Kingston: Imber Court cancels 2022 fireworks after 'nightmare' event left customers fearing for their lives

By Ellie Brown - Local Democracy Reporter

8th Nov 2021 | Local News

Imber Court sports club in East Molesey - their annual fireworks are popular with people in the Kingston area (Image: Essential Surrey)
Imber Court sports club in East Molesey - their annual fireworks are popular with people in the Kingston area (Image: Essential Surrey)

Molesey sports club Imber Court has cancelled its annual fireworks for 2022 after a display on Friday that left some attendees fearing for their lives due to crushes and bottlenecks caused by dangerous overcrowding.

It is the first time in 52 years that the club has cancelled the fireworks event which is popular with Kingston residents and billed as 'Surrey's largest display.'

But hundreds of attendees, including many parents of young children, took to social media to express their outrage over their experience at the event on 5 November.

Fuming customers said they had been left terrified by crowd crushes, stampedes and fights at the poorly lit and under-staffed event.

In a statement the day after, Imber Court Chairman Stephen Cassidy admitted that the event "did not meet the high standards that we hold ourselves to" and had resulted in "a lot of feedback and complaints."

Yesterday the club put out another update on its website and social media announcing the cancellation of the 2022 event.

However, it claimed this was due to the "significant disruption and anti-social behaviour" from people who had come to the area to attend, and its effects on neighbours on the court.

The club also said the decision did not reflect on the event organisers Fireworks Live.

But this angered many attendees with commenters on the update accusing the club of "victim-blaming" and branding the statement a "disgrace."

Nub News spoke to some of the people who went to the fireworks to find out why they were so angry.

Kingston primary school teacher Syreeta Howard-James said the event was "very dangerous" and recalled arriving to an event with no lighting or signage, plus stewards who did not properly scan tickets.

While trying to leave the event, she and her 3-year-old son were caught in a bottleneck on the bridge, and were faced with a stampede of over 100 people when they pushed past security guards.

"I had to lift [my son] up and I'm looking over the side of the bridge thinking shall I just climb over into the water, is that safer than this?" she recalled.

"He was being crushed, I was being crushed."

She later dubbed the event "the worst night of my life."

Lucy Taylor who brought her five-year-old son to the event, said the overcrowding was "really quite scary and panic inducing."

"I had to try and stay calm in front of my little boy but I was holding onto his hand so tightly; it would have been very easy for him to get separated from me and trampled."

Georgia Phillips, a Legoland customer service assistant with experience dealing with crowds, said the event was "an accident waiting to happen."

But she said that when she raised concerns with a security guard and suggested calling the police in or opening a side gate to leave the event, she was ignored.

Claire OCallaghan told Nub News she is still "so angry" with how the event was organised and recalled being trapped in the crowds for 50 minutes.

"I was very worried for our family's safety," she said.

She said the lighting, signage and security levels were not enough for a big family event.

"The whole event was a disgrace...I'm still so angry with the way they handled the event."

Jim Davidson, who went with his wife and 3 young children, decided not to go in due to the extent of the crowds.

Watching from a field near the entrance, he and his family saw impatient ticket-holders tear a hole in the fence through which many in the crowds rushed before it was fixed.

"The only stewards we saw were the ones taking money or trying to rebuild the torn down fence," he said.

"If the crowd had not been so well behaved (tearing down fences aside) it could have turned very nasty."

Imber Court's full statement yesterday read: "This morning (Sunday 7th November) our Club Directors met to discuss the feedback and concerns received from our Club Members, Local Residents and attendees of Bonfire Night Event on Friday 5th November.

"A far larger than normal amount of people attended this event, many of whom clearly travelled by car.

"It is very clear that as a result of our Bonfire Night our neighbours of Imber Court were subject of significant disruption and anti-social behaviour from people who had come to the area to attend the event.

"For this reason alone a decision has been made that Imber Court will not be hosting a Bonfire Night Event next year in order that our local residents will now know with certainty that there is no possibility of a reoccurrence of this type of behaviour around their homes and streets.

"This decision does not reflect in any way on the Event Organisers but a decision by Imber Court to protect local residents from future behaviour in areas beyond our Club control but caused by this large event.

"We are continuing our review process with the event organisers in relation to the event as a whole as detailed in my previous message.

"I once again apologise to all our Club Members, Local Residents and event attendees who were affected that evening.

"I thank everybody who have taken the time and trouble to contact us directly with their feedback and also those who have attended our Club in person to meet."

Kingston Nub News have contacted Imber Court for comment.

Got a story? Send it to our news team: [email protected]

     

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