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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 November, 2003, 19:05 GMT
Saddam to meet fiery end
Libby Sutcliffe
News Online South East

Saddam Hussein guy
Each year a celebrity guy 25ft tall is torched in Edenbridge
A larger than life Saddam Hussein is set to meet a fiery end on Saturday in a small town in Kent.

A 25ft model of the former Iraqi leader will be burnt as part of bonfire celebrations in Edenbridge.

Organisers of the event say he beat off competition from other figures in the public eye to be turned into the massive guy.

Terry Gledhill-Carr, chairman of Edenbridge Bonfire Society, said: "There were one or two other people in the frame such as David Blaine and Paul Burrell.

"We settled on Saddam Hussein as we know the US and British governments have been unable to locate him so we decided to give them a hand."

Saddam Hussein joins a select few who have been chosen as the giant guy.

Edwina Currie guy
Edwina Currie was chosen to be torched with her book and an egg

Last year Edwina Currie was picked after she hit the headlines over her affair with John Major.

Mr Gledhill-Carr said Mrs Currie contacted the society after her effigy was torched.

He said: "She found the whole thing highly amusing - we did consider trying to get John Major to come down."

Anne Robinson also had the honour of being the guy in 2001 when "you are the weakest link" was the catchphrase of the moment.

James Hewitt, Gordon Brown, Jacques Chirac and a French farmer have also met a flaming end.

The South East is famed for the way it marks the Guy Fawkes anniversary.

I think people are taking a lot more interest in these events than they did years ago
Keith Austin, Lewes Bonfire Council.
In East Sussex the bonfire calendar runs from September until the end of November with more than 20 societies taking part in weekly processions in towns and villages across the county.

The small town of Lewes plays host to one of the biggest bonfire events in the country.

On Wednesday night the narrow streets were filled by an estimated 35,000 people who watched the procession winding through the town.

The history of the Lewes event, as in most places, started the year after Guy Fawkes failed in his attempt to blow up Parliament.

In 1853 two bonfire societies, Cliffe and Lewes Borough were created.

Now there are six societies which join in the march, making their way to different fire sites to burn effigies and tableaux and let off fireworks.

Gordon Brown guy
An effigy of Gordon Brown went up in flames in 2000

Keith Austin, from the Lewes Bonfire Council, said: "It is the heritage of the town. It all kicked off on the anniversary of Guy Fawkes in 1606 - it was a rabble demonstration and it has just grown from that."

Mr Austin said the societies were formed in 1853 in response to an attempt by the Lord Chief Justice to quell the celebrations.

Interest in the Lewes event has grown over the last decade and Mr Austin put its popularity down to apparent attempts by the police to turn it into a carnival and to dissuade people from attending.

He said: "I think people are taking a lot more interest in these events than they did years ago.

"People of this town voted with their feet when the police tried to have a crackdown and tried to turn it into something it was not."

There was an influx of people wanting to join the societies as a result of proposed changes, said Mr Austin.

Now the six societies in Lewes have about 3,000 members between them keeping the bonfire tradition alive and the parades marching.

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