Posts Tagged ‘blackheath fireworks’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?