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Damp squib or wise move?

Jonathan Schofield wonders if Manchester is right in not marking New Year’s Eve

Written by . Published on January 2nd 2008.


Damp squib or wise move?

It’s very Mancunian to go down the road less travelled.

Thus whilst all the major cities of England had a New Year’s celebration, and those of Scotland imploded with festivities, our city did nothing.

Whilst all the major cities of England had a New Year’s celebration, and those of Scotland imploded with festivities, Manchester did nothing.

The official line, which Confidential received, was, and we paraphrase: “What are you on about? We don’t bother with New Year but we spend more on Christmas than other cities and we do a huge range of activities the rest of the time. Stop your fussing.”

Lots of people judge this to be a Scrooge-like attitude. Their argument is that we should emulate others and make New Year’s Eve a great fat festival of fun. Shouldn’t, a city of our ambition put on a show? Isn’t it just embarrassing that there’s no music and fireworks in Albert Square?

Possibly. But there's virtue in the council’s position too.

Confidential talked to Jeremy Shine of Manchester International Arts – famous, with Anne Tucker, for the much-missed Streets Ahead festivals.

“I think the council in this instance have got it right,” he says. “The discussion is about the best way of using the money available. Everything costs double at New Year’s Eve, think about the expense of providing security on double time. To spend £100k on that one night would hit other budgets. Should we cancel, for instance, the Food and Drink Festival because of it?

“There’re other issues,” he continues. “It would be hard to gauge how many people might come along to Albert Square, it only fits 8-10,000. We really would need a much bigger space in which to do this properly and there’s nothing worse than a half-hearted celebration or one that is completely over-crowded. Then there’s a very British problem. Given fears of drunken behaviour and yobbishness who would be attracted to the event? Families probably wouldn’t want to come into Manchester because they wouldn’t want to be exposed to potential trouble. To spend so much on a limited audience isn’t perhaps the wisest thing to do.”

You’ve also got to wonder whether we require such an celebration. As Shine also points out, "It’s the one time of the year when most people celebrate anyway. Do we need it?” Maybe New Year’s Eve is such a widespread party-time that a subsidised event is money wasted. Do council or government have to fund all our celebrations? No, of course, not.

As long as Manchester uses the money on festivals and events which gives it a point of difference against other cities, then the council’s decision is probably right. Better if the money goes into something such as last summer’s International Festival than an event which is little more than a gesture. Remember we don’t have the tens of thousands of tourists that London or Edinburgh gets at this time of year. And in a New Year’s Eve game of my-fireworks-are-bigger-than-yours we’re scarcely going to beat Sydney or Paris, are we?

This is perhaps one occasion in which it might be wise to keep our powder dry.

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21 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Auntie anonymousJanuary 2nd 2008.

On a bus for 2 hours from Didsbury- ever heard of getting off and walking- wouldn't have taken you two hours and you could have done a pub crawl on the way. And the markets ending too soon- I thought that too but at the end of the day, traders had European homes to go to and probably wanted to get back before 25th, not unreasonable 'ey? NYE celebrations in Albert Square, shame- we could have had Shane Ward again... That would have been fun (not).

KnightriderJanuary 2nd 2008.

I agree that the council are correct in opting to utilise their budget for something other than NYE.Why go head-on against the NYE giants?Sydney and Paris have spectacular places to act as backdrop for their firework displays - with lots of space to accomodate huge crowds.Manchester simply can't compete - so unless you at least stand a chance of blowing the socks off the world - why try? There are better ways to spend the money.The Christmas market was wonderful - as someone who lives in Europe (Luxembourg) I frequently get to see these markets both large and small. I have to say that I rate the Manchester Christmas market very highly indeed, it was as good, if not better, than any I have so far seen in central Europe - but - I also think that it ended way too soon. The spirit of Christmas shopping runs right up to Christmas itself - the market absolutely should have gone on longer - all the traders would have made WAY more money - so being on the last minute to arrive home would have been well worthwhile.Actually - I would like to see the Christmas market and the ice-rink swap locations. Albert square would allow for a much more attractive display for the rink - and Picadilly would better suit a larger market.....

