More than £111k spent on River Mersey cultural event that never happened

The Silver Jubilee Bridge, which spans the River Mersey, was supposed be the venue for the 60th anniversary event.The Silver Jubilee Bridge, which spans the River Mersey, was supposed be the venue for the 60th anniversary event.
The Silver Jubilee Bridge, which spans the River Mersey, was supposed be the venue for the 60th anniversary event.
The celebration was cancelled at the 11th hour due to concerns about rising COVID rates and restrictions.

More than £111k was spent on a cultural event in the Liverpool City Region which was cancelled last year due to concerns over Coronavirus.

The Silver Jubilee Bridge which spans the River Mersey in Halton was due to be the site of a celebration to mark the the 60th anniversary of the iconic structure.

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But four days before the ‘A Life In A Day – Bridge Takeover’ jamboree was due to begin on June 26, Halton Council announced it was pulling the plug following advice from public health experts.

The event had been billed as a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to mark the bridge’s 60th birthday and would have seen revellers crossing what’s more commonly called the Runcorn Bridge in themed stages to mark each phase of life, such as new mums with prams, or teenagers wanting to make a fashion statement.

However, in June, Halton and the rest of the Liverpool City Region were ‘Enhanced Response Areas’ due to rising cases of the Delta variant of COVID and spectators had already been banned from watching the event before it was eventually axed.

Where did the funds come from?

A Freedom of Information request has now revealed that £111,247 was paid to event organisers Walk the Plank, with a clause being included in the contract to ensure payment in the event of a cancellation.

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According to the figures, the money came from the Liverpool City Region (LCR), Arts Council England and the Welcome Back Fund, a European-funded government scheme designed to support high streets and tourist attractions through COVID.

The event was part of the Borough of Culture project that was first introduced in 2018 by metro mayor Steve Rotheram and rotates around the six areas that make up the city region, with the baton recently being passed from Halton to Knowsley.

The FOI figures show Halton spent £891,177 over the course of its year at the helm, with £50,000 of that being the councils’ own money, the rest coming from successful bids to external funders, businesses and the Liverpool City Region.

The £111,247 for the cancelled ‘A Life In A Day – Bridge Takeover’ event was its biggest single outlay.

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The launch event of Knowsley’s own Borough of Culture programme had to be delayed this week due to COVID uncertainty.

What’s been said

A Halton Council spokeswoman said: “The money was spent and is not being reclaimed by any of the external funders. A lot of the work had already been done by Walk the Plank and their artists.”

Liz Pugh, creative producer and the co-founder of Walk the Plank, said: “The event was cancelled at very short notice, when all the planning, participation recruitment and production management had been done.

“Contractually, we were obliged to pay all our suppliers – artists, crew, contractors, freelancers etc.

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“We had planned the event so that it was deliverable within COVID-19 restrictions, so we were disappointed that it couldn’t go ahead, not least because more than 600 people had signed up with more coming in every day and to let all those participants down was heartbreaking.

“However, we do understand that the council felt it was inappropriate to go ahead with the event, given the public health risks at the time.”

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