Storm brewing after Hebburn Festival cancelled

THE cancellation of an annual community festival in South Tyneside has sparked anger and frustration among residents and councillors.

Due to a weather warning from the Met Office, the decision was taken to scrap last weekend’s Hebburn Festival.

However, some people in the town say officials at South Tyneside Council were too cautious, given that the weather stayed mostly fine on the day of the planned festival, last Saturday.

Hebburn photographer Kevin Blair, said: “I know a lot of people were angry and disappointed it was called off.

“Would the same decision have been taken if the weather was supposed to be bad for a concert by 10cc, or Heather Small at Bents Park in South Shields? The rain never stops Glastonbury.”

Mr Blair added that an annual bowls festival still took place in the town last weekend, despite the weather forecast.

Originally a two-week event, Hebburn Festival was dogged with financial problems in recent years. In 2009 the event was almost scrapped because of a lack of sponsorship, before Hebburn councillors stepped in with financial support.

Now reduced to a one-day, council-organised community event at Carr Ellison Park, Hebburn Festival still attracts hundreds of people to stalls and fun attractions, while also raising money for local charities.

Coun Richard Porthouse, chairman of Hebburn Community Area Forum, said: “Many people were disappointed when the council decided to cancel the festival, including myself, particularly when the weather was not as bad as predicted.

“It was a real shame because people would have also been raising money for charities like St Clare’s Hospice and the North East Air Ambulance This decision was made by a council officer, not Hebburn members.”

Coun John McCabe said: “The decision was made on health and safety grounds, but it turned out to be the wrong one. It was very disappointing, but the council would have also faced criticism had bad weather caused any health and safety issues.”

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “We took the decision to cancel the Hebburn Festival last weekend based on a yellow weather warning by the Met Office.

“While we understand this was disappointing, we felt it was a necessary precaution .

“We are now looking at the possibility of staging an alternative indoor event in September.”

Twitter: @terrykelly16