MEMBERS of Winchester's Round Table have confirmed this year's bonfire night will again be ticketed.
At a special event hosted by the mayor of Winchester, members of The Round Table, local sponsors and council officials met to discuss the organisation for November's event.
The new chairman of The Round Table, Gareth Bloomfield, said the focus this year was making sure the event was affordable but stood by the decision to ticket the event - hailed as a great controversy when it was first announced last year.
He said: “What we were finding was there were a lot of people coming in from outside of the city and exploiting that it was a free event. At one stage there were 35,000 people in the city yet the average donation was working out at less than 5p a head. It costs us £35,000 to put on and people weren't giving enough to support that cost and it was the sponsors who saved us as well as people buying things on the night.
“For local causes it was great but for local people it wasn't. However, in terms of cost, the event wouldn't run if it wasn't ticketed and now we're able to give many more thousands of pounds than we were able to before. As a local resident of Winchester, all my life I perceived this was something put on by the city council but it's 15 local guys who put it on. If we spend £50,000 putting the event on and we can't manage to secure sponsorship it's us that fronts the bill and we could end up losing our houses.”
The evening’s host laid praise on The Round Table for their continued efforts and their regular contribution to local charities.
Cllr Ernie Jeffs said: “The Round Table is a jolly good institution. It was great fun taking part in last year's bonfire and walking through the streets. I remember turning back at the top of the High Street and seeing this wave of torchlight; it was quite spectacular. It was a fantastic evening and it felt great to be a part of it.
“I will be sad to not do it again this year but I'm sure the forthcoming mayor will be looking forward to it. I've been looked after terribly well by the Round Table.”
Conor Gately, of Round Table, said: “[This event has] been a great way to launch the plans we have for community services and show what we want to achieve.
“It also gives us the chance to say thank you for all the help we've received over the last year. Whatever donations we receive is multiplied three to four times by sponsorship.
“The real big change we want to see this year is we want the tickets to go the local community and last year we had 1,000 tickets that we gave away for free. That's the message we need to get out again this year - it's a local community event supporting local causes.”