During these difficult times, many difficult decisions have had to be made, none more so than the decision to be made by Ripley Bonfire Association (RBA) as to proceed with, or to cancel this year’s event.
Ripley Bonfire whilst a well organised outside event, is very different to so many other recent mass gatherings, such as sporting events like: The Euros, The Open and Wimbledon, together with Music Festivals etc., and is classified in the Home Office/HSE Document ‘The Event Safety Guide’, known as ‘The Purple Guide’, as ‘An Un-fenced Un-ticketed Event’. This means that event organisers such as RBA have no control over those people who may wish to attend and no control of the total numbers attending, unlike the above events.
As such Ripley Bonfire is subject to a Safety Advisory Group – SAG, which is chaired by GBC – Public Health, Environment and Regulatory Services and includes representatives from the Police and Fire Authority, as well as representatives from other interested parties, such as SCC Highways etc. During these proceeding months RBA’s Safety Officer has been in discussions with the chair of the SAG on several occasions.
Uncertainty is the main concern and in particular the uncertainty of essential services that we have to rely on, such as St John Ambulance who would provide First Aid cover, including provision of an ambulance and paramedics and the Police who provide Public Safety/Public Order support.
Together with our essential volunteers who provide marshals for: crowd control, the procession, traffic control, car parking duties, instigating road closures and the reopening of roads, safety around the bonfire and firework display areas and many other duties before, during and after the event.
Also of great concern is the reluctance of insurers to provide adequate and appropriate cover due to the uncertainty surrounding mass events, especially as we enter the winter season.
Public Safety is also a concern and as Ripley Bonfire is always the first of the season and would this year be the first such event in the area for two years, it has the potential to be overwhelmed given that RBA has no control on numbers of people and with the vehicles attending. Historically we have catered for up to 10,000 people and even then have had issues with indiscriminate parking on major roads, so any increase in numbers would have the potential to cause major safety concerns.
Taking all of the above into consideration and acknowledging that whilst some Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted the pandemic has not gone away, the Ripley Bonfire Association at a recent meeting made the difficult but unanimous decision to cancel this year’s celebrations, whilst this is a great disappointment to many, it is believed to be the correct and sensible decision, and trust you understand the reasoning behind this difficult decision.
Ripley Bonfire Association