Inverness lights up for 10 minutes this winter as virus paranoia wipes out festival that cheers

by Colin Campbell

A TEN minute fireworks display which people are being invited to watch from “the comfort of their own location”. Is that it?

Is that what Inverness is being offered as a substitute for the complete wipeout of the city’s traditional Winter Festival Programme?

It would seem so. No Ness Islands Halloween display for children and their parents, no Bught Park bonfire, no Christmas Lights switch on event and no Hogmanay show at the Northern Meeting Park. None of these much anticipated occasions which play a significant part in helping lift the glaur and gloom over the city during the long winter months.

Instead a blink and you miss it flurry of rockets propelled skywards which you are apparently asked to watch from home, wherever home may be.

That’s a damp squib of an event if ever there was one.

Winter colour events cancelled.

Not that you’d think so given the tone of Monday’s announcement, which almost suggests the 10 minute banger time to be held on November 5 is an occasion of almost magical significance.

“High Life Highland (HLH) has announced on behalf of the Inverness Events and Festivals Working Group, that the event will go ahead – and people are asked to watch the ten minute display from ‘the comfort of their own location’. 

“Provost Helen Carmichael, said: ‘We are delighted that the city is able to put on a planned firework display this year. Everyone has had their own challenges over the last year, so we were really keen to do what we could to give people some normality and something to look forward to, but at the same time discouraging large groups of people to make their way to the City.’

“Amy MacLeod, HLH’s events development manager, said: ‘On behalf of the City of Inverness Area Committee, HLH has continued to work with partners to ensure delivery of a safe and covid-compliant display, and whilst other colleagues across Scotland have opted to cancel their events, the city has decided that offering a fireworks display will allow people to have some fun and sparkle without the need for a large, mass gathering at Bught Park.

“For this reason, those involved have taken the decision to defer the bonfire and any associated activities this year, and simply hold a fantastic firework display that individuals and families can enjoy from the comfort of their own location with their family and friends.”

How many people will be rejoicing over this news?

How many will be sharing in the provost’s “delight”?

How many will be excitedly anticipating the “fun and sparkle” of a “fantastic fireworks display”?

The answers, I’d suggest, are in the realms of “not many, very few and virtually no-one”.

Maybe in Culloden and other parts of the city it’s time to start erecting a viewing platform so you can actually see the 10 minutes when Inverness will be lit up over winter.

What role Scottish Government regulations had in the cancellation of everything that brightens up Inverness in the dark months ahead is also unclear, with the only certainty that it will have been inexplicable and chaotic.

Tens of thousands of people are allowed to crowd into football stadiums, with hundreds of them at half-time descending in a jostling crowd seeking access to indoor toilet areas.

But when it comes to outdoor events like the Inverness Halloween Show and Bonfire Night we hear all and sundry rush to echo the “public safety is paramount” mantra and everything must be cancelled.

What a lot of inexplicable nonsense.

There was absolutely no need to cancel the entire outdoor festival programme at a stroke. There could have been some social distancing at the Ness Islands and the Bught, if that was still considered necessary. The chances of catching the virus there would have been close to non-existent, and if anyone did somehow catch it, they’d almost certainly have experienced only minor symptoms.

As of yesterday there were only 24 people in hospital with the virus across the entire Highlands. Four days ago there were only 18. The number has been falling from just over 30 a couple of weeks ago. Apart from on one day in August, no one has been in intensive care in the Highlands with the virus since March.

And yet because of these figures, which represent around 0.01 per cent of the region’s population, major events like the Winter Festival programme are scrapped. It’s going to be another long, bleak winter. Whatever happened to balancing “risk assessments” with efforts to simply cheer people up and boost mental health, mood and morale?

Provost Carmichael optimistically says the 10 minutes fireworks display is the return of some normality.

With virus paranoia and ludicrous overreaction like the Winter Festival cancellation still running rampant, you have to wonder if we will ever return to “some normality”.

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