Covid-19 forces event cancellations

March 25 2020

COMMUNITY events scheduled for the coming months have been shelved or postponed as the area unites to tackle Covid-19.
The biggest casualty of the shutdown is the VE anniversary party at Page Park – an event ironically aimed at bringing members of the community of all ages together to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
The party was organised by Staple Hill & District Royal British Legion and was due to take place on bank holiday Friday, May 8.
Dozens of charities, businesses, entertainers and organisations had signed up to take part.
As recently as March 13, the legion confirmed that the event had been selected by the Royal Air Force for a Spitfire fly past during the celebrations.
But by March 15, the legion announced the event would be rescheduled due to the uncertainty surrounding the outbreak of Covid-19.
The party is now being reorganised for Saturday, August 29 to coincide with VJ (Victory over Japan) Day and organisers promise the rescheduled shindig will be “bigger and better”.
Branch chairman Ian Campbell announced the news on Facebook saying: “We are deeply sorry that we have had to take this decision, there have been many weeks of planning and I can assure you that we are as disappointed as you will be. But we must do everything we can to protect those that will be vulnerable to this virus and not help spread it.”
He went on to post: “Thankfully the majority of the community understand that this has had to be done. We will make sure the August event is bigger and better!”
Ian added that he will now be contacting people who had booked stalls or who were hired for entertainment to offer them the rescheduled date.
Ian told the Voice a decision was made prior to Boris Johnson's announcement on March 16 that people should avoid gatherings and crowded places.
“I didn't want anyone to be out of pocket, especially the small businesses that were booked and could have been designing and making things for the event. It's going to be a hard enough time for local businesses anyway. I thought it was best to make the decision as early as possible.
“I'm obviously extremely disappointed. Myself and the committee have put a lot of work into it so it's not a decision I wanted to make but I think it was the only decision that could be made. The majority of people have been very understanding and certainly businesses have been grateful they've been told now rather than later.”
Ian said it was now a case of onwards and upwards: “We found a lot of people were already booked up for VE Day years in advance so we're hoping those who couldn't make it last time will be able to make it in August.
“The rescheduled event will take place in the school holidays so hopefully a lot more families will attend, and we're hoping it's going to be much bigger. We've certainly had a lot of support from people saying they are willing to get involved in August.”
Staple Hill and Mangotsfield councillor Ian Boulton, who has been involved in supporting the event, said: “The decision to postpone our VE Day celebrations was taken after a great deal of thought and has certainly not been reached lightly. By postponing the event now, we have avoided the financial burden that would have fallen on us if we had to cancel with later notice, meaning that we should be able to plan for a wonderful celebration on August 29, 2020 when we can also celebrate the 75th anniversary of VJ Day and the end of World War II.”
Steph Purser, vice chair of Friends of Page Park, said: “Ian Campbell and the committee had worked very hard and we're very sad it's had to be postponed. It would have been such a lovely day to bring the community together.”
Steph said it was now a case of looking forward to the August event: “Let's hope we can get back to normality and bring our community together.”
Downend WI had been working with community groups and schools to make fabric bunting for the party to echo the street celebrations scenes 75 years ago.
Committee member Susan Belcher said: “The new deadline for flags to be completed and dropped off at Fabric-Plus in Downend will be end of June, which should give much more time for the community to get behind this.There was a little disappointment however, the ladies are looking forward very much to assisting the Royal British Legion for this community bunting. They will be all fired up and ready for a July start, and really looking forward to seeing all the various designs of flags.
"One local junior school has just informed me that they have made six flags, one for each school year. If all the schools do this, we will have a magnificent bunting ready for VE Day on August 29.”
Another casualty of the pandemic is the popular Frenchay 10k which was due to celebrate its 40th anniversary with the event on Sunday April 5.
The 10k has raised more than £150,000 since it launched. Organisers hope to stage the run on Sunday September 6.
Heathfest organisers have also taken the decision to cancel this year's event which was planned for Saturday July 4 at Bromley Heath playing field.
Already a date for next year has been added to the calender and people are being urged to save the date – Saturday July 3, 2021.
The chair of the committee announced the news on Facebook, adding: “It's a shame this decision was made under such sad circumstances, however our community's health and well-being is at the forefront of our minds.”
Further casualties include Downend and Bromley Heath In Bloom – a community group responsible for the cheery floral displays in the area.
The group's Jackie Baker made the announcement on Facebook: “It is with great regret that, in these difficult times, we are having to temporarily suspend all In Bloom activities. We sincerely hope that we will be able to provide a festival of flowers again this year but this may not be possible in light of the uncertainty facing us all. We will certainly try our best to be able to bring what will be a much needed riot of colour to our wonderful community. We will keep you all informed of any developments but we must keep our volunteers and the community safe.”
A bowls course taster course due to take place at Page Park later this month has also been cancelled due to coronavirus.
Lead coach Don Willcox said it was disappointing but the club was following government guidelines to protect the virus from spreading.
For further updates on the VE party, please visit Staple Hill & District Royal British Legion's Facebook page.