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Thatcham Christmas event cancelled because of proximity to end of lockdown 2

Town councillors say there is 'too big a risk' with coronavirus restrictions

A CHRISTMAS community event for Thatcham has been cancelled because of the risk of being so close to the end of a second lockdown.

There will be no Christmas lights switch-on event in the town either – the town council instead will turn on the lights with no fanfare.

The switch-on, planned for Friday, December 4, attracts hundreds of people to the town centre and allows local charities and societies to raise funds and awareness.

With the main event cancelled, the town council had planned a Christmas Community Day to move the community stalls from the Friday night to a socially distanced event on Saturday, December 5, coinciding with Small Business Saturday.

Town councillors voted against the event at a meeting last Monday, but other attractions, including animated reindeer, are planned for the town.

Jeff Brooks (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said that it was “too big a risk” to spend time organising an event so close to the end of the national lockdown on December 2, which he said could easily be extended.

He said: “I know I’m sounding like bah humbug here, but we need to look at the bigger picture.

“Should we be seen to encourage people to come out in quite big numbers?

“Why are we pushing the boat out for events?

“I think the public would understand.

“It’s the risk and uncertainty that three days after lockdown has ended, will it really have ended?”

Town council leader David Lister (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said: “I’m very sensitive that we should not be seen to be frivolous in what we do in terms of promoting an event that could lead to community mixing, which could be dangerous when we have just come out of lockdown.”

The animated reindeer would be placed close to the Christmas tree in the Broadway, but in their own separate pen with crowd control barriers to “stop the public jumping in and being silly”.

The town council is looking to spread Christmas cheer outside the town centre through community installations.

Events manager John Sackett said that the community-led initiative sought ideas for decorations to install in different parts of the town to “allow the communities of Thatcham to express themselves”.

He said: “They have been asked to come up with words that they feel sum up a hope for next year, and that’s integrated into whatever design they come up with.”

Groups taking part so far include Thatcham Family Hub, Swings and Smiles, Churches Together, Joining Together and Thatcham Park and Whitelands Park Primary Schools.

Town mayor Mike Cole (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) said he saw the appeal of spreading Christmas around the town where there would previously have been nothing, and lessening the impact of a second lockdown on people’s mental health.

“Anything that helps that and becomes a beacon of light at Christmas this year would beneficial,” he said.

As reported previously, the town council is facing a financial blow from the impact of the pandemic.

Mr Lister said the council was running a deficit and asked councillors which of the four activities they would support.

Councillors voted to support additional Christmas lights in the High Street, the animated reindeer and the community installations, but not the community day.

Simon Pike (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) abstained.

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