diamond geezer

 Sunday, December 19, 2010

New Year fireworks at the EyeLondon's New Year fireworks are world famous. The London Eye explodes in a riot of sound and colour. A quarter of a million spectators, two-thirds of whom live outside London, turn up along the Embankment to enjoy the spectacle. Everything's broadcast live on BBC1, complete with a fawning inane commentary. And images from the event are flashed to broadcasters worldwide, which does the capital's media profile no harm at all.

So you'd think that the Greater London Authority would be promoting their New Year fireworks with everything they've got. You'd think wrong.

New Year's Eve in London is so important, it has its own website. That's http://www.london.gov.uk/newyearseve, where every year the Mayor tells the world what to expect at midnight on December 31st. How to plan your night, where to view the fireworks, and a whole bunch of frequently asked questions answered. This is important stuff, especially if you're thinking of trekking into London from elsewhere in the UK, or even flying in from abroad. But not this year, not yet. With less than two weeks to go until the New Year turns, Boris's NYE webpage is still information-less.
"Preparations are underway for London's New Year's Eve celebrations and a formal announcement will be made by the Mayor in the coming weeks. Details will be available in due course on this website and in the media. Detailed information and tips for visitors in respect of viewing the fireworks and travel information post event will be available on this site from early December."
I think we can agree that "early December" has passed, and yet still no detailed information is forthcoming. What's proving so difficult? It's not as if this website's tough to create, because all of 2009's detailed information is still lurking out of sight behind the scenes. But nobody at Team Boris, or whichever agency he's hired to put this stuff together, has quite got round to updating or revealing anything.

Boris did put out a press release last month, announcing that British-made fireworks will be used for the first time and that the display will be accompanied by music mixed by a Radio 1 DJ. He also blustered something about how firework displays are "exhilarating and primal", but nothing of any practical use for spectators. Meanwhile detailed travel plans for NYE services are already available in a thick TfL leaflet, but these haven't made it as far as the official NYE website. Nothing has, not yet.
If you are a visitor to London and wish to plan your trip and pre-book accommodation, visitor information is available at www.visitlondon.com.
And this lack of publicity matters, because these fireworks cost. Boris is spending £1.8m on the event this year (10% more than in 2009) - a budgetary spend which only makes sense if tourist numbers can be maximised. As things stand, potential national and international visitors lured in by Visit London's New Year's Eve webpage are duly directed to Boris's dead end, which so far tells them nothing. Surely something will materialise in the next 12 days, but that'll be far too late to entice any long distance travellers.

I went to Edinburgh for Hogmanay last year, and one of the crucial factors in persuading me to go was the council's very detailed event website. I knew in advance how much there was to see, so I knew it was worth spending cash to get there. Alas London's New Year celebrations present no such coordinated face to the world, and that's a lot of money up in smoke.

Update: NYE website finally launched on the afternoon of 22nd December.

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