Wickham Festival organisers have hit out at the government after being forced to postpone next month’s event.
The hugely popular showpiece – scheduled for August 6-9 – has now been put back to next year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It had been hoped a scaled-down version might have been possible and contingency plans were drawn up to enable full social distancing.
Although these met current legal requirements, lack of government guidance has made it impossible to go ahead according to organiser Peter Chegwyn.
He said: “We have delayed making the decision in the hope that the government would issue some clear guidelines and we were very close to getting it on.
“But unfortunately the lack of clarity and a coherent strategy from Westminster means we have been forced to cancel which will cost the Wickham area around £1m in lost revenue.
“The government have said that concert halls can re-open – but they can’t stage concerts! That is like saying pubs can re-open but not serve any alcohol! It sums up how vague and contradictory the policies are.
“They have said there should be no live performances to a live audience indoors but it is not clear whether that also applies outdoors.
“We could have got rid of our traditional big tops to have an entirely outdoor event and we have been advised that would have met current criteria. But we just don’t know if that would be within whatever guidelines are dreamed up for the first week in August.
“We are absolutely gutted to have to delay but the government have made it impossible to go ahead with any certainty. We could not risk having everything in place and then having to cancel at the very last minute.
“It is desperately sad not just for the thousands who had bought tickets but also for local businesses such as shops, hotels, lighting, staging, catering, breweries, landowners and more. They will lose a lot of money as a result.
“Boris Johnson says he wants to open up the economy and we were ready to help but unfortunately it has proved impossible to stage the festival this year.
“Instead the entire programme, including our main headliner Van Morrison, will roll over to next year. Tickets will still be valid and we hope to see everyone back here for a huge party. We will make it our biggest and best event yet to make up for this year’s disappointment.”
Those unable to make the August 5-8 dates in 2021 will be able to get a refund with details being announced shortly.
Chegwyn added: “We have a very loyal following and many have already told us they will keep hold of their tickets, especially those who bought at a discount rate before our headliners were announced.
“We have a fantastic line-up with Van Morrison being joined by the Waterboys, Leo Sayer, The South, Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets, the SAS Band starring Wickham favourites Tom Robinson, Toyah, Steve Harley and many more.
“The strength of this festival is the family feel and the relaxed environment from the laid-back atmosphere to the welcoming nature of the village. We have taken on board feedback from ticket-holders and residents and by next year we will be ready for a big party!”
Festival website: https://www.wickhamfestival.co.uk/