Victoria Park's annual fireworks display faces axe

Boishakhi Mela

The free Boishakhi Mela in June is the biggest Bengali festival in Europe - Credit: Tower Hamlets Council

Inner London’s largest free fireworks display, in Victoria Park, faces being permanently axed as the council says it can no longer justify the cost.

The annual bonfire night event is attended by some 80,000 people.

But on Wednesday, January 6 Tower Hamlets Cabinet heard future displays were unlikely to take place as it considered its draft budget for 2021/22 and said it had to make cuts of £30million by 2024.

The council also said it would also have to reconsider the way it stages and funds the free Boishakhi Mela – the largest Bengali festival outside South Asia.

The free event takes place in June in Bethnal Green and welcomes Bangladesh’s biggest music stars to the borough.

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In 2019 an estimated 45,000 people attended.

Mayor John Biggs said: “They are both expensive events. Between them we are talking well in excess of £500,000 a year. But we still have a very rich arts and culture bedrock in Tower Hamlets.

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“What we are looking at is ways we can fund a more manageable Mela event. We want to see if we can achieve sponsorship and income from elsewhere.

“The fireworks are difficult because the cost of the fireworks themselves is relatively small but the cost of the stewarding and the security and safety measures is massive and it is one of the few free events in London of that kind.

“The sponsorship has been less easy to find because of the way the economy works so that is going to be more difficult to bring back.”

fireworks poster

A poster advertising the 2019 fireworks display - Credit: Tower Hamlets Council

The council has earmarked £50,000 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh this year.

“Given this situation, and the enormous financial challenge facing the council, it is proposed that the Mela is delivered differently in future and that the fireworks are stopped altogether,” the council budget states.

“The £50k earmarked budget will help support cultural activities connected to the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh in 2021/22.

“In 2022/23 and beyond, the £50k budget will help support a community driven and resourced Mela.”

Last year’s fireworks display was cancelled and the 2021 event is unlikely to go ahead because of the pandemic.

In 2018 the display, infrastructure and security cost £265,000, according to a Freedom of Information request.

Some £42,500 of this was earned through trader payments and sponsorship.

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