Peterborough arena promises ‘large scale’ fireworks display which could signal end of Firework Fiesta

Firework Fiesta 2018 at Peterborough Arena. EMN-180311-234018009
Firework Fiesta 2018 at Peterborough Arena. EMN-180311-234018009
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Firework Fiesta may be coming to an end with its host venue planning its own independent large-scale event.

Firework Fiesta has delighted large crowds for 43 years, but a loss of sponsorship means it faces a race against time to plug a £10,000 funding shortfall.

The event has been staged in recent years at the East of England Arena and Events Centre (Showground) which has now announced that it wants to put on its fireworks display, with or without the involvement of the Firework Fiesta organisers.

Venue director Jason Lunn said: “There will be a large scale, professional fireworks display at the East of England Arena in November 2019 and we would be delighted should the Rotary Club wish to be involved in some way.”

Firework Fiesta is currently organised by Peterborough Minster Rotary Club and Peterborough Round Table, with 130 volunteers helping to ensure its smooth running.

As well as the fireworks there is a fair, bonfire and live music, with more than £600,000 so far being raised for local good causes.

However, with running costs of £52,000 financial support is needed due to the loss of previous sponsors Britannia Fire & Security Ltd and Anglia Ruskin University.

Firework Fiesta event manager Phil Branston said: “Last year we only just made a profit. Our costs keep on rising and we are at the mercy of our English weather.”

Mr Branston acknowledged that the event’s move from its previous venue of Ferry Meadows to the arena had “significantly increased” the running costs.

Asked about the news the arena is planning to host its own event, Mr Branston said Firework Fiesta organisers would make a decision on its plans in the next few weeks.

He added: “We hope to secure a sponsorship deal and hold the event again. Should we not be able to do so we will contact our venue host and regular providers immediately. The decision to withdraw will be a sad day for local charities, especially after over 40 years of mutual benefit.

“The handing over of our charity event to a commercial operator may of course see the continuity of the event, but at the loss of the local charity support.”

Mr Lunn said: “The business that looks after the management of the venue, SGS, is a not for profit organisation, which means that all profits made by the venue will go to the East of England Agricultural Society, the registered charity. We would hope that, should the Rotary Club wish to be involved, they will support their own local charities.”

He added: “Although we have a commitment to support our own charity by generating a profit on the events we host, we decided to host Firework Fiesta considerably below market rates, barely covering our costs, because we believe we have a duty to support our city, and the wide variety of entertainments found here.

“As with any event expecting over 10,000 attendees there are important security, health and safety and traffic planning responsibilities we and organisers must fulfil.”

Mr Branston said he had been turned down for sponsorship by the city council.

The council said it has previously provided “substantial advertising and promotion” for free and would do so again.

It added: “The council receives a number of requests for event sponsorship every year, and unfortunately due to financial constraints we can not agree to all of these.”

Firework Fiesta was held at Ferry Meadows for 36 years until Nene Park Trust cancelled it in 2011 because of traffic congestion after the event, with most people leaving at the same time.

That prompted a rallying cry from then Mayor of Peterborough Cllr Paula Thacker who wanted to see the event continue at the country park.

She said: “We have to keep it running in the city and I would encourage as many people as possible to make their voices heard about this.

“Ferry Meadows is the home of the Firework Fiesta and that is where it should stay.”

James McCulloch, who was chief executive of the trust at the time, said: “We have been raising concerns way back to 1996 and there just comes a point where you realise you cannot sort certain things out to get people on and off safely and efficiently in the dark.”

The Evening Telegraph, as we were then known, was inundated with messages from readers calling for the event to stay at Ferry Meadows.

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