8th November 2022

Apology to residents at Full Council meeting regarding fireworks

At the latest Full Council meeting (Tuesday, 8 November) the Mayor, Cllr Katie Vigar, issued an apology for the fireworks display on behalf of the Town Council.

I want to start this evening’s meeting with an apology. The Town Council held a fireworks event on Saturday (5 November) evening and while some people across the town saw a fantastic display, others – children especially – were disappointed not to be able to see the fireworks from the recommended viewing place, Victory Field. On behalf of the Town Council, I say sorry to you all and especially to the children. Having advised children close to my own heart to go along to Victory Field to watch, I understand full well how very disappointing this was. The company organising the display has also said they are sorry about the lack of visibility from Victory Field.

Questions are being asked about the event, so I want to answer as many as possible.

Why did the Town Council organise the event? The Town Council took on the organisation of a firework display as the three school parents’ associations were no longer able to do so, as they had in the past. Given the hard times financially, our objective was to create a free event, available to all, with the cost of the fireworks covered, as far as possible, by the income generated by renting space on Victory Field to food and drink stalls.

Why did we not hold the whole event at the Beehive Field? If the Town Council had held the whole event at the Beehive Field, we would have needed to cover costs such as security and traffic management on top of the cost of the fireworks. We negotiated an excellent price of £5,000 plus VAT for the fireworks, but those additional costs would have brought the price to well over £10,000 and we would have needed to charge people to attend.

Why was Victory Field chosen as a viewing point?  The starting point in the planning was where to hold a centrally located public event with stalls, and plenty of space – but at this point there was no set place to launch fireworks.   The Town Council identified Victory Field as a sizeable place for stalls and public, with spill over space available on Culver Close playing field and the Barton Farm area. Additionally, the benefit of a town centre event was that we hoped to boost use of our town centre pubs and restaurants through the rest of the evening, thereby supporting those businesses.

Why couldn’t the fireworks be seen from Victory Field? The Town Council then engaged a company with extensive expertise in high level displays including in Bradford on Avon and asked where would be a suitable place to launch fireworks, so that they could be seen from Victory Field, and widely across the town.

The company undertook site visits in order to consider various locations to assess the suitability. While a low level display could safely have been possible in the Victory Field/ Culver Close area itself with public present, the company suggested the Beehive Field as allowing significantly higher shells. The company has experience in displays over greater distances than this and uses a programme called ShellCalc that calculates metrics such as trajectories and burst heights.

From this point, it was decided that the fireworks would be launched from the Beehive Field, with the public event as planned from the outset, at Victory Field.  Following this, the company attended a number of planning meetings with the Town Council in preparation for the event.

The Town Council has naturally been in touch with the company since Saturday and received a reply saying that they “are very sorry to hear that due to the weather on the night, people in Victory Field were not able to have the visibility of the show we would have liked.

The reason given for this is that “…a low cloud base causing fog/ mist may well have contributed to the fireworks having a diffused effect on the night.”

The Town Council is asking further questions and continues to engage with the company on the matter.

Finally, what happened to the food and drink stalls? When Victory field was checked on Friday, the ground condition was still good enough to enable the food and drink vehicles to access the field. However, the condition worsened overnight and on Saturday, and when an attempt was made to get a vehicle onto the site, it skidded too much, and the decision was taken to cancel the stalls. This was publicised as widely as possible on social media, and with Town Council officers and councillors standing at entrances to the field to explain.

I hope this helps to explain.  We will clearly review the lessons from this event.  Once again, I am sorry for the disappointment experienced.