news, views and issues around Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Woolwich, south-east London – what you won't read in Greenwich Time

Posts Tagged ‘blackheath fireworks

Blackheath fireworks: Senior Greenwich councillor breaks ranks

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Greenwich Council cabinet member John Fahy has broken ranks on his council’s refusal to help fund the annual Blackheath fireworks display by declaring it should fund the event.

Since 2010, Lewisham Council has been left alone to raise funds for the annual event, which straddles the boundary of the two boroughs, after Greenwich pulled its £37,000 funding.

The issue has strained relationships between the two neighbouring administrations, despite them both being run by the Labour Party.

Fahy has published a post on his blog in which he declares:

Blackheath Fireworks is one of the largest community events in London. It attracts large numbers of residents from Greenwich and elsewhere. Local restaurants and businesses benefit from the number attending. It has a major impact on reducing the number of home firework parties and reduces any potential safety issues in the home. Families can enjoy the event in a safe environment.

“Clearly Local Government has many pressures on limited resources but supporting community events is extremely important. We spend significant resources on our Festivals and rightly so. Getting together with a neighbouring Borough builds positive relationships and I fully support Greenwich making a contribution to secure the long term future of the event.”

Fahy, who’s Greenwich Council’s cabinet member for health and older people, also links to a poll where he seeks to “test the views of the wider community” on the issue.

In October 2010, council deputy leader Peter Brooks claimed it would be “inappropriate in this financial climate” to cough up the £37,000 needed to co-fund the event.

“I could give 65 million reasons why we didn’t pay,” Brooks told a council meeting in October 2010, referring to government cuts in the council’s budget. “£37,000 is equivalent to a job and a bit.”

At the same time, Greenwich was spending £30,000 a year on private parties to inaugurate its ceremonial mayors. Thamesmead Moorings councillor Brooks also told the same council meeting that “it’s very difficult to get to Blackheath from my ward” – despite the fact there’s a direct bus, route 380.

Since then, Greenwich spent £20,000 last year on fireworks to promote the Sail Royal Greenwich event, and a further £110,000 on events to mark becoming a royal borough in 2012.

Despite Greenwich’s refusal, Lewisham has continued to raise funds for the event, even though it’s also had its budget slashed by the coalition, by seeking sponsorship from firms and donations from locals – indeed, it was Greenwich resident Douglas Parrant who started 2013’s display after buying tickets in a Lewisham Council-run raffle.

But after last year’s event, Lewisham councillors were told fundraising had fallen £30,000 short – and the council would be approaching Greenwich to help it fund 2014’s display.

Greenwich’s refusal to help out is especially embarrassing for the council’s Labour colleagues in Lewisham, who have pledged to protect the display in past election campaigns.

Of course, there’s some context to this surrounding the poisonous atmosphere in Greenwich Labour.

It’s worth pointing out that Fahy appeared to have slightly different views on the issue in October 2011….

…although it’s well-known within Greenwich Council circles that cabinet members don’t write their own responses – indeed, they often come from council leader Chris Roberts.

When Fahy stood against Roberts for the leadership of the council in 2012, he lost his role as cabinet member for leisure and literally found himself airbrushed out of Greenwich’s weekly propaganda paper, Greenwich Time:


And, as everybody knows now, Fahy was also subjected to this threatening voicemail from Roberts last autumn:

I expect Fahy might have his phone switched off for a few days. To read what he has to say and vote on whether you think Greenwich Council should fund Blackheath fireworks, head on over to his website.

Written by Darryl

30 January, 2014 at 10:48 am

Lewisham tells Greenwich: Cough up for Blackheath fireworks

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Lewisham Council is asking Greenwich Council to start paying towards the annual Blackheath fireworks display again, after revealing fundraising for this year’s event fell nearly £30,000 short of covering its costs.

Greenwich withdrew its £37,000 share of funding for what was a jointly-run display in 2010, with council deputy leader Peter Brooks claiming it would be “inappropriate in this financial climate” to fund the event, which takes place right on the border between the two boroughs.

But Lewisham has continued to hold the event, which attracts up to 100,000 people and boosts trade to local businesses in Greenwich, Blackheath and Lewisham.

Lewisham has continued to set aside £36,000 each year for the display, which this year cost £108,673, and has relied on public donations and private sponsorship to make up the rest.

Lewisham Council meeting response

But a cut in private sponsorship money this year has meant the shortfall has widened from £7,919 to £29,656 this year, according to an answer from Lewisham’s culture and community services cabinet member Chris Best given at a council meeting last Wednesday.

Responding to Blackheath councillor Kevin Bonavia, she said in a written reply: “Officers continually look for different ways to attract funding for the event. We will continue to request financial and other support from the Royal Borough of Greenwich.”

At the time Greenwich Council’s Peter Brooks was claiming the borough was too hard-up to pay for Blackheath fireworks, Greenwich was paying £30,000 each year on a private party to inaugurate the borough’s ceremonial mayor.

While that cost has come down to £10,000 – thanks to the Royal Naval College no longer charging – this summer the council contributed £20,000 to fireworks displays to support Sail Royal Greenwich, a private company working out of the council’s Mitre Passage offices in North Greenwich.

