Wickham Festival axed as organisers blast government for 'making it impossible' to host music show
BOSSES behind the Wickham Festival have lashed out at the government after being forced to axe next month’s show.
The showpiece, which attracts thousands of music lovers every year, had been scheduled for August 6 to 9 but has now been put back to next year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Organisers had hoped to stage a scaled-down version of the spectacle and contingency plans were drawn up to enable social distancing.
But festival boss Peter Chegwyn claimed a ‘lack of government guidance’ had made it ‘impossible’ for the show to go ahead.
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.
‘The government keep promising clarity but have failed to deliver guidelines promised on June 13. We have delayed a decision for months; we just can’t wait any longer.
‘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.’
The entire festival line-up for this year, including the main headliner Van Morrison, will now roll over to next year’s event, Mr Chegwyn added.
Other acts on the line-up include the Waterboys, Leo Sayer, The South, Nick Lowe and the Los Straitjackets.
Tickets bought by punters for this year’s action will still be valid in 2021.
Those unable to make the August 5-8 dates next year will be able to get a refund with details being announced shortly.
Mr 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.’