Firework displays not going off this year

TWO major firework displays will not be happening for a second year running because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Woking Fireworks Extravaganza has been cancelled. It follows a decision by Ripley Bonfire Association (RBA) to call off their event.

Both Ripley Bonfire Association and Woking District Rotary Club have called off their annual fireworks displays for 2021, due to Coronavirus safety concerns

The organisations that stage the events – both of which raise several thousand pounds for good causes – have decided the risks of running them in 2021 are too great.

The Woking event, organised each year by Woking District Rotary Club in the town’s park, was planned for Saturday 6 November. It was last held in 2019, following the show being curtailed the previous year when children were injured as an inflatable slide collapsed.

Restrictions imposed on gatherings during the pandemic forced last year’s cancellation of a display that is one of the most-popular annual events in the borough.

Rotarian Rob Ready said: “We have tried very hard to find a way to run the display this year without risking significant losses, should we have to cancel it for any reason.

“But we concluded that the risk of restrictions on gatherings being re-imposed at short notice is significant, and the financial consequences of this for us could be dreadful.”

Rob added that the club could lose more than £15,000 through a short-notice cancellation.

“In recent years, the event has generated significant sums which we have been able to plough back into worthwhile causes, mainly within the borough of Woking. The high risk is not one which we feel is appropriate to take at the moment,” he said.

“We are desperately sad not to be able to put the Extravaganza on this year, and apologise to the people of Woking for this.”

Ripley Bonfire Association said uncertainty was the major influence on its decision to cancel its event on Saturday 30 October.

The village firework display, with its huge bonfire, has been one of the most-popular fireworks events in the South East since it started in 1955. With a full-scale funfair and live music, it can attract up to 15,000 people and provides around £10,000 in grants to local charities and community organisations.

“Ripley Bonfire, while it is a well-organised outside event, is very different to so many other mass gatherings, such as sporting events like the Euro 2020 football tournament, the Open golf and Wimbledon tennis.

“As an un-fenced, un-ticketed event, RBA have no control over those people who may wish to attend and no control of the total numbers attending,” said the association’s Steve Lock.

“Uncertainty is the main concern, and in particular the uncertainty of essential services that we have to rely on, such as St John Ambulance to provide first aid cover and the police who provide public safety and public order support.”

The planned event could potentially be overwhelmed by thousands more people than in usual years, with problems caused by indiscriminate parking and major safety concerns, he added.

Insurers were also reluctant to provide adequate and appropriate cover due to the uncertainty surrounding mass events.

“Taking everything into consideration and, acknowledging that while some COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted, the pandemic has not gone away, the association made the difficult but unanimous decision to cancel this year’s celebrations,” he said.

This week, Chobham Rugby Club confirmed it is going ahead with its annual firework display. It will be on Friday 29 October, with tickets on sale soon.

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