This year’s Blackheath fireworks display will not be taking place – and Lewisham Council has warned that sponsorship may be needed if the event is to return.
The free display was one of London’s most popular and attracted up to 100,000 people to Blackheath – boosting trade for pubs and restaurants across a wide area of both Lewisham and Greenwich boroughs.
Last held in 2019, the fireworks had been a fixture of life in SE London since the late 1980s, when they began as a joint event between both councils. The border between the two boroughs runs across the heath.
But Greenwich pulled out in 2010, citing the coalition government’s austerity cuts, leaving Lewisham to foot the bill on its own and leading to bad feeling between the two Labour councils.
Greenwich partially relented five years later, contributing £10,000, and paid £16,300 to 2019’s display; but Lewisham was still left with a £15,554 shortfall on a £121,000 overall cost.
The pandemic meant 2020’s display did not happen, and later that year Lewisham put the fireworks on hold until at least 2023 as part of a wider review of the council’s events programme. The fireworks were put on by Emergency Exit Arts, a Greenwich-based company.
A Lewisham spokesperson told 853: “Unfortunately, as a result of funding cuts from central government, the Blackheath Fireworks display will not be taking place in 2022.
“Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the display was funded almost exclusively by Lewisham Council, supported by fundraising efforts from local residents and businesses, following other partners and neighbouring local authorities withdrawing funding.
“While we have endeavoured to continue organising the display, it is not currently possible given the financial pressures facing the council. After more than a decade of continued funding cuts from central government, we need to focus our limited financial resources on maintaining essential local services and supporting our most vulnerable residents.
“We will continue exploring possible options for future displays and remain open to offers of sponsorship and external funding.”
Three years ago, Greenwich tried to broker a sponsorship deal with London City Airport but Lewisham refused because of the effect of the airport’s planned expansion on its residents, many of whom live under its flightpath and are disturbed by noise from its jets. The airport continues to be a sponsor of Greenwich’s annual business awards.
Earlier this month, Southwark Council confirmed that its display in Southwark Park will not be going ahead because of financial constraints, while Tower Hamlets’ display in Victoria Park has also fallen victim to cuts . Hackney Council has also scrapped its display in Clissold Park, Stoke Newington.
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