It’s Blackheath fireworks tonight – fingers crossed it doesn’t rain on one of south-east London’s best nights out. As hundreds of people stream up my road, in the London Borough of Greenwich, to watch the event, probably from vantage points in the London Borough of Greenwich, what is the London Borough of Greenwich doing to help out this year as our neighbours in Lewisham raise funds to keep the event going?
Not a lot. There’s a page on Greenwich’s website which simply suggests people look at Lewisham’s site (which is probably there to avoid having an embarrassing “page does not exist” result), and despite Lewisham making a public appeal for funds, there’s been no mention at all of the event in Greenwich’s propaganda weekly, Greenwich Time, despite it being within earshot of tens of thousands of local homes.
Energetic SE10-based tweeter Lara Ruffle even asked if Greenwich would share Lewisham’s appeal with its 3,242 followers…
…to no response.
Here’s the official line from culture cabinet member John Fahy. I’m not sure that final sentence actually make sense – but none of the councillors stuck around to ask, because they were more interested in cutting the meeting short for wine and sausage rolls at a function over the road.
Indeed, Lewisham – there be dragons over there! Here’s a map of where to go tonight, with the borough boundary scrawled on top. As you can see, the event clearly has nothing to do with the borough of Greenwich whatsoever. Apart from the firework safety zone, spectator areas, road closures, five nearby stations…
So, what has Greenwich actually done with the £36,000 it would have spent on the fireworks this year? Well, we know that last year, it pulled out of Blackheath at short notice after having spent £29,000 on a private Royal Naval College ceremony to inaugurate then-mayor Barbara Barwick. After that, the fireworks contribution was permanently cut from the council’s budget.
(There are other things you could point to, like the lavishly-funded Greenwich Festivals, but the fireworks and mayor’s party came out of the same pot of cash.)
This year, the council still went ahead with a naval college ceremony to inaugurate current mayor Jim Gillman. As I understand it, from various sources, this was knocked down to £10,000 after some frantic negotiations with the Greenwich Foundation, which runs the old college campus. It agreed to allow the council to use the painted hall for free, for one year only. So if Greenwich returns next May, it’ll have to pay full whack again.
Still, if Greenwich runs out of cash for its mayoral booze-up, perhaps it could ask the public to donate.
I’m sure we’d be only too happy to put our hands in our pockets once again to help our councillors enjoy themselves. If they want any advice on how to run a successful fund-raising campaign – they could always ask Lewisham Council…
Donate £3 to Blackheath fireworks by texting “Fireworks” to 70007 (70p of this goes to Breast Cancer Care) or give any sum you like by visiting www.lewisham.gov.uk/fireworks. And if you look north, you’ll also see Tower Hamlets’ display at Millwall Park.