing time for reflection and thought to mark the year’s end, and celebrations continue with fireworks. The symbolism of ‘time passing’ is appropriate to the date, December 21, being the shortest day of the year.

John Varah
John Varah

John Varah, Same Sky artistic director, said: “Each year, Burning the Clocks is kept alive through the generosity of local residents, businesses, sponsors and volunteers. It is, and continues to be, an event for the community, by the community – and an uplifting antidote to the excesses of a commercial Christmas.

“All of the stamps in the Royal Mail’s latest series serve as a reminder of this community spirit and of the power of bringing people together. Burning the Clocks is a relatively modern custom but one that we hope will continue for years to come, so we’re delighted this has been recognised and celebrated within this unique collection.”

Many of the customs involve dancing, singing, dressing up and – literally – playing with fire.

The other curious customs depicted on the stamps include:

♦      ‘Obby ‘Oss, Padstow

♦     World Gurning Championship, Egremont

♦      Up Helly Aa, Lerwick

♦      Cheese Rolling, Cooper’s Hill, Brockworth

♦      Halloween, Derry/Londonderry

♦      Horn Dance, Abbot’s Bromley

♦      Bog Snorkelling, Llanwrtyd Wells

Royal Mail worked with award winning folklorist, Steve Roud, on the stamp issue. Some customs are often geared to natural stages of the year, or seasons, while others are linked to religious festivals and saints’ days, sporting events or specific occupations.

Philip Parker, from Royal Mail, said: “Communities throughout the UK have been coming together for centuries to share distinctive traditions and mark key dates of the year. These customs continue to evolve, and our new stamps celebrate their diversity and the communities that maintain them.”

To accompany the new stamp issue, Royal Mail commissioned a poem by performance poet, Matt Harvey.

Entitled, ‘Customs and Exercise’, the poem celebrates and commemorates the eight UK customs featured on the stamps.

Customs and Exercise by Matt Harvey

No matter what the custom is
We’re accomplices, not customers.
Magnificent participants in quirky endeavour
In curious costumes in inclement weather.

We’re guisers, we’re teasers, we’re chasers of cheeses
Boat-builders, clock burners, we’re vampires, we’re gurners.
We’re match-striking Vikings, we’re antler-lockers
‘Obby ‘Oss swoopers, Elfan safety snook-cockers.
We’re Cheerleaders, chortlers, we’re snorkelers, bog-sodden
We’re Ghouls in cagoules, fools ancient and modern.

It’s a dance with the past, it’s a craic, it’s a laugh.
Connection in every direction, belonging.
We might get a pint and an off-colour song in.

But what can get lost in the mist and missed in the fuss
Is that at the heart of all these customs
Is us.

To order the stamps and a range of collectible products online, click here:

Or telephone 03457 641 641

From July 9 the stamps will be available at 7,000 Post Offices across the UK.