This year's carnival theme is the 'Fairy Tale of Balsall Heath', but the intervention of the Council's Transport Department just over a week before the event, has meant that the street procession looks set to turn into a pumpkin. This year's Balsall Heath Carnival street procession has had to be altered at the last minute. Rather than having the annual street procession with floats and children dressed in Carnival costumes walking through the streets, the procession will now have to walk down Balsall Heath's narrow pavements without it's colourful carnival floats.
original route of the street procession
the changed pavement route for the procession
Balsall Heath Carnival's street procession is a local grass-roots initiative and has been self-organised for over thirty years. It has never had any incidents thanks to its stewards and the organisers have plenty of experience of risk assessment and marshaling the procession. Unlike many other Council-led events in the city, Balsall Heath Carnival is a truly inclusive and diverse event that helps community cohesion in one of the city's most deprived areas.
There appears, however, to be a double standard operating for the rest of the city's events that according to the Council's Transport Department should also require charges for road closures. For instance, according to Martin Mullaney, Councillor for Kings Heath and Moseley, it's 'Farmer's Markets' are exempt from these charges and this is because he claims he has intervened with the Transportation Department and as a result the charges have been lifted. It's worth pointing out that Cllr. Mullaney chairs the Transport and Street Services Overview and Scrutiny group. http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/GenerateContent?CONTENT_ITEM_ID=41684&CONTENT_ITEM_TYPE=0&MENU_ID=1282
On the face of it, there seems to be one ruling for gentrified Moseley, and another for Balsall Heath.
The Council's change in approach towards the Street Procession could be due to the appointment of a series of Transport Managers across the country by central government about a year ago. Amongst other things they are concerned with traffic disruption and road safety.
Recently appointed Transport Manger for Birmingham City Council, Alan Dawson claims to have no knowledge of the Street Procession in Balsall Heath and denies having any role in changing the Street Procession. His statement, however, contradicts the fact the organisers received an email from his department saying that they would have to pay for their Street Procession this year. In fact, not only was Mr. Dawson evasive when it came to identifying who was responsible for making this decision at such short notice, but other Council officers and representatives, are also reluctant to say whose decision it was.
Mr. Dawson initially voiced concern about the traffic disruption caused by the street procession, after the Carnival organisers were originally referred to the Transportation Department via Licensing and the Safety Advisory Group.
"My concern, is that the traffic is properly managed” he stated, although he eventually conceded that the rolling road closures that the organisers claim last for about six minutes, wouldn't really cause that much traffic disruption on a Saturday afternoon.
When he was asked why the street procession was now being charged for the first time after thirty years he pointed to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) guidance on carnivals and street processions. This came into effect 6 or 7 years ago when the police, according to the organisers of the event, wanted to charge the event for their services too. When pressed once more for an explanation of this sudden change he referred us to the Transportation Lead Officer, Neil Dancer.
This isn't just an issue for Balsall Heath and its Carnival Street Procession. Across the country, Council bureaucrats and the ‘powers that be’ are stifling community events like street processions and musical events through the zealous enforcement of the Licensing Laws and the prohibitive charges levied by Transport Managers.
To offer support and help for next year's Carnival and Street Procession email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you'd like to contact the Council bureaucrats who made the decision to charge prohibitive costs to the organisers of Balsall Heath Carnival's Street Procession, then we suggest you start at the top of the 'food chain' and work your way down:
Transportation Lead Officer: Neil Dancer
Tel: 0121 303 7415
Fax: 0121 303 6451
Transport Manager: Alan Lloyd
Tel: 0121 303 7693
Whose streets? Our streets!
Getting ready for the pavement procession in Balsall Heath Park
Walking down the pavements of Roshven Road
Negotiating the curbs was pretty tricky
Please drive safely
Stewards and Police occupied the road
Crossing Clifton Road
As you can see from the photos, the roads were still occupied by stewards and this year by the police who accompanied the procession on narrow residential pavements.
For the first time in thirty years the procession lacked its vitality and creativeness, not because the children were making the most of it but mainly due to the absence of the carnival floats and more significantly, the drummers.
According to the organisers, the pavement procession imposed on them by the Council's Transportation Department, caused more disruption to traffic than the actual Street Procession they have been organising themselves for the last thirty years.
Whose streets? Our streets!