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Planning for an alternative Christmas and Fair

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Charnwood Borough Council is looking at alternative ways to celebrate Christmas and mark the annual Loughborough Fair in November as it considers cancelling key events due to the pandemic.

Loughborough Fair will not be happening in its usual format and there will be no big rides and instead a ceremony will take place to mark the 799th year of the Royal Charter Fair, accompanied by a few children’s rides.

The town hall panto Aladdin will be postponed until 2021 and the Loughborough Christmas lights switch-on event in Market Place will be cancelled, replacing it with a Christmas Market.

The Christmas lights in Loughborough will still be switched on.

All three events take months of planning and the Council says it needs to make decisions now to focus efforts on alternative celebrations and to avoid incurring costs which cannot be recovered.

The Remembrance Sunday service at the Carillon will go ahead in November and but it is proposed to cancel the parade.

All events will follow the latest guidance on social distancing.

A report about the proposals is being considered by the Council’s Cabinet on August 13.

Cllr Jenny Bokor, lead member for Loughborough, said: “Cabinet papers are not usually fun but I have to say this is about the least fun Cabinet paper I have ever had to present to colleagues, but as many people have said ‘these are unprecedented times’.

“We need to make a decision now so we can focus on what we can do to celebrate Christmas and Loughborough Fair and make sure we are still able to properly and safely honour those who gave their lives to protect our country.

“By November and December, town centre events are going to need to be carefully managed and we cannot say what social distancing measures will be in place by then. Looking after people’s health and wellbeing is paramount.

“We recognise the importance of Christmas to local businesses and that’s why we will be looking at other ways to encourage people into the town centre in a safer and more manageable way.
“We are disappointed to be moving the pantomime to next year but as there is so much uncertainty about how theatres can operate in the coming months, it is necessary. We hope we can find other uses for the town hall in the coming months.”

The report to Cabinet sets out proposals in more detail but they are summarised below.

Loughborough Fair

The fair fills the town centre with rides and stalls and attracts tens of thousands of people over four days each year. Loughborough has had the Royal Charter Fair for 799 years and plans are being developed for the 800th anniversary in 2021. The Council is proposing to celebrate the 2020 fair with a small selection of children’s rides, food stalls, and an opening ceremony commissioned including the traditional reading of the Royal Charter Fair by the Mayor of Charnwood.

Loughborough Christmas Lights switch-on

The event is usually held on the last Sunday of November in the town centre and attracts up to 15,000 people to see the lights being switched on in the afternoon. The Council says the lights will still sparkle over Loughborough and is looking at holding a special four-day Christmas market and other festive activities instead of the one-off switch-on.

Loughborough Town Hall Pantomime          

The town hall pantomime, produced by Little Wolf Entertainment, has received a five-star rating from the industry-leading newspaper The Stage for the past five years, something few, if any other theatres have achieved. The Council is proposing to move this year’s planned production of Aladdin to 2021. The panto regularly attracts over 30,000 people each year. Alternative uses for the town hall will be looked at for the festive period to help bring people to the town centre.

Remembrance Sunday Service

The Council is proposing to hold a Remembrance Sunday Service at the Carillon in Queen’s Park including prayers, the playing of the Last Post, and poppies being cascaded from the top of the Carillon. The service will be broadcast on social media. The parade would not be held.

More detail is contained the Cabinet report which can be found on the Council website.