Posts Tagged ‘blackheath fireworks’
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.
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.)
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.
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.
As we all know, Greenwich Council stopped paying its share of the bill for Blackheath fireworks last year, so it could spend the money on a behind closed doors booze-up for the mayor instead.
But Lewisham is carrying on with the fireworks display this year, despite the financial hit, after finding local businesses to sponsor it. It’s also now unveiled a simple way for firework fans on both sides of the boundary, and beyond, to show their support for less than the price of a pint.
If you’re planning to visit Blackheath Fireworks this year, remember the event is still free to attend. However, we’d love it if you could show your support for this hugely popular event by making an online donation (of any amount) to help us continue to make the skies sparkle over Blackheath in future years.
Text: text Fireworks to 70007 – texts will be charged at £3 plus one standard text. Breast Cancer Care will receive 70p for each text sent.
Telephone: call 020 8314 3007 Monday to Thursday 9am-5pm; Friday 10am-5pm.
When Greenwich unveils a number where you can donate to the mayor’s private piss-up, we’ll let you know.
Back from my travels, and it’s good to have something to look forward to. Remember this?
Thankfully, that wasn’t footage of the last ever Blackheath fireworks display, because it’s back. Forget the heatwave, cast your mind forward 33 days to Saturday 5 November at 8pm, when the skies over Blackheath will light up once again.
Last year’s fireworks were hit by a sudden budget shortfall when Greenwich Council pulled its £36,000 share of the funding for an event right on its border, preferring to put the cash towards a private mayoral booze-up and the “Greenwich Festivals” programme, while pleading poverty at the same time.
Lewisham ended up making up £25,000 of the shortfall through corporate sponsorship and public donations.
Since then, Greenwich has permanently cut funding for the event, although it still managed to find an extra £100,000 for the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival down some town hall sofa earlier this year.
Thankfully for local pyromaniacs, Lewisham Council has decided to keep the event going, and has secured sponsorship from the Clarendon Hotel and housing association L&Q to make sure this year’s goes with a bang. I’m sure if you run a local business and want to be associated with something which attracts 100,000 people each year, Lewisham won’t be turning you away, while there’ll be a public collection on the night.
There’s no word yet on whether Lewisham will accept old copies of Greenwich Time as donations from this side of the border. Crunched up, they make excellent fire-lighting material. If anyone wants to start a collection, maybe we can have a ceremonial burn-up…
A final (well, maybe) postscript to the farrago that was Greenwich Council pulling out of this year’s Blackheath fireworks display came in a council scrutiny meeting earlier this month. You’ll recall deputy leader Peter Brooks claiming this was down to “strict control over all expenditure”, implying government-imposed cuts were to blame. Indeed, there have been attempts to paint the issue as “libraries versus fireworks”.
But the papers put before the overview and scrutiny panel show this simply wasn’t the case.
Bear in mind the fireworks – which eventually went ahead after Lewisham Council made a public appeal for donations – attracted an estimated 100,000 people to Blackheath two weeks ago. Greenwich saved £37,000 by not funding them. Instead, it spent the following – without any reference to elected councillors:
An extra £50,000 for the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival.
GDIF has been around in some form or other for many years – once it was just a dowdy Greenwich borough-only event best known for its opening fireworks in Cutty Sark Gardens, then sometime in the 1990s it expanded north of the river. Now it seems to be firmly focused on Greenwich itself, promoting a “a tour de force showcase of UK and international outdoor arts”. You can see some of it above.
The extra cash was to see the event expand from four days to 10 days – bolstering Greenwich’s contribution to £181,000. Or, as Peter Brooks might have put it in the council chamber, five jobs. It would see the event placed in “the top five UK festivals… Edinburgh, Manchester International, Brighton and Glastonbury” – it’s not exactly clear how highbrow performance art compares with a ticketed weekend in a muddy field, but the justification was good enough for the cash to be handed over.
£15,000 for the Greenwich Comedy Festival
Considering the stonking cost of the tickets and the poor organisation the night I went, I was surprised to see taxpayers’ money handed over for the comedy festival. If money’s tight, should council cash be funding comedians to make us laugh? On the Brooks scale, it’s half a job.
