Can You Hear Those Distant Drums Getting Louder?

Picture by Roz Bassford-South

Picture by Roz Bassford-South

Can you hear those distant drums getting louder? Have you heard loud bangs coming from the beach at night? Worry not, your ears do not deceive you…. As Autumn approaches, Rottingdean Smugglers are on the march. We can’t wait for the nights to draw in, the weather to cool and the drumming to start.

This year, on 3rd December, Rottingdean celebrates once again its iconic Smugglers Night, which combines all kinds of fire, noise, light and devilry in a unique coastal setting. Our Smugglers Night marks our proud piratical history, whilst also giving us an excuse to throw a pre-Christmas party that our rabble-rousing ancestors would have been proud of. Everyone is invited, from the little to the mighty, because back in them ol’ smuggling days, even the clergy were at it.

As anticipation builds in the afternoon, children can do face-painting, create sculptures to carry in the procession, meet Father Christmas or watch a puppet show from 2pm. Adults can get in the spirit in one of our 5 historic pubs, all serving incredible food to fuel you for marching and merry-making. During the festival atmosphere, with stalls and shops offering snacks, drinks and goodies, you can watch the incredible Blind Veterans walking across fire at the Terraces from 4.30pm.

At 7pm we gather hundreds of like-minded pirates and smugglers together to march with flaming torches through the village streets, gathering on the Green to remember Rudyard Kipling to the backing track of hypnotic drumming from the talented bands of Sussex. On the beacon by the ancient windmill, the bangers will begin, marking the beginning of the march back to the beach.

From the floodlit Terraces (ideal for wheelchairs and buggies) you can watch the giant pirate ship get set on fire as the crowds gather and anticipation rises for the fireworks.

The incredible finale at 8.30pm comes as fireworks more awe-inspiring than ever before bang, swoop and blow up the night sky, reflected in the inky sea where so many past misdemeanors have taken place.

Of course, thousands of pirates and smugglers cannot organise themselves. Volunteers most welcome: a great time is guaranteed with a smuggler’s handshake. If you can help, please contact email

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