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Bonfire Night events cancelled due to double whammy of wet weather and cost of living

Bonfire Night celebrations have been hit by a double whammy of bad weather and a cost of living crisis as organisers and cash-strapped councils cancel events.

Storm Ciarán, which lashed the UK with winds of over 100mph and heavy rain, led to a swathe of events planned for Guy Fawkes Night being scrapped across the country.

The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for rain across much of the south coast until midnight on Saturday, when many events were due to be held.

World-famous festivities in Lewes, East Sussex, were among the celebrations hit, with the Cliffe Bonfire Society – one of six with events planned in Lewes for Saturday night – closed to the public due to stormy weather and flooding.

Chesterfield Borough Council axed their fireworks display planned for Friday over safety concerns after torrential rain left the ground waterlogged.

And Wakefield Council said Saturday’s fireworks display was being axed after the bad weather had “made the site too unsafe”.

But many other events in the UK have been ditched as councils grappling with overstretched budgets as a result of the cost of living crisis are forced to cut back.

Revellers parade through the streets of Lewes in East Sussex, southern England, on November 5, 2018, during the traditional Bonfire Night celebrations. - Thousands of people attend the annual parade through the narrow streets until the evening comes to an end with the burning of an effigy or 'guy', usually representing Guy Fawkes, who died in 1605 after an unsuccessful attempt to blow up The Houses of Parliament. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)
Revellers parade through the streets of Lewes in East Sussex in 2018 during the traditional Bonfire Night celebrations (Photo: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty)

Among them were Manchester City Council, which has said it faces a budget shortfall of £28m this year, rising to £96m by 2025-26.

Events that have been shelved include Bonfire Night celebrations in Heaton Park.

Councillor Lee Ann Igbon said: “We have looked carefully at the cost benefit of putting on these huge bonfire events and with the continuing rising costs and pressure on our budgets, we feel that our focus, like last year, should be on delivering a bespoke programme of autumn and winter park activities for local communities starting with half term in late October.”

Leeds City Council axed its six bonfire events, which cost £215,000 to put on, following a public consultation, including its Roundhay Park display, one of the largest in the country, which has attracted up to 70,000 visitors.

The council has said it is facing a funding gap of £162.8m up to the end of March 2027, with with £59.2m of that relating to 2024-25.

Nottingham City Council, which axed its first display in four years after the Covid pandemic caused previous years’ celebrations to be called off, said it was facing “huge budget difficulties” which were exacerbated by soaring inflation and energy costs, with the price of staging the event doubling from £30,000 in 2019 to £60,000 this year, with the council paying two thirds of the cost.

The extra cost of staging the night, which has attracted up to 40,000 people previously, included fireworks and event attractions, site management security and medical cover.

Rob Watling, owner of Peak Fireworks in Nottingham, said there had been a “enormous” increase in the cost of exporting fireworks from China during the Covid pandemic.

He told i: “I know that the industry is facing this and a number of councils are not doing fireworks displays this year, but it hasn’t affected our business, a lot of which is retail.

“The councils haven’t got any money. It’s that rather than the price of fireworks. Although they have gone up a little they haven’t gone up more than inflation.”

Up to 95 per cent of the fireworks used in the UK come from one province in China, he said, with import costs soaring in the pandemic.

“The cost of shipping fireworks, which are obviously more expensive than shipping pretty much anything else, went up enormously,” he said.

“That’s come down a bit and it’s only part of the cost of fireworks, but it’s a significant part for our wholesalers.

“A lot of councils do get their fireworks subsidised by a local industry or some sort of corporate sponsorship. I think that’s hard for them to get at the moment as well.”

Jonathan Finch, managing director Celtic Fireworks, one of the largest importer and wholesaler of fireworks in the UK, saw their shipping costs soar by 20 per cent between 2020-22, but said those expenses had fallen this year.

“It’s obvious that the councils are cutting back for cost-cutting measures or whatever,” he said.

“But what we’re very much seeing as replacements to that is private companies, even firework display companies, promoting their own events.

“There is still a demand for firework displays. People have said the council business isn’t there like it used to be, but other opportunities are now.”

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