Organisers of the Great Wonderfest announced on Friday morning last week that this year’s event would be going ahead at the end of August on the Isle of Wight, despite all major (and even smaller) Isle of Wight events being cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
A theatre booking system was revealed, proposing that festival goers book a three metre by three metre exclusive pitch for up to six people. The pitches would be 1.5 metres apart.
There was a mixed reaction to the news, with some support, but also criticism from others (including IW event organisers) that the proposals did not meet Government Covid-19 guidelines.
IWC: “Potential impact on key services”
Great Wonderfest organisers said they’d been through an “intensive period of consultation and meticulous preparation”, but by Friday afternoon, the Isle of Wight council issued a statement in which they revealed the event did not meet the current Government guidelines for mass gatherings.
An Isle of Wight Council spokesperson said:
“The authority has been working with all event organisers following the Covid-19 restrictions. The organisers of the Great Wonderfest recently submitted new proposals for their event in August.
“In response the council advised that the Island’s Safety Advisory Group (SAG) would consider these plans prior to any formal licence being applied for, the SAG includes representatives from the Isle of Wight Council, NHS Trust, Police, Fire and other key services.
“The SAG met today [Friday 26th June] and have subsequently advised the organisers that at present they are unable to support the event at the given current government guidelines in relation to mass gatherings and the restriction on live entertainment being performed in front of live audiences, along with the potential impact on key services whilst the current response to Covid-19 remains. Should the guidance and restrictions change then this decision can be revisited.”
MP under fire for support
Isle of Wight Conservative MP, Bob Seely, came under fire on social media for supporting the event.
In a tweet from the festival organisers, he was reported as saying,
“This is a great idea. I am pleased to support this – carefully planned – family festival and I would like to thank the organisers for all their hard work over the past few weeks to get this event happening.
“I’m glad that the Isle of Wight is back on the festival calendar. We need events like this to create jobs and give families something to look forward to.
“The Island is getting ready to open up to visitors again so that we can make the most of what remains of our summer season.
“I wish the organisers the best of luck with their preparations and I am looking forward to the event itself.”
IWC: Ensuring spread of infection is prevented
The Isle of Wight council spokesperson went on to add,
“The Isle of Wight Council recognises the important role that events play in the visitor economy of the Island.
“However, whilst working with partners and businesses in the tourism and hospitality on the safe reopening of this sector from 4th July, it is always mindful that this needs to be carefully managed to ensure that we continue the work that has been done to protect the Island and safeguard the community and to ensure that we prevent the spread of infection.”