Health and safety concerns put a stop to Alexandra Park floating lanterns

Just a year ago Hastings Mayor Councillor Nigel Sinden welcomed participants to the annual Hastings Against War ceremony in Alexandra Park to mark the dropping on the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

This year on the 75th anniversary of the first atomic bomb being dropped, and giving organisers just two days notice, Hastings Borough Council (HBC) has banned the traditional Japanese floating lanterns that were part of the annual ceremony of commemoration, citing health and safety concerns. Organisers have been forced to change their plans for tomorrow’s event.

Now, for the first time in the event’s 13 year history lanterns will be placed on the edge of the lake rather than floating on top of it.

Organisers say: “We regret this politicisation of an established local commemoration, which is observed throughout the world and has been an annual event, with civic participation, in Hastings since 2005.”

The event is scheduled to take place tomorrow (Thursday August 6th) with those taking part gathering from 8pm at the Alexandra Park Boating Pond.

For more than a decade Hastings Against War has marked the anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings by launching lanterns at sunset on the boating lake near the War Memorial in Alexandra Park. 

Lanterns floating on the Alexandra Park lake in previous years.

The event is held to remember the victims and the floating of lanterns was to observe a Japanese tradition that organisers thought was appropriate.

This year is the 75th anniversary of the first nuclear bomb and despite issues surround coronavirus organisers were determined to go ahead, but told those planning to go along: “Sadly the lockdown prevents us from gathering as usual, to listen to speeches from civic representatives and to sing along with the choir. Instead we invite you to come with your own home-made floating lanterns – as many as you can make!

“To ensure social distancing, starting times will be spread out from around 8pm, through sunset at 8.30 and darkness a little later, so when you arrive, don’t just stand around waiting to be told, pick up a lantern and start carrying it mindfully clockwise around the lake, keeping at least two metres behind the person in front of you..

“We mustn’t let this coronavirus stop us from remembering the Hiroshima survivors. Think how they must long for a nuclear-free world. We must not abandon them on their 75th anniversary.”

In a message on its website yesterday Hastings Against War told its supporters: “This year, for the first time and at short notice councillors on Hastings Borough Council have raised objections, on health and safety grounds, to the way we have retrieved floating lanterns after the event in the past by wading into the lake.

“Consequently we are forbidden to float our lanterns. Instead, during each circuit of the lake please stand aside for a moment, light a lantern and place it near the edge of the lake, a metre or two from other lanterns.

“We regret this politicisation of an established local commemoration, which is observed throughout the world and has been an annual event, with civic participation, in Hastings since 2005.”

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