Sadiq Khan and the BBC were today accused of politicising New Year’s Eve with a ‘woke’ pro-EU, NHS and BLM firework and drone display on the Thames cooked up in secret with Scotland Yard and narrated by Sir David Attenborough, MailOnline can reveal.
The Mayor of London kept the taxpayer-funded firework display a mystery to avoid crowds gathering during the pandemic at Greenwich where rockets were fired from a barge in the river and 300 drones flew above the O2 Arena in south-east London.
10.8million locked-down Britons, forced to celebrate New Year at home and eager to bid farewell to a miserable 2020, tuned into BBC One to watch the display, which costs the taxpayer up to £2.3million based on previous years.
MailOnline has asked City Hall for the cost of last night’s controversial display, curated by Mr Khan with the help of the BBC, Titanium Fireworks, SKYMAGIC drone displays, Durham Marenghi Lighting, Signify audio and Jack Morton, a London media agency. The Mayor of London has also thanked the Met, The Port of London Authority, and the Civil Aviation Authority for their help in putting it on.
Many watching on TV were outraged and said the show was ‘ruined by politics’ after the tiny drones and Thames bridges were turned blue and yellow to give a tribute to the European Union as the UK finally left, made the shape of a BLM fist and a turtle with Africa on its shell during a climate change lecture by Sir David Attenborough.
One critic tweeted Mr Khan directly and said: ‘This was a opportunity to unite, yet you continue to want to divide us all, disgraceful’. Another wrote: ‘Even making firework political now spoilt it for me’, and one angry BBC viewer said: ‘It was a disgrace. The whole thing. Propaganda to fireworks, lights and music. Wish we hadn’t watched it, like many others I know’.
One irate viewer, who pointed to Mr Khan’s previous pro-EU displays, tweeted: ‘Had my London fireworks ruined by politics again. Turned off after four minutes.’
One Greenwich resident shocked by the unannounced fireworks said it ‘sounded like the Blitz’ while another local tweeted: ‘I live a 3 minute walk along river from it. We weren’t even told it was happening. Hence our traumatised pets!’
Another wrote: ‘The irony of David Attenborough voicing over that our planet is fragile and we need to look after all the inhabitants during the London fireworks. All whilst a shed load of explosive go bang, polluting that fragile environment and frightening the c**p out of most the inhabitants’.
Labour’s Mayor of London Mr Khan was involved in curating the firework display, which began with a bang at midnight when a nightingale bird in European Union colours appeared over the O2 Arena just after Britain’s trade deal with Brussels kicked in.
A raised fist – which became synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement this year – first appeared as spoken-word artist George the Poet read an extract of his poem Coronavirus: The Power of Collaboration.
The writer – who turned down an OBE last year due to the ‘pure evil’ of the British Empire – read: ‘The future holds unexposed danger, but no stress. Humankind is no stranger to progress. And as we have proven, when we collaborate, progress follows fast.’ The NHS logo and Captain Sir Tom Moore were also depicted in the show, which was produced with the help of the BBC. But the display also lacked a performance of Auld Lang Syne, with just a few notes from the Hogmanay classic being played before host Alicia Keys instead launched into her song New York from a concert streamed from Los Angeles.
Viewers have slammed the BBC for ‘forcing politics’ into London’s controversial New Year’s Eve light show after 300 drones made the shape of a Black Lives Matter fist (pictured) and shone in EU colours over London’s skies
Viewers slammed the display as ‘ridiculous’ after the drones made the shape of a BLM fist and a turtle with Africa on its shell (pictured) – alongside the NHS logo and a depiction Captain Sir Tom Moore in the sky
The 300 drones lit up the night’s sky writing NHS with a green heart around it as fireworks erupted by The Millennium Dome in London
During the display, a bird appeared in the sky – in reference to the building of the Nightingale hospitals – after a clip of a news broadcast states: ‘Buildings were lit up in blue, the colour of the NHS’
Many also pointed out that the EU-inspired opening lights (pictured) and the first shape which appeared above The Millennium Dome – a blue and yellow bird
London’s light and firework show also featured a reference to online video calls which became a popular option for the swathes of Britons working from home in lockdown
Outraged Britons said the show was ‘ruined by politics’ after the drones made the shape of a BLM fist and beamed EU colours alongside the NHS logo and a depiction of Captain Sir Tom Moore in the sky
Who was involved in the NYE display cooked up by Sadiq Khan and the BBC
The Greater London Authority and the BBC worked with:
Jack Morton Worldwide marketing agency
On the Sly
Durham Marenghi Lighting
The Metropolitan Police
City of London Police
Westminster City Council
The City of London Corporation
Transport for London
The Port of London Authority
The Civil Aviation Authority
Another Twitter user said the show was ‘going well’, but said organisers ‘just had to force politics into it’ while someone else commented: ‘Well, the London celebrations were a little bit political weren’t they! Could’ve just set off fireworks and had a bit of music, but no.’
