Norwich South MP Simon Wright. Picture: Denise Bradley.

Loss of Sparks in the Park fireworks display described as “a blow to the prestige” of Norwich

Saturday, January 19, 2013
12.00 PM

Following news that Sparks in the Park will not return this year, reporter David Freezer asks if the correct decision was made.

Sparks In The Park 2009. Photo:Sonya Duncan.Sparks In The Park 2009. Photo:Sonya Duncan.

The decision to end Norwich’s annual fireworks display Sparks in the Park has been described as “a blow to the prestige of the city” by Norwich South MP Simon Wright.

As reported in yesterday’s Evening News, Norwich City Council has decided the annual show at Earlham Park is no longer financially viable.

That is despite attracting 16,000 people to last November’s event, as the city council believes it would have to increase ticket prices or run it at a loss.

Tickets - which had been frozen for the last three years - were priced in advance at £6 for adults, £3 for children and free for under-fours or, on the night £7.50 for adults, £4.50 for children and free for under-fours.

Green party city council leader Claire Stephenson. Photo: Bill Smith.Green party city council leader Claire Stephenson. Photo: Bill Smith.

It was decided increasing ticket prices would have made the event less accessible to people on lower incomes.

So instead the council have decided to move the show into the city centre for a new display, with 12 minutes of fireworks launched from Norwich Castle, which will be free.

The council is hoping the decision will make it easier for families to travel to and from the event, with more public transport and parking options.

Liberal Democrat MP Mr Wright said he was surprised by the decision, saying: “I’m always amazed by how many people are there so I was very surprised to hear the news and I’m sure many families will be massively disappointed in and around the city.

Sparks in the Park 2010, Norwich.Sparks in the Park 2010, Norwich.

“It is one of the highlights of the year for many people and to lose that is a very great shame and a blow to the prestige of the city.”

A poll about the city council’s decision to bring Sparks in the Park to an end on www.eveningnews24.co.uk has backed the plans, with 68pc of over 100 people backing the council’s decision and 32pc voting the council got it wrong.

Mr Wright added: “If it broke even on previous years then this does seem a rather warped logic and does seem a rather strange decision.

“I think part of the spectacle of the event is going to the park and knowing that it is going to be well organised and well attended, and in that sense nothing else compares.

“So we will have to wait and see if what is proposed for the city centre can compare to that.”

The council has confirmed the display from Norwich Castle will be held on Friday, November 8 and will be funded from existing budgets, along with sponsorship and income from the rental of Earlham Park to a commercial partner for a traditional bonfire night event on a separate date.

Green councillor Claire Stephenson, leader of the opposition at the city council, said: “If the council is struggling to make it pay, I don’t know how a private company which will have the additional costs of rent, could run it at a profit.

“Presumably that would mean ticket prices end up being higher than at the moment and it would end up being quite a different event - and there are already plenty of private displays.”

Miss Stephenson added: “It could be great to have a free show in the city centre but I do wonder how that is going to be paid for. If Earlham Park has been cancelled because it is too expensive, how is a free show going to cost less?”

- Businesses interested in renting Earlham Park should email procurement@norwich.gov.uk

- What do you think of the decision to end Sparks in the Park? Leave a comment below or email david.freezer@archant.co.uk