The origins of The Big Bang

BIGBANG2017THE BIG Bang – our hugely-popular civic bonfire – is back in town at Oldham Edge on Thursday evening (November 2).

This is the sixth year we’ve put on this event and in that time it’s provided fantastic free entertainment and fun for thousands of local families.

But there’s also a very serious side to why we do it.

Reintroducing a civic bonfire and fireworks event in 2011 wasn’t just motivated by giving residents something to enjoy (great though that is!), but also by the incredible strain that the bonfire season puts on our blue light services.

There are literally countless examples of the harm that badly organised bonfires and the misuse of fireworks can lead to.

I still find it somewhat odd that for 25 days a year people can go out and buy something that can be so destructive and dangerous in the wrong hands.

There’s always genuine accidents, of course, but anti-social behaviour, illegal and badly planned bonfires and loutish behaviour with fireworks can have serious and devastating consequences.

MitzyPICAs a cat owner (see Mitzy, pictured right) and animal lover, I also know that you don’t need to be Dr Doolittle to understand how petrified many pets are at this time of year.

These are all key reasons why we hold The Big Bang. It is part of our co-ordinated approach with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) and partners on the annual Treacle campaign which aims to keep people safe from fires and injuries and nuisance.

The three-week Treacle period is the busiest time of the year for GMFRS. They responded to more than 2,000 incidents in that time last year which ranged from sheds burnt to the ground by wayward fireworks to cars being engulfed in flames by fireworks used inappropriately.

As part of Treacle there’s also now a Fireworks Amnesty which is encouraging people to give up or report dangerous fireworks.

Our firefighters are busy enough normally without this kind of extra strain – as are our A&E departments and police.

It also just makes common sense to attend The Big Bang.

Why bother spending your own money and taking risks with low-calibre fireworks in the back garden, when you can be dazzled by the best fireworks professionals in the UK setting off their high-grade ones in a stunning, totally safe and free display?

Fantastic Fireworks always perform our Oldham Edge display and they’re the UK’s double British Fireworks champions for many reasons. They never fail to deliver a dazzling show and they are at the leading edge of pyrotechnic innovation.

There’s lots more to enjoy at The Big Bang too. I know some people are tempted to just turn up for the fireworks later on, but you really will be missing out if you do.

After the site opens at 5pm you can enjoy a funfair with the kids and foodstalls before we get the stage show underway and light the bonfire at around 6pm.

FlameOz1We’ve got then Flame Oz headlining proceedings. They’ve now performed in more than 40 countries with an amazing ‘glow show’ of fire dancing and juggling that is breath-taking.

A new act this year is Raijin Storm who are ancient Japanese guardians that will be drumming thunderous rhythms with the audience in a brilliant interactive performance.

All this is hosted and MC’d by Elliot Eastwick from our event partners Revolution 96.2 and he will build things up until the final countdown when our prize-winner – a lucky schoolchild – pushes the button to start the fireworks display.

You can even park for nothing too as all Oldham Council-owned town centre car parks will again be free of charge from 3pm on the day.

To find out more, please visit the webpage at www.oldham.gov.uk/bonfire and plan your evening.

And finally – if you want any further information about the Treacle campaign and how to stay safe this autumn – please visit safe4autumn.com

Jean

Big_Bang_A5_DS_Flyer_2017_V5_

Local press is vital to communities and democracy

CHRONADMIN

IT WAS devastating to learn that the Oldham Evening Chronicle had closed its doors last week.

After almost 164 years of continuous publishing, millions of words, hundreds of controversies and stories, and the production of dozens of fine journalists, KPMG were swiftly appointed administrators of the firm last Thursday afternoon.

At the time staff were unwittingly filing their stories, taking advert placements and making calls for a Friday morning edition that would sadly never see the light of day.

Within an hour they were gathered together and told their fate – and that they did not even get the chance to write their own obituary edition seemed particularly cruel to me. They deserved that at least.

I knew the paper had been having financial problems for some time – in particular with a pension deficit – but had always hoped that a solution to be found.

DWhaleyDave Whaley, the Editor, called in to confidentially update me on the issues just a few weeks earlier.

Characteristically defiant and pragmatic about what might happen his chief thoughts, typically, were for the fate of all his 49 staff. Dave was, however, also deeply concerned about the impact the paper’s potential closure would have for Oldham – and he was right.

I’ve seen some say on social media that Oldham Council will now be quietly rejoicing the Chronicle’s demise, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Many people have already told me they cannot get their head around not being able to go and buy their ‘Chron’ and there is a genuine sense of loss that extends even to ex-pats who still looked forward to reading from afar.

Local media has a vital connection to its people that provides an unmatched service to everyone. It is crucial for communities and democracy.

Many Oldham residents will have appeared in its pages at one time or another and will still have a proud cutting gathering dust somewhere in their home.

If you were on the wrong side of the law in court you could expect to be identified in the Chron. If you were fundraising in your community for a good cause you could expect to be supported by them. And you could expect to find out news from the families of long-lost friends, neighbours or relatives in the births, deaths and marriages pages.

