Relighting community bonfire nights

As previously reported, Leeds City Council have cancelled their official bonfires this year due to budget cuts. However, local councillor Ed Carlisle (Green, Hunslet and Riverside) is inviting local people and groups to consider holding their own events to fill the gap – and is offering support if needed.

Cllr Carlisle told South Leeds Life:

“Many of us were saddened that the Council cancelled this year’s official bonfires and firework displays – but communities like Garforth and Wetherby already organise their own every year. Could we do the same in south Leeds?

“In my experience, smaller community-led bonfires are often friendlier and better anyway. Time is short, but if groups want to try and make something happen, there are Council officers and others on hand to advise and help make it happen. I’m not convinced the Council will ever restart their official events, but maybe we could create our own (better!) events for the coming years”.

Bonfire Night this year is on Saturday 5 November, just over 4 weeks away. Groups wanting to organise events on Council land (such as parks) will need to fill out an application form, complete a risk assessment, and have insurance. The Council normally requires 6-8 weeks for events, but have given assurances they will do their best to push applications through in time. Fires will need to be composed of clean wood (not painted or varnished, and not composite materials like MDF), and will need to be fenced and stewarded. Firework displays need to be professionally managed, so are likely to be beyond the scope of these events this year.

Groups looking at holding events on other (non-Council) land will be subject to fewer restrictions, but will still need to satisfy the Fire Service and others that their event is safe – or risk being closed down on the night. For both types of events, advice and guidance is available. Groups are invited to consider holding smaller events this year, but potentially develop and grow them in future years. For events in Hunslet and Riverside ward, Cllr Carlisle is able to offer small grants to cover basic costs – and is encouraging groups to contact other ward councillors for help too.

Cllr Carlisle adds:

“I’m very conscious as well about concerns around air quality. However, I’m sure people will be doing informal fires across our communities – so actually, organising safe communal events, with clean wood, will likely reduce the worst impacts of bonfire night.”

South Leeds Life understands that St Luke’s Church in Beeston Hill and the Crooked Clock pub in Hunslet are both considering putting on events and the Hunslet Club will be holding their firework display as usual.

Cllr Wayne Dixon (SDP, Middleton Park) said:

“I feel the council’s decision to cancel the policy organised events is short sighted and the decision purposefully left late to stop local people willing to fill the void and organise it themselves. Unfortunately (in my opinion) the cancellation will lead to many more accidents. Smaller home made fires/ events are inevitable and I encourage everyone holding a bonfire to take care, double check everything and keep access to water clear and nearby.

“I would ask people to visit their local pubs, sports clubs and larger events where possible, not only would your attendance be supporting the local economy, it will be supporting local jobs and organisations.

“The council blames lack of money, but these events can themselves be self-sufficient with enough thought and organisation. I notice the Leeds 2023 cultural events aren’t a victim of cost cutting. In terms of culture there isn’t much more cultural than these events for our communities and I’d hope Leeds 2023 will be funding them next year – if not, why not?”

Other local Councillors were approached for comment have not responded yet.


Photo: Leeds City Council’s Middleton Park Bonfire in 2016