Talking to Harrogate RoundTable ahead of the Stray Bonfire and Fireworks this weekend

3 November 2022

The Harrogate Stray Bonfire will be on 5 November 2022.

This is the 51st year for the charity event organised by the Harrogate RoundTable.

  • Entertainment will start from 5pm
  • The bonfire will be lit at 5.30pm
  • The fireworks finale will begin at 7.15pm

In addition to the bonfire and fireworks display, visitors can expect a licensed bar, multiple food vendors, face-painting and family friendly entertainment on stage throughout.

We spoke to Andy Rickard of the Harrogate RoundTable, and put a few questions to him.

How would you describe what the RoundTable does ?

Throughout the year Harrogate RoundTable undertake a number of community or charity events such as the Harrogate Beer Festival, the Bonfire, distributing poppies, and putting together christmas hampers. Most members are appointed a specific role each year such as Treasurer, Charities, or Bonfire and they report on what they are doing in this role at quarterly business meetings where we also review applications for distribution of our accrued funds.

All of the members are expected to volunteer their time freely to plan, organise and run the charity and community events. Additionally, members meet two or three times a month to play sports, have meals out, try potential new hobbies, or sometimes just to have a few social drinks, we also have a few bigger events including a family camping weekend, a physical challenge, and a few black tie dinners.

Members pay a monthly subscription to be part of the group and all our social and entertainment activities are paid out of this or directly by members for each event.

Harrogate RoundTable is part of a national family of organisations delineated by age and sex as follows: RoundTable men aged 18-45; 41 Club ex RoundTablers – men aged 41+, Ladies Circle women aged 18-45, Tangent ex Ladies Circle – women aged 41+. Prospective members identifying as non-binary are welcome to approach either club or both.

What are your key events across the year ?

Harrogate Beer Festival; Stray Fireworks and Bonfire; Christmas Hampers

How do you decide where the profits go ?

We look for charities to support in advance of the event who we feel may be able to support us with volunteers. For the bonfire we are pleased to be supporting Harrogate Homeless Project who are helping us with volunteer bucket shakers. The beer festival often generates a surplus, after donating the majority to the headline charities, and this gives us a small fund to support individuals and charities with specific requests which we hear at our quarterly business business meetings – an application form for this fund can be found on our website.

The Stray Bonfire has an impressive firework display, roughly how much does it cost ?

The fireworks themselves cost around £5,000. The event as a whole costs around £15,000 due to the requirements associated with road closures and road traffic management, first aid, toilet facilities, transport and equipment, power and light, the stage and AV support, and the deposit to use the Stray.

Harrogate Stray bonfire RoundTable

Why was the bonfire on, then off, now back on again ?

Harrogate RoundTable is a small group of 25 volunteers with limited charity funds. The bonfire costs around £15,000 to run and takes several people months of preperation and all members 2/3 days of volunteer time to set up, marshall, and clear up. It was hoped that removing the bonfire and replacing it with a third party source of entertainment would reduce both costs and volunteer hours required to run the event and create a potential source of income making the event more financially sustainable.

It was also hoped that lengthening the period of activity at the event from 1 hour to 3hr+ would create more options for the event in future further supporting its financial viability. From the feedback survey in 2021 it was clear that many people (45%) felt that having a bonfire should be reviewed for environmental reasons and while many others (41%) felt the tradition should stay it was felt that it would be worth trialling a different activity for all of the aforementioned reasons. As the Funfair cancelled due to staffing shortages in mid October it was neccesary to bring another activity back to the event and the bonfire was the obvious choice.

I said I would run the event for RoundTable in November 2021 on the condition I was allowed to try and change the event to make it into something more financially sustainable, I was voted into the Bonfire/Fireworks role in April 2022 so I don’t think it is correct to say that the Bonfire was initially on.

I would also point out that after the increased costs associated with having a bonfire and with the current sponsorship and GoFundMe income the event is currently around £11,000 in the red so whether the event is viable in future without looking to replace the bonfire with other entertainment from a third party remains to be seen.

In previous years there hasn’t always been much financial support from the public, without support it can’t run, how can people support ?

We’ve always had fantastic support from the public but unfortunately the costs to put the event on are significant and unavoidable.

People can help by donating cash on the night to our bucket shakers or by donating to our GoFundMe here:

Harrogate Stray bonfire RoundTable

Apart from donations, are there key local business supporters ?

We are incredibly grateful to our sponsors HACS, Clarion, Techbuyer, Raworths, FTAV, LAKE Financial Systems, and Progress Consulting. We’re also grateful to Stray Ferret for supporting our GoFundMe with adverts on their app and to Your Harrogate for sponsoring the stage.

Tockwith took the decision to cancel their bonfire this year, due to all the work involved, how have you managed to pull it off this year ?

It has been a very difficult year to organise the event this year and while we are volunteers and therefore not professional event organisers it does appear that the events industry has not fully recovered from covid. It has been particularly hard to attempt to bring in new activities to grow the event and make it more financially sustainable.

It is hoped that the changes we have succeeded in making such as: extending the use of the stage with three musical acts: Three Strikes, Harrogate Theatre Choir, The Directors; bringing in multiple caterers; and having a licensed bar will give us the confidence to make more changes in future years to allow us to continue providing a free to attend community event raising money for a local charity.

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