Lancaster City Council has confirmed there won’t be a fireworks display as part of the annual Light Up Lancaster event.
A petition calling for Lancaster's annual fireworks display to be saved was debated at a council meeting last night.
The 'Save Lancaster Fireworks' campaign has been organised by local photographer Josh Brandwood who said that dozens of city businesses signed the petition, along with hundreds of local residents.
The meeting heard that that decision wouldn’t be reversed, but instead an assessment would be made of the success of the 2023 event, which has been extended from two to three days.
‘’I can’t help but feel disappointed at the council’s decision.’’ Mr Brandwood told Beyond Radio.
‘’I do hold on to hope of a return in the near future. The council agreed to evaluate the broader cultural, economic and environmental impact of the extended Light Up Lancaster festival, compared to previous years including the fireworks display.
‘’The feedback the council get will be crucial in shaping plans for the year ahead.’’
Click here to listen to Josh Brandwood giving his reaction to the council decision:
‘’I had actually hoped the council would have debated the idea of charging a nominal fee for wristbands, but this was overlooked,’’ he added.
‘’There was support from some councillors who I wasn’t expecting, but I can’t help but feel that the councillors did want the fireworks, however due to financial circumstances in their budgets, they have to make tough decisions.’’
Lancaster City Council has said 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.
The Light Up Lancaster festival is being extended to three days
‘’My counter argument is the economic impact.’’ Mr Brandwood responded.
‘’The council themselves said the event brings in around £920,000 for local business. I feel in an investment of £60-70,000, that’s a good return.
‘’It’s just a case of seeing how things go for this year. If there’s a decline in revenue for local business and the turnout is lower than previous years, the council need to look at that.
‘’It would be unfair to simply criticise the decision. I get completely where they’re coming from. The council have difficult decisions, and it’s difficult to always get the public mood right.
‘’I just love the fireworks and want them to stay. But I’m not opposed to change. If the festival evolves into something without fireworks then so be it. My priority is the that local businesses in the area benefit.
‘’They didn’t address the issue surrounding the businesses on the Quayside, and the footfall of tens of thousands of people which they won’t have this year.’’
Following the debate, Lancaster City Council, gave a statement to Beyond Radio.
They said full council was presented with a petition asking for the fireworks to be reinstated to this year’s LuL programme.
The fireworks had been removed due to their cost - £35,000 for a 17 minute display – and impact on the wider environment.
Discussions had also taken place with stakeholders including The Duchy of Lancaster and The Priory, who raised concerns about the detrimental effect the fireworks were having on the historic fabric of the city’s heritage assets.
They added LuL has, however, been extended from two to three days to provide more people with the opportunity to experience how local art and culture can be used to illuminate Lancaster’s history and heritage.
Following a debate of the petition, councillors noted it would not be practical to reinstate the fireworks for 2023, but agreed to work with partners to evaluate the wider economic, cultural, environmental and operational impact of this year’s festival in comparison with previous years.
This evaluation and feedback will be used as part of the formulation of plans for 2024/25 and whether funding for the fireworks element of the event can be reinstated.
Councillor Catherine Potter, cabinet member with responsibility for the visitor economy, community wealth building and culture, said: “Fireworks are expensive and environmentally damaging, which is why they were removed from the programme.
“In addition, for this year, taking into account it would be unlikely the Duchy of Lancaster would allow firing from its assets, there is insufficient time to reconsider, replan, procure and deliver fireworks for the 2023 event.
“However, it is important to acknowledge the views of the district’s residents and so we have agreed to examine in more detail the effect of not having fireworks on the economic, cultural, environmental and operational impact of Light up Lancaster. The evidence we gather will then help us decide whether to reinstate funding for the fireworks as part of the 2024/25 budget process.”
Councillor Phillip Black, leader of Lancaster City Council, added: “Light Up Lancaster is one of Lancaster’s top ‘must see’ events of the year and we are extremely proud of how this unique cultural event has grown over the years. It demonstrates beautifully how art and culture can be used to illuminate the history and heritage of our wonderful city and contributes greatly towards making the city a lively and attractive place to be.
“This year will be the first time it has taken place over three days, which in itself is a demonstration of its success and importance to the local economy and why the council remains committed to supporting the event.
“The council continues to provide support financially and in addition to our revenue contribution there is also an in-kind contribution to LUL of around £10,000. This includes officer time to assist with planning the festival, managing the contract with the event safety management company, providing access to spaces and buildings, cleansing and ground maintenance.”