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Home > Culture and Society

WAWIBF: Torching Pikeys

Welcome to Firle. Please drive carefully. Unless you're a gypsy in which case fuck right off.

31 October 2003

Guy Fawkes commemorations got off to an early and splendidly controversial start last Saturday, thanks to the good people of a small village in Sussex called Firle and their local Bonfire Society.

Every year the Firle Bonfire Society prides itself on putting on a memorable display. Instead of the usual meaningless guy, they like to inject a topical note into their fiery festivities. For example, in previous years they have burned effigies of popular hate figures such as Osama Bin Laden and George Bush. This year however, they chose to torch a perfectly good caravan containing lovingly-crafted effigies of a whole family of gypsies. A little insensitive you might think.

One contributor to the suddenly-very-popular FBS website guestbook attempts to justify their choice: "Ask the majority of Sussex residents what a pikey is, it's got nothing to do with Gypsies or Romanies, its got plenty to do with Tarmac gangs, brand new 4x4s with no tax, wild dogs, rude kids, lots of rubbish, damage, vandalism, theft and a bill for the clean up which the local residents have to pay for." So now you know.

Apparently, before the gypsies were set alight there was a colourful speech about the Pikey Problem and the crowd, some of whom were carrying flaming crucifixes, were encouraged to chant: "burn them, burn them." Consequently eyebrows were raised, accusations were made and overnight this sleepy Sussex village bade farewell to its anonymity and was transformed into a modern-day Salem, with just a hint of Dachau. The CRE are looking to prosecute the organisers for inciting racial hatred, so someone may actually go to jail. This of course, will solve nothing.

The response of the FBS has been disappointing. All they have done is remove the pictures of the flaming gypsies from their site and issue a press release. And the press release is fooling no-one. They reckon the burning of the gypsies was "primarily intended to criticise the local authorities whose lack of action had caused so much frustration locally" and the whole thing has been a dreadful misunderstanding. But thatís bollocks. Because if you want to criticise local authorities, you burn effigies of local councillors. Everyone knows that.

As one angry spectator put it, "The last people to burn gypsies were the Nazis in their concentration camps. We all like to think things are so different now, but are they?"

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