Melton food festival cancelled due to Covid restrictions

Melton’s iconic annual food festival has been cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions and organisers say there are concerns about the future viability of events.

Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 12:29 pm
Visitors to the East Midlands Food Festival in Melton enjoy the event two years ago EMN-200915-122105001

We reported last month that it was still hoped the East Midlands Food Festival, at the town’s livestock market, would still go ahead on the weekend of October 3 and 4.

But organiser, Matthew O’Callaghan, confirmed this morning (Tuesday) that it had now been decided to call off the event following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of tighter national Covid-19 restrictions limiting gatherings to no more than six people in households and social settings.

Those temporary regulations were due to be reviewed on October 1 but Mr O’Callaghan said that it would be too late to decide whether to hold the festival so an early decision has been made following discussions with the local events safety advisory group.

He told the Melton Times: “It had been looking very positive until Boris Johnson made that announcement last week.

“The exhibitors would have had to spend a lot of money getting in stock and I would have also run the risk of losing a lot of money from a later cancellation.

“It is not looking likely that the government would permit large gatherings at events after October 1 so we decided it was best to cancel it.

“It is a sad day for Melton because the food festival is the main event which reinforces our link as the rural capital of food and it puts the town and the borough in the national media spotlight every year.”

No tickets had been made available to be pre-sold for the food festival so there is no need to reimburse anyone.

It is still hoped that ChocFest may still go ahead at the livestock market on the weekend of November 21 and 22 but there must be uncertainty surrounding that event too.

Mr O’Callaghan said he lost ‘a five-figure sum’ from the cancellation of the annual Artisan Cheese Fair earlier in the year due to the coronavirus lockdown.

And he is concerned about the financial viability of holding the calendar of food events in future years due to the impact of the pandemic and the lack of additional funding from local authorities and other sources.

“After significant losses for us this year and the possibility of future events being cancelled too it is getting to the point where you are considering whether it is viable to take on the risk of holding them,” he said.

“We only had two-thirds of the exhibitors signed up for this year’s food festival which shows the impact the crisis has had on them.

“Exhibitors and the public would expect reduced fees to attend and insurance costs have doubled after Covid protection.

“So, less income and higher costs do not bode well for being able to hold future events.”

Mr O’Callaghan, who is chair of the Melton Mowbray Food Partnership, called on local tourism and civic leaders to set up a strategy to safeguard future events.

He added: “Tourism brings in £100million a year into the borough’s economy through things like the pork pie shop, hotels, cafes, restaurants and events.

“The tourism sector is a sleeping beauty during this pandemic and I think it is vital we come up with a strategy now to wake it up so we are ready for when Covid restrictions are relaxed again.”