Yesterday’s announcement on social media that this year’s fireballs ceremony was cancelled will surprise few but disappoint many.
Over the last 20 years, what used to be a spontaneous and informal local celebration developed into a highly regulated world-renowned event – with the full gamut of risk assessments, crowd barriers, first aid, stewarding and even fireball construction and lighting protocols to be attended to.
All of this takes time and effort by those valuing the annual procession enough to make the not inconsiderable effort.
And don’t forget the emotional investment. Swingers march up and down the High Street in affirmation, celebration, memory or dedication to so much more than a good new year.
I am lucky enought to have taken part twice. I can tell you my thoughts were of delight at taking part in a ritual I had been spectator at over decades, at pride in my Stonehaven ‘whitefisher’ heritage dating back further than online record, and of memories of my mum, who annually pronounced her dislike of Hogmanay, then managed to die … on December 31.
And then there was the sheer excitement and crowd-fuelled exhilaration of the physical challenge.
For those looking forward to this year’s ceremony, this second forced cancellation is particularly dispiriting. The disappointment felt by all was clear in the statement issued by the committee.
It states: ”This is not a post we wanted to be writing, but unfortunately this year’s Fireballs ceremony is now cancelled.
We’re sure you will all be aware of the reports of Covid case increases and the new recommendations around social distancing issued by the Scottish Government in the last few days.
”Whilst there are no fresh guidelines around events such as ours (yet), we feel that it just would not be right to run at this point.
”We are so proud of Stonehaven and of the Fireballs Ceremony, but we also feel we have a duty of care to the town’s residents (and in particular those in the auld toon) to not expose them to any more risk than necessary. They put up with so much from us under ‘normal’ circumstances!!
”We need to say a massive thank you to Aberdeenshire Council (all departments involved), Police Scotland and the Fire Service for all their help & encouragement in getting the event planned and green-lighted in the first place. We know they are as disappointed as the rest of us.
”It’s frustrating to have to make this decision so soon after announcing that it was on in the first place… 😕
To our main sponsor, Stewart Milne Homes also a huge thank you. They have stuck with us for many years now, and have continued to show great support – it is very much appreciated.
”We can’t do the event without the continued support of all our other, local sponsors – here’s to celebrating properly next year! We’re as gutted as you guys.
”To the public who were looking forward to joining us to welcome in the New Year: sad times again for 2021/22, but we will be back again for sure to celebrate Hogmanay in true Stonehaven style!! ☄️☄️
We hope you all can understand our position on this. Not an easy decision, but one that had to be made.
”’Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, and as happy a New Year as it can be!!
”Stay safe, and we look forward to seeing you all next year!”