AnonymousJanuary 2nd 2008.

if the council stopped wasting the taxpayers money on jobs in and round the city center that don't need doing and used it for jobs that need doing they would have enough money to have put somthing on on new years eve.according to the story in the m.e.n there reason closeing the markets early was so they could clear albert sq ready for the n y eve celebrations.

AnonymousJanuary 2nd 2008.

Well I definitely think we should do something - I wanted to celebrate with other Mancunians - and no, I am not a drinker!Mind you, something would have to be done about the transport problem. I went down to Manchester 235 and got stuck on a bus from Didsbury for TWO HOURS - didn't even manage to get my first drink before midnight!

Howard SharrockJanuary 2nd 2008.

Am I alone in finding fireworks pretty tedious? When were you last genuinely taken aback by a fireworks display?

JonJanuary 2nd 2008.

I believe the Council are blinked on this one! If we really want Manchester to be a leading City not just in the UK but in Europe/World we have to be a little creative - the picture in the MEN yesterday illustrates our current plight - that is not what Manchester should be about! I was out and about in the City over this period and apart from retailer therapy the atmosphere was flat. Why not run a three day event 30/31/1 and not only use Albert Sq but also Piccadilly Gardens, MICC, MEN to name a few. Surely the decision makers can overcome the 'barriers'; after all we can throughout the rest of the year as do other City councils - as the school report use to say 'has potential, could do (alot) better'!

ClaireJanuary 2nd 2008.

In answer to Howard's question - the last time I was taken aback by a firework display was in Albert Square for the opening of the Xmas lights! It was a great atmosphere and fantastic celebration, setting up the Xmas markets nicely. However, I think the Council is right not to succumb to the pressure of putting something on for New Year's eve as well. They (through our taxes!) can only fund so much, I would much prefer to go all out on Xmas than over-priced New Year, which is usually an anti-climax anyway!! The Xmas markets do a great job of attracting visitors and bringing people together in Manchester for a whole month of celebration rather than one night.

This blokeJanuary 2nd 2008.

I was in Albert Square for the Millenium and it was a very memorable occasion but I agree that the council have it right on this one. Everyone goes to parties with their mates anyway, so why do we all need to stand around in the cold in town?

Party PooperJanuary 2nd 2008.

Maybe its because the ubiquitous Pat Karney wasnt in town to enjoy it all? But no, he was in gay old Berlin enjoying fireworks of his own in a seedy hotel no doubt! Imagine how much the santa and plinth outside the town hall cost the taxpayer?? Did we also pay for the giant jewish Chanuka candle outside the town hall i wonder?? Or maybe Mr Bernstein and Mr Newman dug in their pockets for that one?

CassJanuary 2nd 2008.

I agree with the problems of costs, however why not confider organising (properly!!!) an event where tickets can be purchased in advance…..

JennJanuary 2nd 2008.

Good god, why would I want to spend my evening in Albert Square at yet another event I have no control in the content of? Are people not able to organize their own celebrations-at least then you can ensure it will be something you personally enjoy and be with people you chose to be with. Manchester does so much more throughout the year, the majority of it very well-compare with London's Christmas markets and Manchester's won hands down!

steven mooreJanuary 2nd 2008.

what a load of nonse from the council just one more thing to stop doing if we all stoped doing things for safty resons we would not go out of the house .we could get run over car go to fast ect why not have a fun night and charge a MAX OF £5 POUNDS each to cover some costs if we have to ?

AnonymousJanuary 2nd 2008.

I agree with most of the other readers on this that the council shouldn’t be wasting what would be a huge amount of money on a one night event when most people are off doing other things anyway. However I do seem to think that the Christmas Markets were closed earlier than they should have been. Half were closed on Wednesday the 19th with the rest closing the following day and the reason for this was given in the MEN by a city council spokesman: "There is a lot of work still to be done when the traders have packed up their vans and gone. Dismantling the markets is a major operation and because some of the contractors we use close for business over Christmas, the markets need to close on Thursday to ensure that the public spaces are safe and clear ready for the busy New Year celebrations.” Busy eh???

