‘We’ll be back’ vows Paignton Festival chairman Mike

Mike Bailey and Steve Holdup

Mike Bailey and Steve Holdup - Credit: Archant

Chairman Mike Bailey tells of the heartbreaking moment the Paignton Festival fell victim to the pandemic

Flashback: The Showman float from a previous Paignton Festival

Flashback: The Showman float from a previous Paignton Festival - Credit: Archant

The coronavirus was most certainly not something we expected as the plans for this year's events got underway.

From the second the coronavirus hit the UK, myself and my management team realised that changes to our plans had to be made – and fast. That was just the start.

Hours were spent adjusting site layouts, implementing sanitisation stations, putting social distancing measures n place, creating COVID secure guidelines, making risk assessments with the endless amounts of conference calls and liaising with local authorities and government sources.

It was draining, not just for me but my management team too. But it had to be done, as we were still hopeful that by some miracle the coronavirus would had been gone by time our event happened.

Then the government announcement came banning social gatherings, events the entire lot. Cancelling was without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever had to do as Chairman, and to be honest it reduced me to tears.

Myself and my management team made the difficult decision on May 12 to cancel. The next day we had an extraordinary meeting with our committee to announce our cancellation. It was again the most difficult thing I have ever had to do as chairman.

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For seven days the decision to cancel remained an internal one.

We embargoed our committee from saying anything, and then contacted everyone we needed to – traders, sponsors, contractors, performers etc. We embargoed them as well.

Once we knew we had contacted everyone, we then went public.

That put a lump in my throat – I was worried about the response we would get.

But the support we have received has been completely overwhelming. It has given us the drive to come back in 2021 bigger and better.

Big changes are being made already. You will all love them!

The main thing is everybody staying safe.

We are now looking for sponsors. We have launched an online store, at the minute selling facemasks, but soon we will expand to other products to help raise the much-needed funds.

We will see you all in 2021 at Paignton Festival.