One viewer added: ‘Can’t believe the London firework display. BLM, all about change, new ways… never seen so much politicized bulls***.’
It is unclear exactly who curated the lightshow, which will have been signed off by officials at Sadiq Khan’s City Hall and paid for by London’s taxpayers.
The display also featured an extract from a poem written by New Zealand-born Tomos Robertson – who goes by the name Tom Foolery – titled The Great Realisation.
As fireworks lit up the sky, a narrator read: ‘In 2020, a new virus came our way. We knew what must be done and so to help we hid away.
‘Old habits became extinct and they made way for the new. And every simple act of kindness was now given its due.’
Just seconds later, a bird appeared in the sky – in reference to the building of the Nightingale hospitals – after a clip of a news broadcast states: ‘Buildings were lit up in blue, the colour of the NHS’.
But many have wondered why the bird also featured yellow in its wings on the night the UK left the European Union for good.
Towards the end of the show, the shape of a turtle appeared in the sky as Sir David Attenborough said: ‘Happy New Year. Our planet is unique. A living world of diversity and wonder. It’s also fragile.
‘With a new year comes the opportunity for change. And if we act, in 2021 we can make a world of difference.’
Fireworks were also seen over Tower Bridge in the capital.
The drones also formed the words ‘love together’ in the sky over London on New Year’s Eve. The show was broadcast on BBC One
London’s New Year’s Eve display also featured a depiction of Captain Sir Tom Moore in lights as fireworks erupted
Towards the end of the show, the shape of a turtle appeared in the sky. As Sir David Attenborough speaks, the turtle (pictured) changes colour and the shape of Africa appears on its shell
Many have wondered why the bird (pictured) also featured yellow in its wings on the night the UK left the European Union for good
The fist – which became synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement which swept the globe this year – first appeared as spoken-word artist George the Poet (left) read an extract of his poem Coronavirus: The Power of Collaboration. Towards the end of the show, the shape of a turtle appeared in the sky as Sir David (right) said: ‘Happy New Year. Our planet is unique. A living world of diversity and wonder. It’s also fragile’
Fireworks erupted on Tower Bridge in London tonight as the scaled-down display brought in the New Year in the capital
Mr Khan confirmed that the traditional fireworks show would not go ahead back in September, saying that ‘we can’t afford’ to have large numbers of people congregating amid the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured: The alternative celebrations involved a light show and fireworks over the Millennium Dome and Tower Bridge
Revellers gathered by London Eye tonight. The area would normally be jam-packed with Londoners keep to get a glimpse of the fireworks – which were cancelled this year
As he continues, the turtle changes colour and the shape of Africa appears on its shell.
‘Together, we can turn things around. Together, we can restore our fragile home and make it a happy new year for all the inhabitants of planet earth.’
Mr Khan shared a clip of the BLM segment of the show with the caption: ‘Our New Year’s Eve show just sent a loud, proud message to the world: London stands together against racism – tonight and always.’
He tagged George the Poet, whose real name is George Mpanga, in the tweet. Mr Mpanga opened the BBC’s coverage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding with one of his poems and his work has won the support of the Duke of Sussex.
Mr Khan confirmed that the traditional fireworks show would not go ahead back in September, saying that ‘we can’t afford’ to have large numbers of people congregating amid the coronavirus pandemic.
He dubbed the alternative celebrations ‘something that people can enjoy in the comfort of their living room’ at the time.