CraigJanuary 2nd 2008.

But Des, having a new year's eve event before midnight is sort of missing the point isn't it? Shall we do Halloween on 30 October. April Fools day in March? Anyway Leeds is just a minor little place compared to Manchester. We should go our own way.

Lucifer GrayJanuary 2nd 2008.

The thought of spending a controlled evening with the average revellers one usually finds in Mcr is a deeply depressing thought. Luckily I make my own choices.In relation to those Fireworks though, I say we could do with a few more casualties to put paid to the tedium of New Year whoosh and bangs, and laggards who set them off at all hours And, let us not fotget the annual con of 'Guy Fawkes'. In true British fashion we are actually celebrating an abject nonstarter.However if that's what the sheep want then I say let them have their fill. In fact actively round them up, fence them in and give them all hand held fireworks and a can of Carlsberg. Belong!?Stand well back and enjoy.

tierneychickJanuary 2nd 2008.

I can't believe I am saying this, but I actually do agree that the council have got this right! And for once you can see physical evidence (Christmas markets, other festivals etc) that they are spending the money elsewhere. To me, the city centre in the cold and rain (with fireworks likely to be called off due to bad weather) is the least appealing place to be on NYE.

GordoJanuary 2nd 2008.

What was it that writer wrote? 'If you are tired of fireworks, you are tired of life..' Hmm. Maybe it was London.

London callingJanuary 2nd 2008.

Having just been to the London celebrations for New Years Eve I would like to just say you're not missing much up in Manchester! No atmosphere and the fireworks weren't all that! And this all came out of tax payers money! Having been before I was quite disappointed on this occassion and with the small minority of menacing gangs surrounding revellers and ambushing vehicles waiting in traffic jams I really wouldn't recomend trying to recreate the same in a smaller environment. The police really just could not cope with the crowds and promptly disappeared from the bridge where I was standing once the fireworks finished. Ensued chaos! Stick to your own safe celebrations where you do not have to worry about getting robbed or attacked!

annieaJanuary 2nd 2008.

I disagree entirely with those that say nothing should have happened. The council body do not ask wher we want our tax money spending on other things that as mortals only effect our daily living like closure of roads, one way systems and bus lanes. I was there midnight 2000 and nothing happened but for two workers looking thru the window at the 1000+ people who had gathered some came with their own fireworks. it was a damp night as well but as we had children aged 9&10 they thought there would be something partying to celebrate another century. I know of so many folk some a lot younger,who stayed home as it is now knowledge that unless your under 25 there is nothing in Manchester for you the rest have children and can't get out? I have been paying rates for years and have never been consulted. Pat Karneys? message has nothing to do with the drink culture in Manchester that they developed by the way open all hrs. Bet they went to private well entertaining parties. Next year we should organize transport to Liverpool and see how much is made in manchester by businesses hey Pat....

AnonymousJanuary 2nd 2008.

Oh dear oh dear, yet another example of Manchester's labour council's tight fistedness. Wasting money....errrm just a few examples...."The Big Bang" and that monstrosity around Piccadilly Gardens that resembles the Berlin Wall!! Pat Karny was in Berlin enjoying their celebrations so wasnt bothered about us Mancunians who pay thousands and thousands of pounds each year in Council tax. Oh and the Christmas market, I would have thought the traders paid the Council and not the other way around so what cost was that to the Council? Stop making excuses Manchester City Council. Maybe if your big fat salaries were reduced there would be enough money for proper seasonal celebrations that we deserve, like the rest of Europe / World!

DESJanuary 2nd 2008.

Leeds put on a family fireworks event on New Years Day circa 5.00 pm and I know that many towns in France do so also. The ones I have been to are very successful - obviously drinking and transport isn't such an issue at that time of day, the kids love it (needn't be massively impressive, just fun) and it is a pleasant way to round off the festivities generally.

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