£15,000 for the Greenwich World Cultural Festival.
I hadn’t heard of this until I saw the committee papers. Despite the name, the GWCF, “a free programme of dance, theatre, circus and music” took place at Eltham Palace on the afternoon of 4 July. The money was to support the involvement of Greenwich Dance Agency and Greenwich Theatre.
What have these all got in common?
All the cash from above came from “Cultural Olympiad funding held within the arts and culture section”. A couple of years ago a couple of the borough’s smaller arts projects had funding completely pulled and others saw cuts to fund these big-ticket projects under the guise of creating an Olympics buzz.
is this a wise way of spending public funds? That’s down to you. But it’s clear that there is a pot of cash available for funding cultural events – if the council had wanted to keep the fireworks going, it could simply have designated it part of the Cultural Olympiad. Pyrotechnics have always featured at modern Olympic Games, as students of opening ceremonies will know. But the display’s funding was simply pulled, without reference to councillors and presumably to make a political point.
However, it’s very hard to make that point when you’re spending £30,000 on mayoral booze-ups and £15,000 on a bunch of comedians. Hopefully seeing their decisions pushed into centre stage will make Greenwich Council think a bit more carefully about their decisions – and will make those paid to scrutinise them raise their game as the really painful choices approach.
10:30PM UPDATE: Think all is sweetness and light between Greenwich Labour and Lewisham Labour after the fireworks fiasco? Think again.
“Some boroughs are getting rid of their fireworks displays as an easy way to save money. We aren’t doing that.”
Saucer of milk to Catford Town Hall?
That was how Saturday’s Blackheath fireworks display ended – good, wasn’t it? It felt a bit more low-key than last year’s display, but that wasn’t entirely a bad thing – no rubbish music, for a start. But it seemed like an almost perfect evening for it – mist and smoke hanging low over the heath, the streams of people walking from miles around, and that strange Close Encounters feeling of tens of thousands of people gathering on the heath. That crowd must have topped 100,000 this year, surely? It certainly seemed that way.
(3.10PM UPDATE – Lewisham Council has confirmed that numbers did indeed beat the 100,000 mark.)
So, was that the last display? After all, Greenwich Council pulled its £37,000 share of the funding, putting Lewisham in a spot – and the public knew it. It ended up as a sorry PR balls-up for Greenwich, pretty remarkable for a council whose actions are barely scrutinised by local press or politicians.
The huge crowd showed there’s still a big appetite for an event that’s held in a lot of affection. But there’s certainly no enthusiasm for the display from Greenwich Council’s leadership – before answering questions on it at the last council meeting, deputy leader Peter Brooks grumbled that it was “very difficult to get to Blackheath from my ward” – Thamesmead Moorings (472 to Woolwich, 53 to Blackheath, Peter) – before claiming it would be “inappropriate” to cough up the council’s usual £37,000 contribution.
Of course, nobody in the chamber bothered to ask him why it was appropriate for the council to splash out nearly £30,000 on a private party for the mayor and council leader in May.
There are those who’ll paint this as a choice between essential services or frivolities – but why is a mayoral booze-up so essential compared with the much-loved fireworks, which bring a huge business boost to pubs and restaurants in both boroughs?
Screw you Greenwich Council, Lewisham just put on the best fireworks display I've seen. Well done Blackheath. Good show.—
James Barnard (@sirjogalot) November 06, 2010
Essentially, Lewisham taxpayers will have to cough up because of Greenwich’s decision – and there’s no reason why Lewisham should tolerate that state of affairs. I’ve heard a murmur out of Greenwich that it may try to help raise some cash for the fireworks next year.
Lovely firework display by Lewisham council despite Greenwich council pulling out and not contributing. Shame on you Greenwich!—
Anne Greensmith (@snowleopardess) November 06, 2010
But has Lewisham got the appetite to go through the whole thing again, or will it simply take its box of sparklers and hold a display somewhere more central instead? After all, councillors in Forest Hill or Brockley could complain they find Blackheath hard to get to as well…
Still, to squote an old election slogan, if Greenwich Council has its way, we’ll never see this sort of traffic problem again…
Back from lovely firework display in Blackheath Thanks Lewisham council xXx—
(@lottiegirlx) November 06, 2010
Greenwich Council’s deputy leader Peter Brooks came out fighting when quizzed about Blackheath fireworks last night – claiming he was only given two days by Lewisham Council to make a decision on funding the event, and that the £37,000 saved by cutting cash from the display would save “a job and a bit”.
