As most people now know, the proposed Jubilee flotilla and fireworks event planned for the 5th June in support of Her Majesty’s Jubilee has been part-cancelled and part-postponed. The flotilla aspect has been delayed until August, while the fireworks have been cancelled.

The flotilla, planned since mid March, was one of the higher profile events scheduled to celebrate the Jubilee, alongside the Picnic in the Castle Gardens. Anticipated to have comprised of a procession of small vessels travelling from the ring road bridge to the town bridge, led by a flagship, the dusk event would have been a memorable way for the town to make use of one of its greatest resources, the river.

Having made their way to the town bridge (closed, allowing for pedestrians to view and take part), the event would have culminated in a fireworks display on the Crowmarsh side of the river, compered by Wallingford Radio and provided by Illusion Fireworks.

With an event months in the planning, insurance in place, suppliers and local organisations lined up to participate, it appears to have fallen apart following the most 21st century of interjections – a Facebook post. Appearing last week on the Wallingford Matters Facebook group, a local resident opined that a fireworks event on the river during nesting season for the swans may be inappropriate and harmful to wildlife.  The post quickly ballooned to more than a hundred comments, ranging from dismay at a fireworks event being planned at all, to staunch supporters of a national day of celebration for Her Majesty.

While the now deleted Facebook group post was not legal advice, it appears that the information did at least make its way to the Councillors and Officers of Wallingford Town Council. Having been made aware of a potential issue, WTC sought expert advice regarding the cygnets and mother spotted near the town. Such advice came back that the fireworks would not be in the best interests of the wildlife, and as such the flotilla is now scheduled to be re-organised for August, when it is hoped to be the first of a yearly event to celebrate the town and the river, while the cygnets will be due to be counted as part of the yearly July swan-upping. It is unknown at this time if fireworks will contribute to the flotilla / river event.

The protection of our local wildlife is obviously of immense importance to many members of our community, which few would deny. The issue with this chain of events appears to be that it could, and possibly should, have been forseen.

While it is understood that future event planning will now take in to consideration environmental and wildlife impact during planning stages, it comes down to it that this event was cancelled with nine days notice after a social media post from a member of the public highlighted potential issues.

While it would appear that the underlying fault here was lack of awareness, a delay in the council being made aware of a potential issue, or possibly communication between the council and public in general, this particular outcome of a late postponement / cancellation is not in the best interests of the town moving forward.

It is worth taking the time to state that Councilors are all volunteer positions, effectively donating their time to perform civic duties. The council as a body relies on members of the public stepping up to perform the duties and responsibilities which allow the council to function.

As of Monday evening (30th May) an extraordinary meeting of the council has been announced, having been called at the request of Councilor Cattermole, to ‘discuss the postponement of the Jubilee flotilla and fireworks event’. The meeting is scheduled for Monday 6th June, the day after the original event.