All legal coronavirus restrictions ended in England earlier this week and I’m under no illusion about the challenges and frustrations many have faced to get to this point.
At various times depending on the rules over the last difficult 14 months, we have been able to go shopping, enjoy a meal and a drink, visit friends, or go on a staycation. Local businesses adapted well and showed extraordinary resilience in the face of three lockdowns, readily embracing the government’s support on offer.
But many of East Devon’s fantastic cultural events have been completely on hold for two years. It’s easy to forget this due to the pandemic hitting last Spring and the seasonal nature of our social calendar.
I remember walking through the streets of Sidmouth last summer. It was sadly much quieter than usual despite the welcome influx of tourists who helped many businesses survive after lockdown.
Only able to be online last year, the Sidmouth Folk Festival is an important fixture in the East Devon calendar with talented musicians from across the world coming to town and bringing joy to the thousands of residents and visitors who enjoy live music, dancing, crafts, food and drink. The festival supports many local jobs and is a vital contributor to our local economy.
The town bustles with activity and that it couldn’t take place last year hit the organisers hard.
Folk fans and local well-wishers flocked to support the festival’s crowdfunding campaign, which raised over £100,000 to secure the long-term future of the event. Organisers have also received grant funding from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund to cover ongoing organisational overheads and enable a festival celebration to take place this summer
With all legal restrictions now ending, the government has rightly given large-scale events the green light this summer too. We can’t afford to keep 2m social distancing and shouldn’t bring in domestic vaccine passports which would cripple the industry with uncertainty, cumbersome rules, and capacity limits. These are predominantly outdoor events where the transmission risk is much lower.
By way of comparison, I had the pleasure of attending the Devon County Show recently at Westpoint. Everyone I spoke to agreed that this was well organised with plenty of space, marshals, and hand-sanitisation points. I know the organisers of this year’s slightly slimmed-down Sidmouth Folk Festival are similarly taking all necessary steps to keep visitors safe when the celebration kicks off on 30th July.
Let’s enjoy the best of East Devon’s summer safely. It’s about time.