In 2011, it effectively bailed out Greenwich and Docklands Festival with a £100,000 payout, and spent £110,000 on events to mark becoming a royal borough in 2012.

And while supporters of leader Chris Roberts point to Lewisham’s controversial decision to cut library funding in response to a government funding squeeze, Greenwich has been cutting under-fives’ play centres, outsourcing youth and library services and trying to cut funding from Charlton’s Maryon Wilson animal park.

Relations between the two Labour groups have got worse recently, with Lewisham councillors looking on in alarm at the bullying accusations levelled at Greenwich leader Chris Roberts, with the bad smell drifting across the border.

Greenwich councillors complained to their Lewisham counterparts after Bonavia referred to the accusations in his unsuccessful campaign to be the parliamentary candidate for Greenwich & Woolwich, demanding he be disciplined for disloyalty. They were flatly turned down.

Lewisham council also reaffirmed its reservations about the proposed Silvertown Tunnel – which is backed by Greenwich – at the same meeting.

Deputy mayor Alan Smith said: “The proposed Silvertown Tunnel relies on the same southern approaches as the existing Blackwall Tunnel. These routes, including the A2 area and the South Circular, already suffer from daily congestion. As the only primary alternative to the Dartford crossings, these routes come under extreme pressure when the M25 is not operating smoothly. The council therefore has reservations about the impact of an additional 6,000 vehicles per hour on these routes.”

Other London boroughs, including Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Barking & Dagenham and Redbridge, have also voiced opposition or reservations about mayor Boris Johnson’s plan. In the affected area, only Greenwich and Tory Bexley are wholly for it.

Fancy starting Blackheath fireworks? You could for a fiver…

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There are two events which make living in this part of London like no other. Both of them involve big crowds and take place on Blackheath. One is the London Marathon, the other is Blackheath fireworks. This year’s event is less than three weeks away – it’s on 2 November at 8pm.

Of course, the continuation of the Blackheath fireworks display is no thanks to Greenwich Council, which yanked its £37,000 funding away from the event three years ago, leaving Lewisham Council in the lurch.

Lewisham could have scrapped the event, which attracts up to 100,000 people, or moved it to another open space. But to its credit, it’s continued.

Back in 2010, deputy leader Peter Brooks claimed Greenwich Council couldn’t afford it, a whopper so big it could be seen from space.

This poverty didn’t stop the council handing over £20,000 towards the cost of fireworks to help promote a private company, Sail Royal Greenwich, back in August, according to an answer given under the Freedom of Information Act. And last year, it blew £114,000 on fireworks and other public events to mark royal borough status. Three years on, the decision still rankles, and the real reason for pulling out has never been given.

So ever since then, Lewisham Council’s shouldered the responsibility of raising the cash for the event on its own – even if the firing site’s been outside its borders. The event’s always had some kind of sponsorship, but Lewisham has tried to come up with fundraising wheezes that make the community feel part of the event – something its self-styled “royal borough” neighbour singularly fails to do.

This year’s is simple. Pay a fiver, and you’ll get put into a prize draw where you can win the chance to press the plunger to start the display, along with getting a behind-the-scenes look at how it’s all done. You can enter as many times as you like, and it doesn’t matter where you live.

Of course, it’d be GREAT if someone from this side of the border won the prize – so go on, stick a fiver in and remind our neighbours we’re not all hypocritical miseries over here.

Thought Greenwich Council was too skint for fireworks?

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Three years ago, Greenwich Council decided to pull out of funding the annual fireworks display on Blackheath, pleading poverty. The £37,000 cost was, according to deputy leader Peter Brooks, equivalent to one mayoral piss-up at the Naval College full-time job.

“I could give 65 million reasons why we didn’t pay,” Brooks told a council meeting in October 2010, referring to government cuts in the council’s budget. “£37,000 is equivalent to a job and a bit.”

So Lewisham Council was left in the lurch – but has continued to shoulder the entire cost of funding the phenomenally-popular event.

Fast forward to 2013, and Greenwich Council can suddenly afford not just one set of fireworks, but five…

(Video from Greenwich.co.uk)

Pyrotechnics lit up the skies over Greenwich last night and Wednesday night, and will again tonight (at 9.15pm); and there’s be more fireworks over Woolwich tomorrow and Sunday nights (both 9.45pm).

All very nice (and very loud), although I’ve not heard of huge crowds surging to Greenwich to see them, despite council tweets suggesting people “arrive early”.

Heaven knows how many jobs those whizz-bangs were worth. But why? Well, it’s all part of Greenwich Council’s bid to host the 2016 Tall Ships Race, which involved a nice trip to Latvia for the Dear Leader and chums last year, roughly at the same time neighbouring Lewisham was concentrating on the threat to the local NHS.

But the fireworks also represent a substantial piece of tax-funded help for a private company, Sail Royal Greenwich, which is based in the council’s supposed “digital hub” at Mitre Passage, by the Dome. Not only is it getting accommodation from the council, but it’s also getting pyrotechnics funded to help its commercial offer – of trips up and down the Thames in tall ships – look that bit better.

