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LuminoCity was good, but it wasn’t the Air Show

Undeniably, LuminoCity attracted tens of thousands of people, from Southend and no doubt further afield, and it would have brought many long-lasting memories for both children and adults alike with some economic benefits. 

Whilst not perfect, it was a very decent event and one that should have continued if it was financially possible to do so. Alas, we are told it isn’t - and I believe them.

The UK debt is now £2.5 trillion, so something had got to give!  That debt, incidentally, was created by both Labour and Conservatives, though the Conservatives accelerated the debt far beyond ambition.

Not that cancelling the event will tip the balance and save the UK, but the deficit is £10m in Southend and to avoid bankruptcy these decisions must be made if the powers that be refuse to review their remuneration that would save £millions. Doubtful, nay - impossible so we are told, so here we are.


Southend Labour have started the blame-game gun with an outcry from the same posse of councillors demonising Southend Tories for calling time on the event.

The Tories, in response, state that LuminoCity was not even in the Labour, Lib Dem and Indie budget that is currently being enacted, and it is, therefore, the very same people making the accusation that had effectively cut it!

Whoever is being wronged here, it is hard for either party not to respond and put the record straight. In doing so, they drag each other down a tiresome routine that turns people off. Someone is playing the 'I didn't technically lie' game, and whoever it is, continues to damage local politics. But if we take what both are saying as read, essentially Labour didn't budget for it and the Tories agreed - done.

The question for Labour is if they wanted to save it, what are they going to cut instead?

Event Economics

What I cannot understand is how the event cost so much in the first place.

I was unreliably informed the total cost was around £300K (we know the council contributed £170K at the very least) for what was around 10 displays over 4 days.

Clearly, the exhibitors were master negotiators because they stole the deal of the century! I could never have dreamt to have spent that much - not even close. I wouldn't have paid more than £5K per display, at best, and if they didn't go for it I would have walked away. Why? Because in pure financial terms, it would never pay for itself.

The high street being closed, aside from the entrepreneurially-minded fruit and veg shops, did not help. In fact, I would argue the whole business model was shattered by this one aspect alone.

Only the seafront was open and that probably wasn’t anywhere near enough trade to make up the money.

I could accept a non-existent business model if 200,000 people descended upon the shops in the high street. In fact, it would have been extremely difficult to cut Lumo on this basis alone. But the shops were shut and a glorious missed opportunity was taken.

So, on a purely financial basis, unless someone out there can shed light on this, it is not viable and I cannot see it returning. Maybe it could have been a loss leader to advertise Southend in boom times, but not now.

The other issue with the ‘Festival of Light’ was the underlying point of it. As a Southender, I’d never felt that light was a significant part of our history and always wondered why this was the theme to celebrate us becoming a city.  You could argue the illuminations were, but that wasn't anything to do with this event.

Ideally, I would look for culturally significant events that might educate us about our history and that can help in-still civic pride, investing more into events that already tick these boxes. Project Southchurch are a good example of what can be done on a low budget.

Having said this, there is one event that I believe does need to return and that is the Air Show.

The Air Show

It is our Colosseum. To borrow from the film Gladiator, we are the mob and this is what would win the crowd.

It is a culturally significant event as it is woven into the history of what it means to be Southend.  Not because Southend has a rich history in planes, albeit we have the airport, but for anyone who grew up in Southend, the Air Show was the biggest day of the year and was a tradition in Southend.

It drew in far more than any event has ever attracted to Southend before or after and put our city on the map.

Economically, it is difficult to tell how it can pay for itself, but then that depends on what the final costs are. I do know I'd have the high street open!

Importantly, you can have many different versions of what the Air Show can be, many different ways to control costs, and many different ways to raise funds. Previously, a group had raised £250K, but that wasn't enough. Most recently, a new group were looking to raise £500K, which hasn't come to fruitition. But I would merely look at all the options the Air Show could be and work backwards to a figure that could be afforded.

Remove the resources that don't add value and make sure the Red Arrows are on the list. No need to close the roads and use dates that police are already budgeted for on the seafront.

We could even hold it once every 4 years where the events budget could be saved over that time. 

With respect to luminocity and to those who did a great job putting it together, no event can compete. It is a loss that it has now gone, but it's loss is nothing like the Air Show.

In these times of the demoralising dismantling of Southend, wouldn't it be wonderful to see at least one glimmer of light?

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