While many heaped criticism on the display, others praised its inclusion of the BLM movement and climate change
Sadiq Khan shared a clip of the BLM segment of London’s light show with the caption: ‘Our New Year’s Eve show just sent a loud, proud message to the world: London stands together against racism – tonight and always’
As the new year was welcomed in, crowds were seen flouting Covid lockdown rules by gathering along the river. The capital is in Tier 4
Police officers were seen speaking to a man during an anti-lockdown protest demonstration in London on New Year’s Eve
LONDON: The brightly-lit Christmas tree in Trafalgar square in the capital stood alone as large barriers blocked off rule-breaking pedestrians
LONDON: Normally-bustling Trafalgar Square in London was eerily deserted with officials putting up barriers to keep rule breakers away
EDINBURGH: Scotland’s traditional Hogmanay celebrations have been moved online this year leaving streets deserted (pictured), with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier warning people to celebrate ‘responsibly and in line with the restrictions’
EDINBURGH: The city was nearly-empty today as traditional celebrations were moved online. Just a handful of people walked the streets
LONDON: Images of the deserted streets of London this year (The Mall, pictured) were a stark contrast to the bustling crowds last year (left)
EDINBURGH: In 2019 a large Christmas Market was in Princes Street Gardens n Edinburgh and several live music stages were erected on the city streets (left). This year, however, the same streets were almost empty due to Covid rules (right)
LONDON: The street opposite the London Eye was jam-packed last year with revellers keen to get a glimpse of the fireworks (left). But with the display cancelled this year, those same streets were empty (right)
BIRMINGHAM: The streets of Birmingham were empty tonight (right) in stark contrast to scenes this time last year (left)
EDINBURGH: The Royal Mile in Edinburgh this evening resembled a ghost town as weary Scots followed Government advice and stayed at home
LONDON: A man holds a sparkler in front of the London Eye, in what would normally be a ticket-only area filled to capacity waiting for the annual fireworks display
LONDON: Piccadilly Circus was nearly empty tonight as revellers stayed at home amid the Covid-19 pandemic
LONDON: London’s China Town was nearly empty tonight as New Year’s Eve celebrations were cancelled amid the Covid pandemic
LONDON: A mask-wearing couple kiss while holding a sparkler in front of the London Eye. The annual firework display will not go ahead this year due to coronavirus
BLACKPOOL: Blackpool – a traditional New Year’s Eve hotspot – was equally abandoned by rule-abiding citizens who stayed at home
LONDON: Rows of police vehicles stand guard near to the London Eye, where this year’s fireworks display has been cancelled to avoid crowds gathering
BIRMINGHAM: The streets of Birmingham were deserted tonight as New Year’s Eve celebrations were canceled due to Covid
BIRMINGHAM: The street’s of Birmingham were lit up by lights on New Year’s Eve as revellers remained at home amid the Covid-19 pandemic
LONDON: Police officers were seen on the streets of London in what should be a quiet New Year’s Eve with most people staying indoors
LEEDS: The Tier 3 city was left deserted this year with only takeaways from bars and pubs permitted. Revellers will be celebrating New Year’s Eve indoors this year
LEEDS: The streets of Leeds were bare this evening as locals stayed at home. Lockdown rules mean New Year’s Eve will look very different for countless Britons this year
Earlier in the evening, fireworks lit up the sky over Newcastle in an incredible display watched by thousands from their windows.
Normally-bustling Trafalgar Square in London was eerily deserted as the clock struck midnight with officials putting up barriers to keep rule breakers away.
But some Londoner’s appeared to push their luck earlier in the evening with crowds gathering in Piccadilly Circus and on Westminster Bridge.
Under Tier 4 rules only two people from different households can meet outdoors, but police were seen speaking to crowds of at least five.
Scotland’s traditional Hogmanay celebrations have been moved online this year, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier warning people to celebrate ‘responsibly and in line with the restrictions’.
She added: ‘To be clear, and I take no pleasure in saying this, that means no gatherings, no house parties, no first-footing. Instead, we should bring in 2021 in our own homes with just our own households.’
