Free-to-view public fireworks displays on the River Thames in central London will be a thing of the past if City of London Corporation members rubber-stamp plans to permanently axe the pyrotechnics that mark the end of Lord Mayor's Show day each November.
A free fireworks display has been launched from barges in the River Thames between Blackfriars Bridge and Waterloo Bridge at 5pm on the second Saturday of November most years for the past four decades, with crowds lining the South Bank, the two bridges and Victoria Embankment.
Whilst the Lord Mayor's Show itself has an 800 year history, the fireworks were introduced at the initiative of Sir Peter Gadsden, 652nd Lord Mayor (1979-1980), who thought the event was an anticlimax once the procession had passed through the streets of the Square Mile.
In 2018 the fireworks were cancelled after the police raised strong objections, citing crowd safety and terrorism concerns – but elected City Corporation members asked officials to try to make plans for the pyrotechnics to be reinstated in 2019.
Next week the Guildhall's streets & walkways sub committee will discuss a report from Ian Hughes, assistant director (highways)which notes that although a fireworks display remains feasible, "continuing to develop a safe and effective delivery plan is not recommended given the anticipated increase in costs beyond current budgets, the additional logistical difficulties to deliver a safe event, and the fact that consent from TfL and Westminster cannot be guaranteed".
Guildhall officials say that if the fireworks were to continue, a ticketing system – similar to that used for the Mayor of London's New Year's Eve display – would have to be introduced, with a further increase in costs.
Instead, officials are encouraging City politicians "to work with the Illuminated River Foundation to deliver a bespoke lighting event for the Lord Mayor's Show".
The Illuminated River project will this summer install lighting equipment on Millennium Bridge, Southwark Bridge, Cannon Street Bridge and London Bridge with more to follow.
Mr Hughes' report adds: "Instead of a very short one-off display, the concept of a cyclical lighting installation between 4pm-7pm from Millennium to London Bridge also has the benefit of spreading spectators along the riverside and throughout the evening, reducing the crowd management and security issues to manageable levels."
A final decision will be made by the City of London's policy & resources committee on Thursday 14 March.
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