Funfair set to go ahead in Canterbury’s Victoria Recreation Ground amid coronavirus pandemic

Noble Horvath

A council has given the go-ahead for a controversial funfair to take place in a park next week. The fair, run by Forrest Amusements, will be allowed to run at Canterbury ‘s Victoria Recreation Ground, as the city council says it is “satisfied with the plans they have in place” […]

A council has given the go-ahead for a controversial funfair to take place in a park next week.

The fair, run by Forrest Amusements, will be allowed to run at Canterbury ‘s Victoria Recreation Ground, as the city council says it is “satisfied with the plans they have in place” to stay Covid secure.

Forrest Amusements' funfair
Forrest Amusements’ funfair

The popular event has been met with a mixed reception as it has toured east Kent in recent weeks.

Following the introduction of the government’s “rule of six” guideline, Dover District Council ruled it would not be allowed to run in Deal earlier this month .

But Swale Borough Council triggered a storm of controversy when it allowed the fair to go ahead as planned in Milton , near Sittingbourne, and at Faversham Rec, where it is running until Saturday .

Dad-of-three Andy Austen, of Athelstan Road in Faversham , is among those who feel the fair should not be allowed to run while coronavirus cases remain high.

He said: “In the current situation, I don’t think people should even be put in the situation where they have the choice [of visiting the fair].

“We love the fair coming to town, but I don’t think it’s the right time for it to be here.”

“It is for the public to ultimately decide if they wish to attend…”

A KentOnline poll found that of more than 1,700 people surveyed, 78% felt the funfair should not be allowed to go ahead.

But Canterbury City Council has now confirmed the fair has the green light to run on the city’s Victoria Rec from next Thursday until Saturday, October 10.

Spokesman Rob Davies said the authority is satisfied the event can go ahead safely.

He said: “We work closely with all organisers to ensure events that come to our district are as safe as possible for the public to attend and enjoy.

“Things do not have to stop just because of the current public health situation – we have to strike the right balance between safety and life continuing as much as possible.

Forrest Amusements Family Fun Fair in Dartford in 2015. Picture: Simon Hildrew
Forrest Amusements Family Fun Fair in Dartford in 2015. Picture: Simon Hildrew

“In the case of the funfair, we asked them to show us how they will remain Covid secure under the latest guidelines, through measures such as hand sanitising, regular cleaning, maintaining social distancing, adhering to the ‘rule of six’ and ensuring there is good on site security and management.

“We are satisfied with the plans they have in place and therefore have no reason to refuse them permission to run the funfair. Obviously if guidelines change ahead of its arrival, or during the event itself, then we will assess the matter at the time and make changes if necessary.

“As with all things, it is for the public to ultimately decide if they wish to attend, in the same way they would decide whether to go down the pub, go to a restaurant for a meal or be in a place where other people from outside their household may be present.”

Forrest Amusements owner Maria Forrest says she is “very confident” all the safety guidelines are in place.

She continued: “We’ve worked very closely with the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, who have advised us how to go forward with the government guidelines, to make sure we are running accordingly.

“I’d also like to thank Swale Borough Council and Canterbury City Council who have been amazing and really helpful.

“We have been operating our funfair for the last five weeks very successfully and the general public that attend seem to be very happy with the whole set-up of the fair.

“We are a family run business. Myself, my family and my own children are a part of this business and it is absolutely crucial that we are keeping our staff and our family safe.

“If it’s safe enough for my own family, I am very confident it is safe enough for the public.”

Responding to the criticism, Mrs Forrest said: “I understand that in all areas we go, there are people that don’t like the fair – that’s fine, I understand that, but for those that enjoy the fair and want to bring their children and families and enjoy a couple of hours out, we’re providing that service.”

She added: “Bars, restaurants and theme parks are open, why is a funfair any different?”

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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