LEEDS: Leeds locals were forced to welcome the new year in with alcohol bought from off licenses as pubs and bars remained shut
LONDON: Piccadilly Circus was nearly empty this evening as revellers were banned from attending raucous New Year’s Eve parties due to Covid
LONDON: A busker performs to a handful of people in Covent Garden on New Year’s Eve this year as lockdown rule put a halt to normal gatherings
EDINBURGH: The streets of the Scottish city were empty tonight. Strings of Christmas lights and brightly-lit shops cast an eerie glow over the pavement
LONDON: Soho’s normally-bustling streets were nearly empty this evening as London’s bars, pubs and restaurants remain shut
EDINBURGH: Locals walked past a shut pub in Edinburgh as Hogmanay celebrations take place online this year
LONDON: Buckingham Palace in London was deserted tonight – in stark contrast to last year – as revellers opted to stay at home instead
CARDIFF: The streets of Cardiff were empty tonight – in contrast to last year – as the country remains under its highest alert level
LONDON: Police officers stand guard in London to deter rule-breaking revellers on New Year’s Eve while the city remains under Tier 4 lockdown
CARDIFF: The streets of Cardiff are usually a hotspot for eager New Year’s Eve revellers. They were empty this year due to lockdown
LONDON: A trio of police officers keep watch over Leicester Square this evening, with two pedestrians seen walking past. The Government hopes eople will stick to Tier 4 rules and celebrate New Year’s Eve at home
LONDON: Parliament Square is empty, except for a few police officers standing guard near a gate. People around the country are celebrating New year’s Eve differently this year, holding their festivities at home
LONDON: Two police officers speak to a group of people this evening as Tier 4 restrictions mean New Year’s Eve celebrations must be held in people’s own homes rather than out partying
LONDON: The London Eye cuts a lonely figure in the centre of London this evening, with the usual New Year’s Eve crowds advised to stay home and celebrate safely
NEWCASTLE: A number of people stand around outside a restaurant on Newcastle’s Quayside this evening. Some of them are seen holding and enjoying drinks
LONDON: Police officers and stewards are seen in Piccadilly Circus in a near-deserted London on New Year’s Eve
LONDON: People stand outside a pub that is open for takeaway drinks during the New Year’s Eve. London is in Tier 4 meaning pubs are takeaway-only
LONDON: The Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace in London was nearly-deserted as New Year’s Eve parties were banned under Covid lockdown rules
GLASGOW: Party hotspot Glasgow was also empty tonight as revellers were urged to celebrate at home this year
GLASGOW: Hogmanay in Scotland has moved online this year to ensure that huge crowds don’t gather in breach of Covid lockdown rules
ISLES OF SCILLY: In stark contrast to the rest of the UK, locals on the Isles of Scilly were pictured enjoying a New Year’s Eve drink in the only three pubs in England which are open tonight
ISLES OF SCILLY: There are normally around a dozen pubs on the archipelago but a number have closed this year, leaving punters with few options for welcoming in 2021 (some revellers pictured), but more than those on the mainland
ISLES OF SCILLY: The islands’ 2,000-strong population (some revellers pictured) is the only part of England still in Tier 1, with all other parts of the country having moved into Tiers 3 or 4
Blackpool – another traditional New Year’s Eve hotspot – was equally abandoned by rule-abiding citizens who stayed at home.
Leeds, Birmingham and Cardiff also saw nearly-empty streets as Covid-conscious locals stayed indoors.
Meanwhile in Primrose Hill, revellers gathered outdoors in their household groups to watch people’s back-garden fireworks erupt across the city’s skyline.
In stark contrast to the rest of the UK, locals on the Isles of Scilly were pictured enjoying a New Year’s Eve drink in the only three pubs in England which are open tonight.
The islands’ 2,000-strong population is the only part of England still in Tier 1, with all other parts of the country having moved into Tiers 3 or 4.
There are normally around a dozen pubs on the archipelago but a number have closed this year, leaving punters with few options for welcoming in 2021, but more than those on the mainland.
Even though the rules are clear in banning gatherings, thousands still plan on attending illegal raves and street parties. But 96 per cent of Britons plan to stay home tonight, according to a YouGov poll.