Columbia Road Carolling Events Cancelled Over Safety Fears

A weekly carolling event in East London has been cancelled after “becoming a victim of its own success.”

The event, held on Columbia Road in Bethnal Green on Wednesdays in December, was attracting larger crowds each time it took place.

Thousands gathered on the street during the last event on December 6, rendering shops inaccessible and causing organizers to be concerned about public safety.

Evening shopping will still proceed.

Heather Atkinson, vicar at St Peter’s Bethnal Green, stated that there would be no further carolling events this month.

She said, “There was such an influx of people that the crowd was just too big.

“We were finding there were people having panic attacks coming to shops, trying to get escape routes.

“This is not safe and we cannot take any risks. People would probably get hurt if there was any kind of surge.

“It’s heartbreaking because we know how much people enjoy this event – we love it, the traders enjoy it, and the community considers it a part of a local tradition.

“It was so obvious that we had to pull it – and there was a bit of conversation on Thursday morning and there was unity in the decision.”

She believes the event went viral and said: “That’s good news – it’s being shared and people are saying ‘I love this, I want to bring my friends’. It really became a victim if its own success. “So let’s see if we can find a way of resurrecting it in a safer form.”

Lauren Gardner, retail director of vintage clothing shop Vout on Columbia Road, said the idea of carols was “brilliant” but after a film was shared on TikTok last year “it made it incredibly busy on the street and it meant that traffic was choked up.”

She said, “Hopefully, the carols stopping will bring fewer people – if you were just down here for the mulled wine and the drinks, I think that would be a much better idea.

“It’s dangerous to have such large crowds on such a small street, and I think that if it was to go ahead again next year, there needs to be better crowd control, police, and council involvement.”

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said: “The decision to cancel the Columbia Road carolling event was made by the event organiser due to their own concerns around public safety. It was not a decision taken by the council. “We work closely with community organisations and partners, including the police, to support the management of local events and ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents, visitors, and local businesses, and will continue to do so.”