Skip to Content

The Burning of the Clocks, Brighton

Burning of the Clocks is back in Brighton for 2023. Read on for event information, route and timings but first…

Burning of the clocks, Brighton

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, for qualifying purchases. More info: disclosure.   

What is Burning of the Clocks, Brighton?

The Burning of the Clocks festival is a celebration of The Winter Solstice on 21st December. The unique festival takes place each year in Brighton, United Kingdom when the people of the city bring light to the darkest, shortest day of the year.

This Brighton event is an important time of reflection on the year gone by as well as a moment to set hopes and intentions for the new year to come. The Burning of the Clocks is held annually on 21st December.

The Burning of the Clocks is ‘an antidote to the excesses of a commercial Christmas’.

Same Sky

Burning the clocks Brighton is a magical procession which wends its way through some of Brighton’s oldest streets and lanes. In this community event the people of Brighton of all ages and backgrounds hold aloft hand-made lanterns in a gently illuminated procession that heads down to the sea.

The glowing trail ends on the seafront on Brighton’s famous pebble beach. A bonfire represents the year’s end and the lantern makers becomes part of the show as their beautiful lanterns and clocks are set upon a blazing bonfire. The flames light up the faces of the crowd and the smoky night sky and is followed by a firework display and accompanying music.

Lanterns at Burning of the clocks in Brighton

The History of Burning the Clocks Winter Solstice Festival

Founded in 1993, this winter solstice parade is a celebration of the turning of the year. The unique community event on the shortest day of the year has become a tradition in Brighton as part of the festive season. The winter solstice offers an alternative to Christmas and centres around the theme of time.

Back in 1993, Same Sky, an arts organisation, organised the first Burning of the Clocks in partnership with Brighton Co-op. The event was held to commemorate the founding of the Co-operative Movement on its 150-year anniversary.

Brighton Co-op financed the firework display whilst Same Sky got in touch with local schools to produce the lanterns for the parade.

Looking for somewhere to stay in Brighton? It gets busy during Burning of the Clocks so it’s advisable to book early. Check hotel rates and availability.

The Lanterns

The Burning of the Clocks Brighton starts with the lantern parade of people holding their glowing lanterns aloft.

The lanterns are handmade using willow canes, traditionally called withies, bamboo and white tissue paper. The paper is stretched over the frames to create beautiful glowing lanterns.

Makers of the lanterns build into them their time, wishes, hopes and fears. The willow lanterns are precious and unique to each maker.

As the years have passed the burning the clocks lanterns have gradually become more elaborate. From the simple lantern kits supplied by Same Sky they’ve evolved into dragons, mythical creatures, aliens and some that could actually be anything but we’re not sure what. 

Flowers, butterflies and birds

Imagine giant Dandelion lanterns, flowers, butterflies, birds and exotic creations bobbing high above the heads of the procession. It’s all quite magical and ethereal.

The lanterns used to be lit with candles, however, health and safety stepped in a few years ago and now no naked flames can be used. This hasn’t affected the beauty of the Burning the Clocks procession.

Many of the costumes and lanterns include clock faces to represent the passing of time. Tick tock. This is a family event with many children clutching their home-made lanterns and joining in the fun.

Please note that only lanterns specially made for the event can be carried as they have to be checked for safety and you’ll need an event wristband which comes with your lantern kit.

Kits (2 lanterns and 4 parade passes) are available to purchase from Collection only

Looking for somewhere to stay in Brighton? It gets busy during Burning of the Clocks so it’s advisable to book early. Check hotel rates and availability.

The Lantern Procession

Lantern procession at Burning the Clocks Brighton

Dancers and artistic performers lead the procession and musicians and drummers accompany give it a carnival atmosphere.

Lantern holders dress in costumes with clock motifs and dance their way through the streets and as they gather by the bonfire on Brighton Beach. The event is the perfect way to showcase Brighton’s creative community.

The music is kind of David Sylvian meets Swiss clock-maker and adds to the quirky, tickety-tockety feel of the occasion.

Scroll down for the procession timings and route.

Same Sky

Same Sky is a Brighton Community Arts charity group. Their events take elements of the past, the seasons and celebrate place and home.

Giving and sharing of thoughts and wishes are put into a format that can be enjoyed regardless of faith or creed. 

Same Sky are experts in creating new urban rituals and the Burning of the Clocks is still going strong and celebrates its thirtieth anniversary in 2023.

Looking for somewhere to stay in Brighton? It gets busy during Burning of the Clocks so it’s advisable to book early. Check hotel rates and availability.

Burning the Clocks 2023 Timings and Route

The procession starts around 6.30pm in New Road near the Pavilion and Brighton Dome. It then snakes through the city and will reach the beach near Kemptown beach at around 7:30 pm when the lanterns are passed into the bonfire and the fire show begins. The finale will contain loud music and pyrotechnics and event finishes at around 8pm.

The parade makes its way through North Street, Ship Street and East Street. It then progresses onto the seafront and along to Kemptown Beach for the finale. Please do not wait in New Road to watch the parade as this is the assembly zone for 1,500 participants. There is no space for audience.

Traffic delays can be expected across the city, in the centre and near Madeira Drive. Avoid where the parade passes through the centre of Brighton from New Road, North Street and onto Madeira Drive.

Road Closures for Burning of the Clocks

Road closures will start from 4pm as follows:

  • Jubilee Street and New Road will be closed between 4pm and 7pm
  • Church Street will be closed between 5pm and 7pm, between Marlborough Place and Gardner Street
  • North Street closes before the procession starts, between 6.15pm and 7.00
  • As the parade makes its way through the lanes and onto the seafront, Middle Street, Duke Street, Ship Street, Prince Albert Street, Bartholomews, East Street and Brills Lane will be closed between 6.30pm and 7.15pm
  • Grand Junction Road will be shut for 15 minutes at some point between 6.45 and 7.15pm with temporary traffic lights in place
Firework finale at Burning the Clocks

The best spot to watch Burning of the Clocks Brighton

You can walk alongside the procession down to the beach for some great views of the parade.

The best viewing spots are along Kemptown Beach at Madeira Drive and Upper Terrace of Marine Parade. You’ll need to arrive early because thousands attend the event.

Looking for somewhere to stay in Brighton? It gets busy during Burning of the Clocks so it’s advisable to book early. Check hotel rates and availability.

The Burning of the Clocks in Brighton turns the spotlight away from the more commercial side of Christmas. It’s a way of lighting up the darkest of winter nights. Most importantly the event brings people of all ages and backgrounds together through the shared experience of art.

Burning of the Clocks is a magical way to while away the longest night of the year. Come along this year help light up the depths of winter.

This Brighton city event is free and receives no guaranteed funding. It relies heavily on donations to make it happen. If you’d like to support Burning the Clocks then visit their Crowdfunding page.

Have you been to Burning the Clocks? Brighton’s unique event is well worth a visit. Be sure to put 21st December in your diary. Check out a day-trip to Brighton to find out what else you can see in the city.

For more information on how to visit the Burning of the Clocks check out the Same Sky Website.

Vicky parramore

Wednesday 20th of December 2023

Do you have any disabled viewing platform down madiera drive and ability to drive to it?

Suzanne Jones

Thursday 21st of December 2023

Hi Vicky, I don't organise the event so I don't know. I suggest you contact Same Sky who can probably help you.