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Byron Road lights display among swathe of popular events axed as organisers reconsider amid growing infection rates



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The Byron Road lights have raised more than £80,000 over the years (photo: Becky Bryant)
The Byron Road lights have raised more than £80,000 over the years (photo: Becky Bryant)

A STRING of popular events have been cancelled across the New Forest and Christchurch as the coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of going away.

Activities well into the festive season have been affected as organisers reconsider staging get-togethers after restrictions were recently tightened to try to stop a second wave of infections.

It also means a raft of charities have lost out on the potential for thousands of pounds in donations.

Among those cancelling is Ged Hollyoake, who every year arranges fundraising illuminations in Byron Road, New Milton, which has led it to be dubbed Britain’s most festive street.

He will temporarily pull the plug on this year’s display to ensure large crowds won’t be attracted, but promised it would be back “bigger and better” for 2021.

Ged said: “I love doing the Christmas lighting display but I just don’t see how it’s possible to go ahead this year. It usually takes around two months to construct so I reached a point where I had to make a decision about whether or not we could go ahead.”

Lymington’s traditional Christmas on the Quay has also been axed after the Rotary Club, which has organised the event for the last 10 years, said it would be “impossible” to impose social distancing.

A huge crowd usually gathers in the second week of December to welcome Father Christmas as he arrives by boat, supported by the RNLI. Instead there may be a festive display in the high street.

George Dick, chair of the club’s service committee, told the A&T: “We have looked at every way of going ahead with it as it is so well loved. Thousands turn out to see Santa come down Lymington River. But sadly there is just no way that we can think of to have it, with the restrictions as they are.”

The announcement was made at an amenities committee meeting of Lymington and Pennington Town Council. Chair Cllr Barry Dunning told members: “This is such sad news. It is a very popular event.”

He said it was hoped Lymington could still have a Christmas lights display this year, although there would no switching-on ceremony.

New Milton’s annual fireworks display at Fawcett’s Field, which has been run by the New Milton Round Table for the last 55 years, will not go ahead either. Volunteers have warned the cancellation will impact on the community grants it can award next year.

Round Table chair Rob Henderson said: “We discussed it at great length with all our members and we decided that everyone’s safety was paramount and not worth risking.”

Vice-chair Kevin Groarke added: “This event is one of the biggest in our calendar and it’s where we traditionally raise most of our charity money. Sadly, postponing the event will have a huge impact on what we’re able to do for the local community this year.”

The Round Table is still considering whether it will be able to run the annual Santa Sleigh tour at Christmas.

In Christchurch, Christmas is on hold as the town’s Rotary Club abandoned fundraising plans for a series of Advent performances to count down to the big day. The Living Advent Calendar was backed by the town and BCP councils, and would have involved performers at spots including the Captain’s Club, the bandstand on the Quomps and in Saxon Square.

A Rotary spokesperson told the A&T: “Sadly, it will not now be possible to run this event under the expected Covid-19 restrictions on social distancing and group activities. It is therefore postponed until December 2021.”

Chosen charities included Autism Wessex, Macmillan Caring Locally, Christchurch Food Bank and Bournemouth Hospital Charity.

The Rotary’s Christchurch Community Bonfire at Stanpit Recreation Ground has also been called off for the second year running after stormy weather cancelled it in 2019.

Residents are being invited to donate the cost of a £20 family ticket at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/christchurch-rotary-bonfire-appeal



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