Monday, 02 August 2021

Regatta fireworks funding decision delay

COUNCILLORS have delayed a decision on whether to support Henley’s summer fireworks display.

The organisers had asked the town council for an unspecified grant towards the cost of the charity display, which is held at Meadows Farm Field, off Marlow Road, on the Saturday night of Henley Royal Regatta.

Before this year’s event, they said it would be the last in its present form as it had become too costly since Henley Royal Regatta forbid the use of its land in 2009.

The 12-minute display costs £1,000 per minute and the fireworks have to reach a height of 800ft to be seen throughout the regatta site, which increases the cost.

Members of the town council’s finance strategy and management committee suggested the fireworks could become more of a town event.

Councillor David Nimmo Smith said: “We should, as a town council, give it an airing in one of our committees to see if we can get it on a better footing.” Deputy Mayor Jeni Wood proposed supporting the display, saying it would be spending the town’s money rather than the council’s.

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “Maybe it should become a proper town event and be funded in part by Henley Town Council.”

Committee chairman Ian Reissmann said the council declined to support the event last year because it would have been supporting charities of the organisers’ choice.

Mayor Martin Akehurst said he would like to see the event put on a “much tighter rein” with seating that spectators had to pay for.

Councillors agreed to defer a decision.

Billy Pinches, who owns Meadows Farm, has organised the display since 2010 with the help of Henley Lions and Lady McAlpine, of Fawley Hill. Since then it has raised more than £10,000 for charities. This year’s beneficiaries included the sea cadets, the Henley Regatta for the Disabled, Riding for the Disabled and Helen and Douglas House.

The committee agreed to give the Berkshire MS Therapy Centre in Reading a grant of £1,000.

The charity runs the Henley MS Support Group, which is based at Brunner Hall in Greys Road, Henley.

Cllr Akehurst said: “It ensures MS sufferers in Henley get access to the high-pressure oxygen treatment, which is getting very thin on the ground due to government cutbacks.”

Cllr Gawrysiak added: “Anything that gives respite and therapy in Henley should be fully supported by Henley Town Council unless there are compelling reasons not to.”

The committee also agreed to give £1,000 to help set up a Henley Youth Choir.

Cllr Akehurst called it an “excellent venture” and Councillor Will Hamilton suggested the choir be given a slot at this year’s Living Advent Calendar.

The Aliquando Choir was awarded a grant of £900 towards the cost of staging a concert as part of the town’s events to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War.

The choir has commissioned a new choral work which will be performed St Mary’s Church on November 8.

The committee agreed to give £500 each to South and Vale Carers and the Henley Schools Environmental Science Competition, £400 to the Henley Regatta for the Disabled and £200 to Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action.

It deferred a request for a grant of £807.90 from Henley Town Football Club to help purchase equipment for a Soccer Saturday Club until after a meeting between the club and AFC Henley about how to co-ordinate youth football in the town.

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