The Alternative Fireworks Experience | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

The Alternative Fireworks Experience

Anyone who’s attempted to crush themselves and risk injuring a body part for a chance to get their Christmas shopping done on Oxford Street in December, knows just how ridiculously busy London’s main attractions can get over the festive period. Therefore, it’s no surprise that when contemplating watching the city’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display from the Southbank last year, a friend of mine exclaimed to me, ‘No- please don’t do it!’.

I stuck my head out the balcony of an Ibis hotel in Wembley as the city lit up

Her reasoning for the panicked outburst: she’d been a couple of years back with her family, and they had all detested every second. Firstly, it’s likely to be minus temperatures and freezing, therefore the festive party outfit will have to be swapped for thermals and a Michelin Man-esque getup, and secondly, attempting to catch a tube after a bout of Auld Lang Syne with all the other revellers would make even a lover of tight spaces incredibly claustrophobic.

However, each year when you pop on the TV to watch the celebrations unfold as time hurtles towards midnight, thousands continue to crowd the banks of the Thames to link arms and ‘ooh ahh’ at the fireworks shooting from the London Eye. One attendee took to review site Tripadvisor, commenting that they had a ‘great time’, the ‘atmosphere was fantastic’ and they ‘got chatting to people from all around the world including Brazil, Holland, Spain and Italy’. Something that strikes as special with the London fireworks display, is that you find yourself in a community of strangers bonding over this mutual entering a new year. That’s a special quality about the human race: we all come from varying backgrounds, with differing life experiences, but we can bond over some sparkles in the sky and the promising hope of another 365 days. Although the event is now ticketed, in an effort to stop so many people from turning up and creating a security risk to the evening, it has not stopped thousands upon thousands getting involved in the festivities.

If the chance to watch the fireworks from the banks of the Thames is your thing, tickets for the 2018 display cost £10 and you can book up to four per person via websites such as See Tickets. There are six viewing areas for the event - Blue, Red, Pink, Green, White and the Accessible Viewing Area. There are also multiple entrances and exits (you must choose one when booking your ticket), to maximise your chances of getting to your selected tube stations before they shut due to safety proceedings. Now, the cost of these tickets actually seems reasonable: we often pay to watch our local Bonfire Night celebrations, so it isn’t much more to see arguably one of the best, if not the best, firework display the UK has to offer. The meaning behind making people pay also seems reasonable: in order to maximise the event for those who really want to go, it eliminates those  unwilling to pay, and therefore arguably less fussed about attending. Cutting down numbers should equate to easier routes to travel home.

Nonetheless, the panicked words of my peer may ring in your head as you hover over the ‘checkout’ button. That certainly happened to me. Therefore, I propose the ‘Alternative London Fireworks Experience’.

Last year, to see in the New Year, I stuck my head out the balcony of an Ibis hotel in Wembley as the city lit up. With Wembley Stadium situated to my left, and a view of a little London Eye, Shard, Gherkin and Houses of Parliament in the distance, not only did I get to witness the fireworks display in miniature town scale, I got to witness the vast city explode in technicolour. Local houses, other venues, whole communities and football pitches took their turns to celebrate the new year, and I got to watch it all from above, in the comfort of my fluffy pyjamas and plastic cup of Prosecco. There were no crowds, no standstill tubes and no police officers to remind you of the constant threat to security. Just myself and my boyfriend, a quiet hotel room, and a rainbow London. The hotel room probably cost less than the New Year’s tickets, extortionate prices of booze and tube tickets combined. Whichever way you choose to see in the New Year, make sure it’s the right way for you.

English & Creative Writing student | Writer for Redbrick & The Tab | Host of The Request Show at BurnFM | Absolutely awful at writing remotely interesting bios (@maddiemae_xo)


30th December 2018 at 7:00 am

Images from

Chris Chabot

Amanda Slater