Osama Bin Laden and US president George W Bush have been among the international figures chosen for a ceremonial burning at the bonfire celebrations in Lewes.

But this year, the societies chose to tackle issues closer to home with their selection of effigies to parade through the streets of the historic town.

Media coverage of the controversial celebrations in Firle last year came under fire.

The Cliffe Bonfire Society created a replica of BBC newsreader Giles Dilnot on top of a ram - the symbol of Firle Bonfire Society.

Thousands lining the streets booed and hissed as the Cliffe Bonfire Society paraded the tableaux of the South-East Today presenter on a cart.

The society picked Mr Dilnot because they did not like some of the BBC's coverage of Firle Bonfire last year, when police arrested some members of the society on suspicion of inciting racial hatred after they burned an effigy of a gipsy caravan with a licence plate reading P1 KEY.

All were released without charge but the Cliffe society decided to air its feelings.

Captain of the tableaux Kelvin Pope led the 13-strong team that built the towering model, which also featured the P1 KEY licence plate half sticking out of the ground.

Mr Pope said: "The BBC kept going on about the Firle tableaux. This caused a lot of trouble for Firle and the Sussex Bonfire Council."

He said a last-minute change of route meant many of the estimated 45,000 people who flocked to Lewes did not see the model, which had taken three months to build using chicken wire, wood and papier-mch.

Mr Dilnot declined to comment on the effigy.

The Firle society attracted several boos and derogatory remarks as its members marched past the crowds.

Another society chose to comment on controversial changes to car parking arrangements in the town with an effigy of a parking meter crossed with a Doctor Who-style Dalek.

It bore a sign saying "Expiry Date, Expiry Date" - a play on the Daleks' catchphrase "Exterminate, Exterminate".

Hundreds of people took part in spectacular torch-lit processions in an array of costumes.

The Commercial Square Bonfire Society had a children's parade in which all participants wore Native American feathered headdresses and face paints.

Society member Mark Parsons, 33, from Lewes, said: "In the past, some of our members went across to America to work on the railroads. They were appalled at how the Sioux Indians were treated by the English and they dressed liked them in protest. It became tradition."

Donna Marsh, 39, from Lewes, was helping keep an eye on 17 of her children, nephews and nieces in the procession. She said: "Their grandmothers made all the costumes. The kids have been so excited."

Guy Bowes, 40, and his wife Vicki, 32, from Newhaven, brought their 20-day-old son Jack to join in the festivities and had dressed him in the gold and black jumpers of the Commercial Square Bonfire Society.

Mr Bowes said: "I think Jack's the youngest here. I've been a member since the Seventies and thought it would be nice to carry on the tradition with him."

While the haze of smoking torches filled the town's streets, Cliffe members joined in a flaming tar barrel run from Cliffe Corner to Cliffe bridge.

In a sombre moment, the crowds joined in a moment's silence to commemorate those killed in the First and Second World Wars and wooden poppies dotted with flares were lit.

Public announcements had to be made to help police clear the path for the parades.

Cliffe society member Paula Black, 39, said: "This is not the biggest crowd we've had but it's a typical Friday one. We ask people not to come into Lewes but the event has such a big reputation people always come."

About 340 Sussex Police officers and staff and 40 British Transport Police policed the event and four arrests were made for minor offences.

Four revellers were taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Chief Superintendent Paul Pearce said: "Lewes Bonfire is the force's largest operation of its kind. This year was busy but still a resounding success from a police perspective."

More controversy followed at bonfire celebrations in Battle when the village made another protest against last year's arrests in Firle.

Charity English Heritage was concerned about the village's bonfire centrepiece of a gravestone inscribed with "RIP Free Speech".

The charity, which owns the Battle of Hastings site, where the festivities were to be held, thought the gravestone might offend people but eventually agreed it could be used at the display on Saturday.