THE Lymington Seafood Festival could still take place this year as a scaled-back event with safety its highest priority, say organisers.
Richard Nowell says he believes that rather than banning all outdoor events because of the coronavirus the government should be looking at them on a “case by case” basis.
He said: “A huge festival like Reading which attracts over 80,000 people is entirely different to a small event like ours where you could put in place measures that will protect both visitors and stallholders.
“I believe the government should give event organisers like us the chance to act responsibly and give us a roadmap out of the present situation.
“Events are very different in type, some are easier to open than others.
“I think the event industry should be given to safely operate, meeting the criteria set down by bodies such as Public Health England.”
If the weekend seafood festival were allowed to go ahead as planned on 8th-9th August, Mr Nowell said it would only do so with “stringent measures” in place to ensure safety.
These would include safe distancing, queue controls to limit the number of people on site, stall holders wearing personal protective equipment, hand-washing stations and contactless payment.
Mr Nowell said: “I do believe we could safely run the seafood festival by working closely with the police and the local councils.
“Events such as ours bring in a huge amount of money into a community, as well as giving stallholders a living.
“Many festival food stall owners rely on summer events to make their money. Some have been able to flip their business to online, many have not.
“As restrictions around the hospitality industry start to be relaxed, I feel events should also be given the chance to find a roadmap out of the nightmare that is coronavirus.”
Richard and Domine Nowell also organise the Dogstival festival which has been postponed until September. If both festivals are cancelled this year, Mrs Nowell said they will be back “bigger and better” next summer.
Other festival organisers are not so hopeful about events being allowed this year and have already cancelled.
Christchurch Food Festival, which attracted 60,000 last year, is one casualty. Likewise Mudeford Seafood Festival and Highcliffe Food and Arts Festival.
One of the Highcliffe event’s organisers, Mary Reader, told the A&T: “We are so disappointed as we had an amazing programme of cookery demonstrations, entertainment and craft workshops lined up for this year.
“We had sold 120 food and drink stalls and 60 craft ones. Our musical entertainment was due to include some fantastic musicians, including Swing Unlimited, and we were going to have two stages this year.”
Organisers are now holding a virtual festival for later in the summer which will include demonstrations from leading chefs, craft workshops and a taste of the musical entertainment that visitors would have enjoyed.
Mrs Reader said she is hopeful the festival will happen next year but fears it may not be on the scale of previous ones.
She said: “I have to be honest and say I don’t know whether it will be bigger and better next year, as several of our sponsors are closed at the moment and we haven’t been able to have proper conversations with them.
“Some who are in financial difficulties have had to withdraw for the time being, but they have indicated that they will be pleased to talk to us about next year, and so it is fingers crossed.
“Others have already committed for next year and we will certainly work hard to make sure the festival is as good as it can be. We would, of course, love to hear from any other potential sponsors who would be interested in joining our great community event.”