Nice work if you can get it, and all that. All this generosity is aimed at securing the tall ships for 2016, and a hoped-for boost in tourism during that year. And a no-doubt impressive-looking set of photos for Greenwich Time, if they actually manage to get next week’s issue out.

Is this a wise idea or not? Only the borough’s taxpayers can decide. But the moral of Greenwich Council’s new-found love for fireworks seems to be: whenever a Greenwich councillor says there’s no money left for something, take it with a very big pinch of salt.

To donate to 2013’s Blackheath fireworks, due to take place on Saturday 2 November, visit www.lewisham.gov.uk/fireworks.

9.45am update: See also The Greenwich Phantom: “I only hope the kickbacks are worth it.” Ouch.

Blackheath Fireworks – don’t be like Greenwich Council, cough up

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In case you’d forgotten, the annual Blackheath fireworks display starts tonight at 8pm. More details are on Lewisham Council’s website.

It’s the third year that Greenwich Council has refused to fund the event, which attracts 100,000 people, sits squarely on the border of Lewisham and Greenwich boroughs and had been jointly-backed by the two councils for about 20 years before that.

Last year, the fireworks were actually launched from Greenwich’s side of the heath.

In case you’re thinking this is good old sensible Labour Greenwich putting local services ahead of whizz-bangs, unlike silly old er, Labour Lewisham, then it’s worth remembering Greenwich pulled out to save £37,000. This year, Greenwich has treated its head of PR to a £25,000 pay rise, and has blown at least £114,000 on royal borough celebrations. The whole sorry tale of how Greenwich blew 2010’s fireworks cash on a booze-up for the mayor can be found in the archives.

If everyone who went to the fireworks gave a couple of quid, Lewisham would cover all its costs. So don’t be like Greenwich Council, donate and enjoy tonight.

PS. There are extra Southeastern trains to Blackheath tonight – but watch your Oyster card.

Only a month to the Blackheath fireworks…

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It’s a quiet week here, but as the evenings get darker and colder, it’s one in which to look ahead. We’ve been spoilt rotten for big events this year, but it’s a month tonight until one of the highlights of the south-east London calendar – the Blackheath fireworks, which will be on 3 November.

No news yet from Lewisham Council on donations, but after a year of successful public events, hopefully Greenwich councillors might see the benefits, and make sure the “royal” borough, which actually hosted the display last year, pays its fair share again instead of a third year of sulking on the sidelines.

Well, we can dream, can’t we?

(For new readers: the full story of how Greenwich left Lewisham in the lurch in 2010 – and blew the cash on a booze-up for the mayor instead.)

Written by Darryl

3 October, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Blackheath fireworks – how Greenwich hosted it without paying

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So, what did you make of last night’s Blackheath fireworks? Not as good as last year? People always say that. But you could definitely feel the effects of the cost-cutting, I thought. Two years ago there was music, last year – after Greenwich Council pulled out – there wasn’t, and this year it felt a little less intense.

As ever, though, all this things are subjective – music sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. And I’m spoilt because I’ve been to the Fallas displays in Valencia which do things you could never get away with in England (like starting at 1.30am).

Micro-gripes aside, it was great, kept me quiet for 20 minutes, and Lewisham Council deserves congratulations for organising a fine display.

Sharp-eyed viewers, however, might spot that the fireworks were launched from a slightly different location this year – the north side of the A2. Inside Greenwich Council’s area – the same council that’s refused to co-fund the fireworks for the second year running.

That’s only 10 days after Greenwich’s culture cabinet member John Fahy brushed off a question about his council funding the fireworks because it “takes place in Lewisham”. It certainly didn’t…

Presumably, that’s because of the nippy south-eastern wind that was blowing across the heath last night. But it highlights the stupidity of Greenwich refusing to fund, and barely acknowledging, a major fireworks display which ended up taking place within its borders – yet still doling out cash for a drink-up to celebrate having a new mayor.

I’m pleased, however, that Cllr Fahy has posted here to say that there is “a strong argument for holding a firework display in Greenwich. Would this be supported?” Well, there was a fireworks display in Greenwich borough last night. It’s just that Greenwich didn’t pay for it.

The whole point of having a fireworks display on Blackheath – which has been running for about 25 years now, I reckon – was that it enabled both boroughs to pool resources to have a huge event on a big open space that’s widely accessible by public transport from a wide area, and is close to scores of bars and restaurants who’ll benefit from a boost in business.

The crowds outside the Vanburgh Tavern in Greenwich, a good 15 minutes from the fireworks, was proof of the boost the fireworks bring to both boroughs. There’s no other location in Greenwich borough – nor Lewisham, for that matter – that can offer that.

So if Cllr Fahy wants some advice, here it is. Bin the mayoral booze-ups, put some money back into the Blackheath fireworks again, and support Lewisham’s attempts to raise cash from businesses and the public. Greenwich Council’s current stance embarrasses the people of the borough, all because of the council leadership’s desire to make an empty political point. Well, they’ve done it, and we’ve seen through it.

It’s time for Greenwich to swallow its pride, and get back on board with London’s best fireworks display.

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.


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