Shropshire Star

Talking Telford: An annual fireworks furore in illuminating times

We’re quite a ways into November, which means the traditional west Telford firework cavalcade is well and truly upon us.

The rainbow lights at Southwater One on Saturday night

It begins every year around Bonfire Night and then goes on for weeks or even months: every couple of nights without warning, the cold, black skies over Lawley suddenly burst into vibrant life, multicoloured explosions accompanied by a volley of thunderous cracks. It can be over in an instant, or last half an hour or so. It goes beyond the traditional early November displays and seems to be a feature of evenings in Lawley pretty much throughout winter.

Luckily for me, I don’t have any anxious pets or small children, don’t work night shifts and tend to find the firework displays captivating – but by and large the good people of Facebook don’t agree, and this time of year the neighbourhood gossip pages are always full up with complaints about the displays and what the complainants see as the inconsideration of their organisers.

There is at least one major lightshow in Telford that doesn’t wake anyone up or give anyone conniptions – apart from the town’s MP, that is. Southwater One, the oddly panelled, undulating building in the town centre that houses the borough council and a Costa Coffee, is often lit up in the evenings with powerful multicoloured LEDs – sometimes just to look pretty, and sometimes in specific colours to demonstrate kinship with some cause or another.

When I passed the other night, it was lit in rainbow colours so a beautiful spectrum played out across the building’s perimeter.

You would hope rainbow lights would be pretty uncontroversial in 2023 (though of course there are some who get themselves worked up with rage at the most innocuous show of support for the LGBTQ+ community). ‘Uncontroversial’ is not how you would describe the last instance of Southwater One being lit up though. It was illuminated in red, gold and green for the start of Black History Month – then, days later, after Hamas attacked Israel and killed more than a thousand civilians, Telford MP Lucy Allan complained to the borough council and demanded the lights be changed to Israeli blue.

Sure enough, Southwater One turned blue that very night. A month on, now that retaliatory Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed thousands of people and turned the Strip into a “graveyard for children” in the words of the UN, would we be so quick to turn public buildings blue? It shows the folly of these kinds of gestures – if you’re going to publicly show support for a cause, you’d better be prepared to reckon with what can be done in that cause’s name.