Future of free firework display in doubt

The annual fireworks display at Blackheath is set to return on November 4, but the council has said there is a risk it will not be able to continue in the future.

BY TOBY PORTER
toby@slpmedia.co.uk

London’s biggest free fireworks display, which is watched by more than 80,000, is under threat as town hall cuts bite.

The annual fireworks display at Blackheath is set to return on November 4 from 8pm, but the council has said there is a risk it will not be able to continue in the future because of the escalating £96,000 cost.

Organiser Lewisham council, which is having to save £85million in the next three years, is appealing for donations. But an appeal to neighbouring Greenwich, whose border runs through the park, fell on deaf ears.

The event used to be jointly funded, but Greenwich pulled out in 2010, saying it could no longer afford to pay its £37,000 share of the costs. Since 2015, it has paid £10,000 each year to be classed as a sponsor of the display.

Other sponsors give £21,000, while £19,000 came from bars and catering. Public donations made up another £9,000.

A Lewisham council spokesman said: “Blackheath Fireworks has been a key community event in Lewisham for many years and we want it to continue as a free event for as long as possible.

“We are grateful for the increased contribution made by the Royal Borough of Greenwich towards the cost of the event and to our sponsors and partners for their support.
“However, we still face a financial gap that continues to threaten the future of the free fireworks display.”

A spokeswoman for the Royal Borough of Greenwich said: “We are proud to work in partnership with Lewisham council to deliver one of the few remaining free firework displays in London which residents and visitors from across the capital can enjoy.

“In recent years we have made a contribution of £10,000 for the event, however there is a paper going to cabinet on Tuesday, October 24 recommending this is increased to £15,000. This is because costs have risen due to the need for additional safety measures along the A2 and Blackheath Village. An additional £5,000 is needed to implement the new traffic management plan.

“As before, we will continue to support the event with publicity, waste removal and the collecting and counting of donations.”

This year’s event will include a funfair from noon, food and bars from 5pm and the fireworks from 8pm.

This year’s show is being staged by a local company, Emergency Exit Arts. It is also supported by  Hamptons International, L&Q, Conways, Glendale, The Clarendon Hotel and The Crown Pub. Visitors are encouraged to support Blackheath Fireworks by making a donation online via www.lewisham.gov.uk/fireworks, in person in the collection buckets at Age Exchange in Blackheath Village, at Hamptons International branches in Blackheath, Greenwich or Dulwich or on the night via bucket collections.

Displays in Southwark, Brockwell Park, Battersea Park and Crystal Palace all charge for tickets.