Festivals boss remains optimistic about return of showpiece events

Sun-kissed weekends relaxing in the Quarry, sampling local produce and Shropshire-brewed tipples, spending quality time with friends as bands play in the background.

Beth Heath of Shropshire Festivals
Beth Heath of Shropshire Festivals

The opportunity to enjoy a festival may seem like a lifetime ago and forever away, but we will have those magic days back – and that first bite and that first sip will taste the sweetest.

Decision day is looming for the county’s festivals as the coronavirus pandemic drags on – but an organiser is full of optimism that we’ll be able to enjoy several showpiece events this year.

Shropshire Festivals are likely to make a decision on whether the Shropshire Food Festival in the summer and Shropshire Oktoberfest will be going ahead by late February or early March.

With more vaccine hubs popping up and the Covid-19 jab programme beginning to gather more pace in the county, it is hoped that they will be able to go ahead.

Beth Heath, director of fun for Shropshire Festivals, hasn’t had a lot of fun to direct over the last year. But she is feeling positive and hopeful that we’ll soon have things to look forward to.

“It depends what we’re allowed to do but we’re hoping to run the food festival in June and Oktoberfest. There’s going to be no Kids Festival this year. But the events that are outdoor where we can distance people well, we’re hoping to do.

"We’ll be making a final decision in February or March. We’re staying positive.

“We’ve got all of the local producers that really depend on us, and last year was hard for them. We’ve got a Plan A and a Plan B, which will be more distanced.”

A group of friends enjoying a previous Shropshire Oktoberfest

After seeing last year’s programme decimated by the pandemic, and dealing with the financial damage that did, the festivals team was handed a lifeline by receiving £100,000 from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

Beth added: “It enabled us to plan for the food festival, because there are a lot of costs that go into that.

"If we hadn’t received that money, we probably wouldn’t have been able to even think about holding festivals this year.”

Last year, the company held several drive-in shows at the West Mid Showground, which proved successful as we emerged from the first lockdown. But Beth is keen for proper festivals to return, as are her army of volunteers.

The Kids Festival won't take place this year due to the pandemic

She said: “We did the drive-in events, which went well. And they might come back. But we want to go back to what we do best. We’re looking forward to getting people back out in a field.

“There are so many things to be grateful for.

"We’ve got this massive extended festivals family of volunteers, and they are desperate to get back into it. Some of them have been helping groups like the Shrewsbury Food Hub during the pandemic.”

Crowds enjoying the fine weather at the food festival in 2018

Beth has also been glad of support from the Friends of Shropshire Festivals, a dedicated fundraising group to help bring events back stronger when circumstances allow.

The group was launched in September. “It’s been good and we’re really grateful for the support,” said Beth. “We could do with more friends, there is always room for more friends in our life.”

Beth is hoping some socially distanced events could be coming in the pipeline such as a food trail. “We’ve got some cool ideas, we’ll have to wait and see.”

To get involved in the Friends of Shropshire Festivals group, visit shropshirefestivals.co.uk/friends

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