Organiser says “government forgot artists” as popular event is cancelled

PUBLISHED: 08:00 29 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:52 29 July 2020

Dance in the Square last year. Photo: Saffron Photo.

Dance in the Square last year. Photo: Saffron Photo.

Saffron Photo

The event organiser of a popular Saffron Walden event said the government seems to have forgotten artists, prompting a response from MP Kemi Badenoch.

Dance in the Square last year. Photo: Saffron Photo.Dance in the Square last year. Photo: Saffron Photo.

Saffron Walden Initiative has been forced to cancel this year’s annual Dance in the Square. This would have been the 18th edition of the event if it had gone ahead on August 29.

Jacqui Portway, a member of the Initiative, said: “The government seems to have forgotten the entertainment industry and how important it is to everybody’s life.

“People need music, they need theatres, they are opening theme parks and forgetting about the music industry.”

Jacqui said everyone was happy to try and make the event happen – but, because of government rules on social distancing and restrictions on group sizes outdoors, the Initiative “reluctantly” decided to postpone the event until next year.

Dance in the Square last year. Photo: Saffron Photo.Dance in the Square last year. Photo: Saffron Photo.

She “cried a river” upon spending some time with a musician this week, and hearing about what the music industry is going through.

“It was really hard to tell them the event is cancelled because people do not have any income. Their music is their living as they gave up their jobs to do what they love so cancelling Dance in the Square is absolutely horrible. The musician was saying that getting someone to even give you a penny at this time is very hard,” Jacqui said.

Jacqui said the free event is very well supported by the community, and everyone who financially helped it said they can keep the money until next year.

Chairman of the Saffron Walden Initiative Peter Riding said: “Jacqui Portway and I are very sad to have to take this decision but, in the interest of our much-loved community, we want to keep all safe.

Dance in the Square last year. Photo: Saffron Photo.Dance in the Square last year. Photo: Saffron Photo.

“We must applaud the musicians, food stands, Stagecoach, sponsors, volunteers, GHB Hire, Terry Frostick and the Town Council who help us every year make this a wonderful evening for all to enjoy. We look forward to seeing you all next year when hopefully it will be safe to do so.”

Terry Frostick, manager of the Saffron Walden market, said: “We are very sad, but in these Covid times we have to be secure and safe for everybody.

MP Kemi Badenoch said: “I know events like Dance in the Square are missed by residents and it is vital that we continue to support those in the arts community whilst they adhere to Government guidance. It is why the Treasury announced the £1.57 billion rescue package to help our arts, culture and heritage industries. “Organisations across a range of sectors including theatres and live music will be able to access emergency grants and loans as part of the biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture.

“The Government has also set up the Cultural Renewal Taskforce made up of experts from the creative, tech and sporting worlds and is working on how to help the cultural and leisure sectors of our economy bounce back.

Dance in the Square last year. Photo: Saffron Photo.Dance in the Square last year. Photo: Saffron Photo.

“I would ask the Saffron Walden Initiative to share their concerns directly with me in writing, so that I can get a more formal response from my ministerial colleagues.”


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