Questions asked over Garstang Victorian Christmas festival cancellation due to Covid

A hugely popular Victorian Christmas festival in a Lancashire market town has had to be cancelled for the second year running due to Covid.

The Garstang Victorian Christmas Festival, which was due to take place in December, has now been cancelled because of Covid safety fears.

Organisers say the decision has not been taken lightly and is due to fears of huge visitor numbers descending on the traditional, large scale free event in the current pandemic.

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They said a ‘difficult decision’ was made to prioritise the safety of volunteers, committee members and the community.

But the decision has prompted criticism that local businesses and the community would suffer, with one person branding it a “strange decision for an outdoor market event.”

They said: “Sports stadiums are operating full capacity, no limits in pubs and shops, the vulnerable are vaccinated and most people now are going about their usual lives. It’s a strange decision for an outdoor market event.”

Another commented: “If now isn’t the time to try and go ahead with these sorts if events then when is? Covid is never going to be gone, so do we just never do it? Hide away indefinitely?”

And the event would have boosted local businesses who have already suffered enough, according to another, who added: “Small family run businesses have suffered enough over the last 18 months and now one of their busiest nights of the year has been taken away from them again.”

But others came out in favour, pointing to the ‘stress’ and worry’ for organisers who were volunteers undertaking a ‘tremendous amount of work’, adding: “To add Covid concerns into the organising of the festival is another huge undertaking. The stress and worry for the committee obviously have an impact on them and their decision to cancel. Who knows what this Christmas will look like regarding the virus?”

Another said: “So sad about this, but I also understand the reasoning. This festival has become such a huge part of our Christmas celebration for many years. I look forward to the 2022 festival.”

Damian Carr, a supporter and former organiser of the event said organisers were ‘very disappointed’ but it was felt that the non-ticketed festival attended by thousands of people could not go ahead safely.

He said: “It is great that things are getting back to normal, but it is such a big event and we just don’t have the manpower to do it safely this year. We love doing it, and it is a fabulous event for the town and it will be sadly missed. We are looking forward to doing it next year.”

He added that just a few volunteers were behind the event, highlighting that any offers of help for next year would be welcome.

The Garstang Victorian Festival Committee said on the group’s Facebook page: “As a hugely popular and busy community event, we know that the festival plays an important role in the Garstang community calendar, but as a non-ticketed, free event we are aware of the HUGE visitor numbers the evenings attract.

“Whilst this is fantastic for the atmosphere of the festival, we are aware that, in light of the current Covid situation, this is not ideal. We have therefore taken the decision to cancel this year’s festival that would have been held in December.

“This decision has not been taken lightly, but with months of work needed in the background to organise such a large-scale event, we have taken the view that organising such a gathering in light of the current pandemic would not be responsible, as we value the safety of our committee members, volunteers and of the community.”

The committee added that it was hoped the festival would return next year.

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