London's New Year's Eve fireworks are famous the world over, splashes of colour next to Big Ben a staple of those montage shots with Sydney Opera House and Times Square. But this year, if you want to see them up close and in person, it'll cost you £10.
The London fireworks have previously been free and draw massive crowds to the centre of town — around half a million people turned up to line the Thames. Last year, if you got there early enough to be in one of the prime viewing areas you were treated to a multi-sensory experience with flavoured and scented mist and confetti. This 31 December, you'll have to cough up a tenner to be allowed in there at all. And no, there won't be anything special laid on, just the pre-fireworks DJ and a good view of the explosions. And bring your own food and drink (in plastic containers).
100,000 places will be available to book from 26 September — spots with less obvious sightlines will be free to congregate in as always, but we'd expect there to be even more jostling for position among those who object to paying. It's also not clear if people with tickets will be allowed special access to the viewing areas or if they'll be expected to turn up early, before all the streets become too congested to move. Ironically, the reason given for introducing ticketing is to help manage the crowds.
Labour Assembly Member Len Duvall makes some very good points:
"While public safety must be top priority, the Mayor needs to make the case that ticketing is the best way of achieving this. Without that transparency people may see this as little more than a money making exercise, especially if costs are allowed to creep up each year. £10 a ticket might not seem extortionate, but for a family the cost can quickly rack up.
"Around 500,000 people attended the fireworks last year, yet only 100,000 tickets will be on sale this year. Either hundreds of thousands of people will miss out or many will still turn up in the hope of seeing the display without paying. How will these extra people be accommodated, and how will the authorities prevent a two-tier system of spectators developing — those paying and those not?"