Cllr Brooks was criticised by Conservative councillor Alex Wilson, whose Blackheath Westcombe ward shares the display with Lewisham borough, for not informing local representatives of the council’s decision to pull out.
Lewisham organises the event, and had given Greenwich two days during August to agree to back the display, Cllr Brooks said.
“I was given two days in a recess to come up with a decision,” he told a full council meeting at Woolwich Town Hall. He apologised for not informing councillors, adding: “I did speak to some of the Labour group, but I couldn’t get through to everybody – even with mobile phones, many people would be away.”
“I could give 65 million reasons why we didn’t pay,” he continued, referring to government cuts in the council’s budget. “£37,000 is equivalent to a job and a bit.”
Cllr Wilson said Greenwich’s attitude to the fireworks, which take place on the borough boundary, “feels like a diner who walks away from a restaurant without paying for a meal”.
Above is the written element to Cllr Brooks’ reply. Unfortunately, Alex Wilson didn’t ask why, despite the “current financial climate”, the council felt the need to spend £30,000 on its lavish private do for the mayor in May – which equates to a job. It also does seem odd that Peter Brooks is complaining about only having two days to decide about an event that’s taken place annually for about the past 20 years, for which he roughly knew what the bill would be.
I’d love to know what Lewisham’s version of events is – even from that written response, it doesn’t look like relations are happy between the two boroughs. This doesn’t bode well as we enter a period when councils may have to start sharing services to save them from even worse cutbacks. It’s sad that one of SE London’s best-known events could well be a victim of what seems to be as much of a falling-out between two Labour councils, who you’d expect to be sticking together, as a need to save funds.
To donate to Lewisham’s Blackheath fireworks fund, visit www.lewisham.gov.uk/fireworks.
More on the Blackheath fireworks story.
It’s six weeks since Lewisham Council launched its appeal for SE Londoners to back the Blackheath fireworks display after Greenwich Council pulled its funding. In that time, Lewisham has been industrious in battling to make up the missing £36,000 – rattling tins around Blackheath boozers (bet that Childline woman’s annoyed with the competition) and hawking “VIP fireworks experiences” on eBay.
In that six weeks, what has Greenwich Council done to explain itself to the people it is supposed to represent? Not a lot. There’s certainly been no mention of the cut that’s been made on our behalf in Greenwich Time, its weekly puff sheet – not even in this week’s BAD NEWS special.
The council’s website claims you can “read all the local news” in GT – but in propaganda, what you leave out is just as important as what you put in.
That said, the news did creep onto the council’s website on Monday morning – scroll down, no, right down, there it is! Talk about burying bad news…
“Greenwich Council has reluctantly taken the decision not to fund the fireworks event on Blackheath this year, having been advised to anticipate up to 40 per cent cuts to its grant following the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.” That didn’t stop it blowing nearly £30,000 on a private party for its new mayor earlier this year, of course.
“The Council is however supporting Lewisham Council’s appeal to local residents to help cover the costs of the event,” it adds, before packing users off to Lewisham’s website, where locals can find lists of Greenwich borough streets that are closed. Consider Greenwich’s hands duly washed of that, then.
Down the road, Lewisham’s eBay auction has reached £770 for the chance to start all the excitement off, be shown “behind the scenes” of the display and be plied with free food and drink. Better than hanging around by the dips with sparklers and a novelty hipflask. Bidding ends on Hallowe’en – and wouldn’t it be great if someone from this side of the boundary could get the prize?
All this said, the London Fire Brigade dispute may succeed in doing Greenwich Council’s work in doing away with the display, anyway…
To donate to the Lewisham appeal, visit www.lewisham.gov.uk/fireworks. For other local blog comment, see The Greenwich Phantom, Crosswhatfields, Kidbrooke Kite and Brockley Central.