Campaign to Save Clitheroe Bonfire

BLAZING AWAY: Last year's Clitheroe Community Bonfire in full flame, a scene unlikely to be repeated this year
BLAZING AWAY: Last year's Clitheroe Community Bonfire in full flame, a scene unlikely to be repeated this year

WIDESPREAD support has been posted on the social networking site Facebook on a page called Save Clitheroe Bonfire.

It was established by Clitheroe florist Paul Lomax (23) on Thursday morning after he read the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times’ front page article which described how a “breakdown in trust” between the bonfire’s organisers and the local authorities had led to the scrapping of this year’s event.

BIRTHDAY BOY: Logan Hodson, who will be four on November 5th, joins the protest.

BIRTHDAY BOY: Logan Hodson, who will be four on November 5th, joins the protest.

As the Clitheroe Advertiser went to press, the Facebook page had received more than 1,340 “likes”, with many people also leaving a comment.

Mr Lomax said: “This event has been going on for so long so what has suddenly changed this year? I hope that enough people comment on the Facebook page to make people realise how many people want this event.”

He added: “It has raised thousands for charity and in these hard times those charities need it most.

“An event like this also supports local businesses and we need big events like this and the Torchlight Procession more than ever at the moment.”

Supporters of the Save Clitheroe Bonfire Facebook campaign protested outside Ribble Valley Borough Council Chambers where the Ribble Valley Events Safety Advisory Group (ESAG) was staging a meeting on Monday.

ESAG is made up of representatives from Ribble Valley Borough Council, Lancashire Constabulary, Lancashire Highways Authority, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and Lancashire Ambulance Service. It’s chairman is Ribble Valley Borough Council’s Emergency Planning Officer Chris Shuttleworth.

Clitheroe Community Bonfire is organised by the Rotary Clubs of Ribblesdale, Clitheroe and Pendle View, Clitheroe Round Table and Clitheroe Lions, and was due to be staged as usual on Clitheroe Castle Field on Saturday November 3rd.

However, the chairman and vice-chairman of the bonfire committee, Rotarians Richard Dugdale and Bill Barker, both resigned from their positions following what Mr Dugdale described as “a breakdown in trust with ESAG”.

Mr Dugdale and Mr Barker said they felt they could not go ahead with the event because of the constraints placed upon them by ESAG under the chairmanship of Mr Shuttleworth.

Ribble Valley Borough Council chief executive Marshal Scott defended ESAG and said that the group had been helping organisers plan this year’s bonfire in the event of large crowds attending again. Mr Scott added that he had pledged council support for the event, assistance with temporary road closures and traffic management, and offered financial support.

However, protester Lucy Hatherell (41), of Stamford Place, Clitheroe, explained the reason behind Monday’s protest was to question whether ESAG is fulfilling its role which, she said, is to support and advise local people who are organising events.

“There has already been a council report saying it (ESAG) is over reaching its duty. They were told their role is to support and advise not to make demands so that events cannot do ahead.”

She added that ESAG’s duty should be to find a way to make events happen and that it should have made any concerns it had about the bonfire known to its organisers much earlier.

“We are questioning whether ESAG is fit for purpose and how transparent it is,” Lucy explained.

“Where are the minutes from ESAG meetings, who are its members and what health and safety qualifications do they have?”

Lucy added that the Save Clitheroe Bonfire campaigners want to do everything they can to help save this year’s event and encourage people to get involved. She added that the campaign had already attracted high profile backing with support tweeted by Olympians Jon Schofield and Samantha Murray.

Lucy, whose 10-year-old daughter Isabel has been very upset that the bonfire has been cancelled, made all the protestor’s placards.

Natalie Hodson, whose son Logan will be four on November 5th, was also one of the protesters. She said: “It’s a big disappointment for families like us with small children. I’ve been going for seven years, five years as a family, and there have never been any serious problems. It’s one of those events in Clitheroe that you always expect to be there.”

Natalie (28), of The Crescent, Clitheroe, added: “If the bonfire isn’t saved, lots of people will be having their own fires in their back gardens, and that will be far more dangerous.”

Some of the protestors were interviewed yesterday (Wednesday) on BBC Radio Lancashire’s breakfast show.

Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans, has added his voice to those concerned that Clitheroe Community Bonfire may not go ahead this year.

“I do hope that every effort will be made by every person involved in the organisation of the Clitheroe Community Bonfire to ensure that it goes ahead this year,” said Mr Evans. “No stone should be left unturned to ensure that whatever tensions may exist between parties can be resolved as quickly as possible.

“The Clitheroe Community Bonfire is a delight for people and families from across the Ribble Valley and it has raised thousands of pounds for charities over the years. I sincerely hope that the problems will be swiftly resolved and that people can begin to look forward to a fantastic event.”

A spokesman for Clitheroe Town Council said: “The town council are saddened that there won’t be a community bonfire on the Castle field this year. They wish to thank those organisations who have worked hard over many years to put on this event and make it such a success. The town council are prepared to assist, where possible, if the event can be organised in future years.”