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Campaign launched to save Lancaster Fireworks as majority call for axe U-turn

The Lancaster Fireworks Spectacular. Photo by Josh Brandwood.

A campaign has been launched urging for a U-turn on a decision to scrap this year's Lancaster Fireworks Spectacular.

The Saturday night display launched from the grounds of Lancaster Castle will not take place as usual this November, Lancaster City Council has announced. 

Instead, the Light Up Lancaster light festival that month has been extended to three days instead of two.

A survey of comments on Beyond Radio's Facebook page on Friday, showed that 74 per cent of responders were against scrapping the fireworks display, with 26 per cent agreeing with the council that it should be cancelled.

Josh Brandwood, a campaigner and photographer from Lancaster, has set up an online petition.

This "urges Lancaster City Council to continue funding the firework finale which concludes the Light Up Lancaster Festival".

Josh, speaking live on our 'Beyond the Headlines' show on Friday, said he felt "huge disappointment" that the fireworks would be axed.

"I don't understand the rationale behind the decision really," said Mr Brandwood.

"I get the points around the financial aspect, however I think it's very short sighted on the council's behalf. They haven't thought about how much the community enjoys this event and the revenue it generates. You've got people coming out to spend money in the businesses in the area. I'm perplexed they haven't even put it to public consultation.

"It's something that's been part of Lancaster's history for such a long time now and the public didn't even get asked about it. I feel fundamentally they've made a mistake there.

"I go every year, I take photos, I go with my children, and we love it. It's the experience of being out and getting together as a community and watching the fireworks together.

"We celebrate firework night because the Gunpowder Plot was foiled. But now it's a case of welcome to Lancaster, we've got Bonfire Night but no fireworks.

"Rather than scrapping the fireworks altogether, could they not charge a couple of quid for wristbands (for the viewing areas)? 

"Potentially now, rather than these thousands of people who normally watch the fireworks in Lancaster, you're going to have them setting fireworks off in their own backyard. People who are pet owners rejoicing that the council has scrapped the fireworks, I wouldn't say the issue has completely ended. You'll have a lot more inexperienced people setting fireworks off, potentially injuring themselves and others."

You can find Josh's petition here. 

Lancaster City Council has maintained that the Fireworks Spectacular will not go ahead in November, for several reasons, one of which is the cost of £35,000 for a 17-minute display, and the impact loud fireworks displays have on domestic pets and wildlife.

Read more: Lancaster Fireworks Spectacular is axed for 2023 - Beyond Radio

Councillor Catherine Potter, cabinet member for the visitor economy, speaking to Beyond Radio, said: "Please believe me when I say decisions like this are always made with a heavy heart.

"With this particular decision, we're also adding an extra day to Light Up Lancaster. It really is a great experience and it does bring people into the district, who spend money in cafes, restaurants and bars.

"This means 50 per cent more people will be able to see the fabulous displays and I think that's a really positive thing.

"I realise that the decision to not have a fireworks display has been regretted by some, but it's actually been applaiuded by many others. That's primarily for animal welfare reasons.

"I think it is now set in stone. The decision was made to channel funding that's been saved, in putting on Light Up Lancaster for a third night.

"£35,000 is a lot of money. Fairly often in the past, the display has been aborted due to bad weather and when it is aborted, we don't get any of that money back.

"The city council has been hit by unprecedented and sustained cuts in recent years. This affects all councils across England. The direct grant councils have historically received from central government has been reduced to almost nothing and will be gone completely by 2025. Councils are able to retain a proportion of our local business rates but this doesn't come close to making up for the loss of funding directly from national government.

"Having taken into account inflation and wage increases, Lancaster City Council has 40 per cent less money to spend on local services than it did in 2008. Things like culture, which are non-statutory, are always on the front line to take the hit.

"I believe in public services. Things like Light Up Lancaster are fundamental to a feeling of local pride and social cohesion.

"So yes we might have lost the fireworks display but by extending Light Up Lancaster to an extra night, it will increase by 50 per cent the people able to enjoy it. I think that's win-win. More people will be able to enjoy Light Up Lancaster, and the pets and wildlife will be able to enjoy their evening too."

Last year Light Up Lancaster, which has been running since 2013, attracted 58,000 people over two nights.

Here is an image from one of the giant light displays from the 2022 festival.

The event has been extended after funding from Arts Council England (ACE), Lancaster City Council, Lancaster BID and a number of other funders.

Plans for the festival are being finalised but highlights already include a stunning projection installation in the castle which will reveal the unique history of The Great Cowcher, an illuminated 15th century document which has been referred to as the Duchy of Lancaster equivalent of the Domesday Book.

Events are also in the pipeline for Market Square, Dalton Square and other sites across the city centre.

Light Up Lancaster will run each night from November 2-4 from 5pm to 9pm – almost double the hours from last year.

The event is being delivered and managed by Lancaster BID, imitating the dog, The Dukes and Mirador with support from Lancaster City Council

What do you think? Comment on our Facebook page or email your views to newsdesk@beyondradio.co.uk 

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