Fall-out could spell the end of bonfire

THE fate of Hebden Bridge bonfire is in the balance after claims it was “hijacked” by Calderdale Council.

And now a question mark hangs over whether Round Table volunteers will organise the event next year.

Rory Wiggin, a past chairman who has been a member of the organisation for nine years, said the council had allowed traders on the neighbouring marina, which had attracted visitors who watched the fireworks for free.

He said Tablers were trying to raise as much as possible for the Calder Valley flood victims’ relief fund with the display at Calder Holmes Park.

Mr Wiggin said: “The marina pulled people away from the bonfire so most of the concessions on the park struggled. We hope we have raised a decent amount of money but it won’t be as much as we had expected.

“The council has never done this before and we weren’t made aware of it.

“All we want to do is give something back to the community. We want to establish what the council’s stance is - is it a community event or a commercial event?

“It felt like it had been hijacked for commercial gain rather than what the bonfire is about. Maybe the bonfire has come to its natural end. Maybe it’s a good time to walk away.”

The dispute arose after the Park Life Cafe, run since March by Kim Blackburn and Charlie Carr in the park, were told they could not open their business on Saturday night because the Round Table’s management plan for the event - which has been a fixture for more than 50 years - stated the cafe was within the “fall-out zone” of firework debris.

Kim and Charlie wanted to be involved with the community event so contacted Coun Dave Young (Lab, Calder ward) who in turn contacted Calderdale’s Safer, Cleaner, Greener team to see if a compromise could be reached.

Coun Young said on Tuesday: “There’s been a bit of a breakdown in communication and I thought everyone had been kept in the loop. What the Round Table was doing was a good idea - raising money for the flood victims - but you cannot disenfranchise a business.”

But he hopes to pull a solution out of the embers by getting interested parties together to look at next year’s event.

Mr Wiggin said he had no animosity towards the cafe. But as the bonfire spectacular cost about £20,000 to stage, the Round Table members hoped to raise as much as possible for flood victims and safeguard the event. Numbers were down from 8,000 to about 6,000 this year for a number of reasons, including “economic issues”, said Mr Wiggin. He added members would meet within the next fortnight to discuss what to do about next year’s event.

Kim Blackburn and Charlie Carr said they spent a lot of money on their marquee and would be lucky to break even. “We always assumed that as a business on the park it would be something we would be involved in but when we found out a few weeks ago it came as a bit of a shock. We would certainly be up for having a meeting with all the people involved.”

Calderdale Council’s Head of Neighbourhoods, Andrew Pitts, said: “The council only allocated space on the marina for Park Life Cafe. We were not aware of any plans for other entertainers to locate on the marina during the bonfire. The council was in no way trying to create an event to compete with the bonfire in the park and has always supported the work of the Round Table in raising money for many good causes.

“The Round Table advised the cafe that it would have to pay £350 for a concession in the park on the night of the bonfire. When Park Life Cafe contacted the council, we considered it reasonable to offer an alternative space on the marina as the cafe is one of the council’s tenants and pays rent throughout the year for its business in Calder Holmes Park. A small licence fee was charged.

“The council would welcome the opportunity to meet with Round Table and Park Life Cafe to jointly plan an event for next year which meets everyone’s needs.”