The free event at Midsummer Common is usually attended by around 20,000 spectatorsBethan Moss

Cambridge city council has announced that this year’s Bonfire Night celebration on Midsummer Common has been cancelled, following the publication of the government’s winter Covid plan for England earlier this month.

The decision means that it is the second successive year that Bonfire Night on Midsummer Common has been cancelled by the city council. The annual event, which typically attracts around 20,000 spectators, was scheduled to take place on Friday 5 November.

The council cited the possibility of the introduction of vaccine passports for outdoor events, as well as concerns about not being able to compensate for a loss of public funds in the event of a short notice cancellation, as its justifications for calling off the event.

A subsection of the government’s winter plan, “Plan B”, to be implemented “if the data suggests the NHS is likely to come under unsustainable pressure,” suggests the introduction of mandatory vaccine passports for all crowded outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees. The government has recognised that such measures could be imposed “at short notice”.

Though outdoor events can still go ahead under the plan, the council has judged that it would be practically impossible to safely check vaccine certifications.

Announcing the decision, Executive Councillor for Communities Anna Smith said: “It is with great reluctance and huge sadness we have arrived at this position. Our free, open-access Bonfire Night is enjoyed by well over 20,000 people every year. Up until the publication of the Winter Plan we had been aiming to go ahead. We had hoped free, large scale outdoor events would be given some certainty in the Winter Plan, but the opposite is true – we have much less certainty than we did before”.

Councillor Smith continued, acknowledging that it is likely that “residents will be incredibly disappointed by this decision”, but maintaining that keeping the public safe has been the council’s “top priority from the very start of this pandemic”.

She tried to remain optimistic, stating that “I hope that next year we will all be able to enjoy watching the fireworks together”, also promising that “in the meantime, we will work hard to make sure that there are other events over the winter which light up the winter nights and bring us together as a community.”

Varsity spoke to students to gauge reaction to the cancellation, and found examples of the disappointment predicted by Councillor Smith:

“I think it’s a real shame that it’s been cancelled, especially since clubs are open and don’t require vaccine certificates. I’ve been on my year abroad and have really missed Bonfire Night!” said one Homerton student.

However, some students were more sympathetic towards the council’s decision. One student at King’s said: “it’s a shame but ultimately unsurprising, and probably the safest option”.

The council has said that it will be working with Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service to share information with local people on how Bonfire Night can be safely celebrated at home.