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Firework displays to return to three Walsall parks

Organised bonfire and firework events are to blast back into Walsall again following a Covid-enforced absence.

Despite previously losing income due to plummeting attendance figures, Walsall Council’s cabinet is expected to agree to host events at the Arboretum, Willenhall Memorial Park and King George V in Bloxwich on November 4, 5 and 6.

These events will feature a bonfire, firework display and fairground rides. A celebration featuring fireworks and rides will also be held at the Arboretum on October 24 for Diwali.

A report to the committee said the council would generate a minimum of £8,048 if there is 80 per cent attendance. But sell-outs would bring in net income of around £38,960.

Proposed ticket costs will be £7.50 early bird and £8.50 standard for adults, £5 early bird and £5.50 for children, £18 early bird and £20 for family tickets (two adults, two children) while under-3s are free.

The future of bonfire night events in Walsall was put into some doubt in early 2020 when it was revealed the council suffered more than £50,000 in losses in 2019.

The authority had forked out £118,637 for four events, which included one at Holland Park in Brownhills, but brought in only £64,942 revenue.

Poor weather, rising costs of hosting them and a social media campaign urging a boycott due to increased ticket prices were blamed for the poor return.

The 10,000-capacity Walsall Arboretum only saw 4,066 attend in 2019 compared with a sell-out in 2018.

King George V, which also has a 10,000 capacity, attracted 4,536 visitors in 2019 compared with 8,000 the year before. Willenhall Memorial Park, which can hold 4,500, attracted only 1,489 in 2019 compared with 3,000 in 2018.

Holland Park can hold 3,000 but saw only 493 show up in 2019 compared with 1,350 the year before. Officers said its limited capacity means Holland Park is no longer economically viable as a venue for the events.

The report said: “Walsall Council has delivered bonfire and firework displays across the borough for several years. However, no events have taken place for 2 years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Organised displays reduce the number of private events, which in turn reduces the negative issues associated with bonfire night, such as accidents, antisocial behaviour, neighbour disputes and animal welfare issues.

“In 2019, all sites had electronic booking, with cash sales only available in advance from leisure facilities. This reduced risks on the night as there was no cash handling by staff.

“This is proposed to continue as electronic payments have become the norm during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In 2019, the price of the events was increased. The charge at the arboretum was higher than other sites due to the entertainment provided, and although perceived to be expensive, comments were received stating that it offered good value for money.

“The weather forecast leading up to the events was very poor. Increased ticket prices and electronic booking may also have had an impact on attendance.

“It is not possible to recover the costs associated with putting on large-scale events where site capacity is limited. It is proposed that Holland Park is no longer used as a venue and is not considered further.”

The issue will be discussed by cabinet on Wednesday, March 16.

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