Southend’s hugely popular seafront fireworks displays have been cancelled due to Covid-19 – for the first time in more than 20 years.
Southend BID bosses confirmed the cancellation of the free events which draw thousands to the seafront each autumn and winter. The spectacular displays have been entertaining families since 1996 with the Southend Business Improvement District taking over responsibility of organizing the displays from the council in 2013.
The displays historically take place on Saturdays from the start of October through to November Christmas light switch on event each year which was cancelled at an earlier date. Each display sees more than 1,700 fireworks fired into the night sky from a barge moored 400 metres from the shore of city beach.
“We are incredibly disappointed that the firework events are unable to take place this year as we know they are a much anticipated event for local residents and visitors, and a massive economical value for our businesses which have already suffered this year.” said Suzanne Gloyne, Southend BID Manager.
“With the Southend seafront displays attracting thousands of people each year we cannot ignore the safety risks it currently presents and public safety has to be the priority. We need to follow the guidelines which have been put in place to prevent a local outbreak that could cause more distress and economic implications. Additionally, events on council land are currently prohibited so we cannot apply for an event license. This decision is in line with the advice we have received from the Southend Safety Advisory Group.”
Kevin Robinson, cabinet member for business, culture and tourism, says: “Due to the size and popularity of the fireworks and the crowds it attracts, coupled with the inability to manage the site as it is all open to the public it has unfortunately not been possible to find a way for the event to take place safely and responsibly.
“Furthermore, the government announcement on changes to the numbers of people that can legally socialise together from Monday makes the delivery of a safe public event in an open space almost impossible.
“This is not the news any of us wanted to deliver and not the news many wanted to hear, but it is the latest in a difficult year of decisions but one that has to follow the law and public health concerns. We know the economic impact this will have on many of our traders and so we will continue to work with our stakeholders to consider safe and innovative alternatives.”
Krishna Ramkhelawon, director of public health at Southend Council, says: “As a country and also locally, we continue to work to control and prevent the spread of coronavirus, and we must continue to do all we can in this regard. Currently the rate of infection is increasing gradually in Southend-on-Sea as it is nationally, and we continue to put new measures and controls in place to keep this as low as possible.
“Encouraging crowds to gather intensely and over a short period of time as they do for the fireworks is unfortunately just not something we can do at this time from a public health perspective, given the indication of increasing infection rates. It would be dangerous and irresponsible.”