Blackheath fireworks off because of austerity cuts, Lewisham Council says

Blackheath fireworks 2019
The last Blackheath fireworks display took place in 2019

There will be no Blackheath fireworks display this year because of Lewisham Council cuts, a senior councillor has said.

The annual display, a fixture of SE London’s calendar since the late 1980s, was one of London’s most popular before the pandemic, regularly bringing more than 80,000 people to the heath and boosting local businesses across Lewisham and Greenwich.

But this year’s display will not happen after Lewisham decided to put it on hold because of government austerity cuts.

Brenda Dacres, Lewisham’s cabinet member for safer communities, confirmed the news in a written answer before a council meeting this evening.

“Blackheath fireworks will not be taking place this year but we are hopeful to run them again in future years as we recognise it is a very popular local event in the community,” she said.

“The decision not to hold the Blackheath fireworks this year was taken as part of the council’s programme of cuts in 2020/21 as a result of the ongoing reductions in government funding.”

Lewisham’s elected mayor, Damien Egan, and his cabinet agreed in December to put the fireworks on hold until at least 2023 as part of a wider review of the council’s events programme.

Cutting the fireworks display would save £35,000 out of the £15 million in cuts needed this year, councillors were told the previous month.

The last display – which was put on by Greenwich-based Emergency Exit Arts – took place in 2019; last year’s event did not take place because of the pandemic.

The long-running display began as a joint effort between Lewisham and Greenwich councils, which jointly control Blackheath, but a decade of austerity left it at risk of being scrapped altogether.

Greenwich Council withdrew its half-share of the funding in 2010, forcing Lewisham to seek public donations and sponsorship to make up the missing money. Greenwich partially relented in 2015, contributing £10,000, and paid £16,300 to 2019’s display; but Lewisham was still left with a £15,554 shortfall on a £121,000 overall cost.

In December 2019, 853 revealed how Greenwich tried to broker a sponsorship deal with London City Airport, which Lewisham refused because of the effect of the airport’s planned expansion on its residents, many of whom live under its flightpath.

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