Fireballs funding up in smoke

THE Stonehaven Fireballs Ceremony is organised every year by a group of dedicated volunteers.
THE Stonehaven Fireballs Ceremony is organised every year by a group of dedicated volunteers.

THE committee in charge of organising Stonehaven’s famous Hogmanay Fireballs ceremony revealed this week that they have received a financial blow to their funds after Aberdeenshire Council withdrew financial support.

The overall cost of running the event, which is organised by volunteer group the Stonehaven Fireballs Association, is estimated at roughly £5000, taking into consideration outgoings for health and safety, barriers and cleaning up the street afterwards.

The council, in the past, have agreed to meet insurance costs for the event, while the rest is paid for through sponsorship and funds raised by the Association.

But members of the Fireballs Association speaking this week said that, without the additional help from the local authority, they would need public support “more than ever.”

Susan Leiper, who is Chairperson of the Fireballs Association, said: “When we held our AGM on Sunday night, everybody was flabberghasted by the costs for a 25 minute show. The medical bill alone, for the Scottish Ambulance Service and the First Aiders is £2,000. The Council used to cover our insurance costs, but they will no longer be doing that.

“Some might say we should start charging people entry, but we pride ourselves on this being a free event. People come from all over the world to see it.

“We have some fantastic sponsors, but the fact of the matter is that we are not going to be able to sustain it if we can’t generate some sort of income.

“We are really hoping that the Stonehaven people are going to get behind us and support us this year.”

The announcement that Aberdeenshire Council will no longer be offering financial support has caused outcry amongst many locals. Stonehaven resident Gail Sangster said: “Yet another event the council are washing their hands of! What do the do with our council tax money? Thankfully Stonehaven has a wonderful network of volunteers to ensure Stonehaven is still a town worth visiting.

“Is it only me who thinks it slightly ironic that Stonehaven fireballs and the Castle are used in advertising campaigns to encourage tourists to visit Scotland yet get very little or no support? A big pat on the back to everyone who keeps this historic event going.”

The committee were keen to clarify that they do not expect the local authority to fund the event, and are hopeful that enough funds can be raised to keep the historic tradition alive.

An Aberdeenshire Council spokeswoman said: “The Stonehaven Fireballs event continues to receive the same level of support from the council as in recent years.

“This is support in kind as we do not provide direct funding for any sort of event other than those organised directly by the Council.

“The Council’s insurers, which previously sponsored the cost of the event’s premium, intimated last year that they were unable to continue this arrangement and although cover would still be provided, this premium was now payable.

“The event organisers now liase directly with the insurers.”

A fundraising ceilidh will be held at Stonehaven Town Hall on Saturday June 29, with music from local band Spin Drift.

Tickets will be £15 each, which includes something to eat, and information on where to buy tickets will be announced soon.