In recent years the Chronicle had also been a positive ambassador for Oldham as a place.

It backed us as a council when we showed ambition, but it was also ready to give us very public criticism when we deserved it. We may have squirmed and fumed at the time, but that is the scrutiny that comes with local democracy and it is a deal that works.

I sincerely hope a ‘Phoenix Chronicle’ may yet rise from the ashes, albeit likely in a weekly or bi-weekly form, and we will do anything we can to assist and encourage that to happen.

Oldham as a town needs a newspaper so we will be keeping a keen eye on developments: not least because it’s also vital that other elements of the old Chronicle brand and products are not lost.

prideoinoldhamThe Pride in Oldham awards, for example, was a fantastic community event that highlighted the incredible contributions of ordinary people in a way that nothing else could.

And let’s not forget the importance of the newspaper’s archive too.  Thousands of plates, negatives and digital content are all there on Union Street telling the story of our town and they simply must not be lost. I know people are working hard behind the scenes to ensure it can be preserved and enjoyed for generations to come.

Moving onto brighter news this week, I was delighted to open the EPIC Talks at the Your Oldham Festival in the Old Town Hall on Monday. It was inspiring to see important issues like inclusive growth and social contracts being discussed here in the heart of our town.

There’s still chance to catch some fantastic events across the borough until Saturday, so please visit our website here and book your free place.

Oldham_Live_Web_BannerOn Saturday our exciting Oldham LIVE event will be taking place offering fun for all the family from Noon followed by established music artists from 6pm onwards.

We’ve now updated our webpage with more detailed information – including site maps and FAQs – so please give it a visit here and support us.

This is a pilot event designed to show that Oldham has an appetite for and can deliver top-quality events that re-establish it as a destination.

Parliament Square is the place to be this Saturday – and it’s all completely free. Please come along, spread the word with your friends and neighbours, and help us to make it a day to remember.

Jean

OldhamLIVE – Music to your ears

IMG_2251IT’S HARD to believe that it’s now almost a year since we confirmed the opening date for the newly-restored Old Town Hall.

It had been the most-keenly anticipated civic development for generations and the sense of joy when the doors opened on October 21 last year – with a grand public event showcasing the Oldham Giant, acrobats, musicians and local talent – was something I’ll never forget.

Since then the development has grabbed so many accolades that we realised there was one very clear flaw in our original designs – the lack of a trophy cabinet.

To date in 2017 the Old Town Hall has won nine awards from a range of prestigious players who know a thing or two about buildings, including the Royal Chartered Institute of Surveyors and the Royal Institute of British Architects.

It’s also been shortlisted for the British Construction Industry Awards ‘Building Project of the Year’, the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce ‘Building of the Year’ and the Local Authority Building Control Awards which are all taking place later this year.

I’m not the kind of person who would ever obsess about chasing ‘gongs’ but this impressive haul of awards and nominations shows that we must have got something right.

The renovation of the Old Town Hall wasn’t just about the rebirth of a unique and iconic building, important though that was. It was part of our bigger vision to give the town centre a new focal point and a place where people from all communities – and new visitors – could enjoy leisure time in a pleasant and modern environment.

Parliament Square and Town Hall 30That’s why we built Parliament Square adjacent to it providing a high-quality public space that we also knew would be an exciting new events space of the calibre and size that Oldham has never had before.

It has already hosted some fantastic events to date – like Illuminate and Oldham Pride – and is fast growing in its popularity as a destination in its own right but we were also acutely aware of a gap in Oldham’s entertainment offer which simply had to be addressed.

As a place we have got some fantastic local live music venues and events but – certainly before the recent Cotton Clouds Festival in Greenfield – you usually had to at least hop on a tram to Manchester to be entertained by established acts.

That is all set to change in nine days when Parliament Square hosts OldhamLIVE on Saturday September 9.

We’ve worked alongside Revolution96.2 on these plans and it was clear from our very first meeting that we had a shared ambition to deliver something really special.

The musical line-up includes headliners The Farm, Stooshe, Kelly Llorena, a Clint Boon DJ set and Nathan from Brother Beyond. If you’ve not yet seen the event details – which includes pirate themed fun for the kids in the afternoon – then visit www.oldham.gov.uk/oldhamlive for full details.

Oldham_Live_Web_BannerIn the coming days I can reveal that we’ll be adding a couple more exciting names to that bill, and releasing a detailed site map with all the essential information you’ll need to plan ahead for a great day out.

This is a pilot event and we are keen to gauge the public appetite for this type of offering. It’s also the first time we’ve used Parliament Square for something quite so big and a great team of Oldham Council volunteers will be there working hard to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Best of all, the event is entirely free and – if it’s a success – we have some exciting ideas for what we might do next with OldhamLIVE.

So what’s ‘your bit’? All we ask is that you come along, enjoy yourselves, help to spread the word and also give our local economy a real boost. .

Please don’t miss the chance to enjoy some fantastic acts and entertainment. The only thing I cannot guarantee is the weather, so fingers crossed!

Jean