Published: 10:01, 07 March 2017
The world-famous Whitstable Oyster Festival will abandon its traditional roots in the harbour this year, organisers have revealed.
Thousands of people will instead descend on Tankerton Slopes when the event moves across town as part of the major reshuffle.
The drastically scaled-back event will take place across three days, with the popular fireworks display, free open air cinema and oyster parade all being scrapped.
Focus will be shifted to more traditional activities, with the landing of the oysters, grotter building, and the oyster eating competition remaining on the programme.
David Roberts, chairman of the Oyster Festival Association, says the changes will ensure a more rigid structure, keeping close to the town’s roots.
He said: “This year there will be a well-balanced programme of events, with particular focus on the town’s rich oyster fisheries heritage and the provision of family orientated activities and entertainment.”
Held between Saturday, July 22 and Monday, July 24, the revised format will see Tankerton Slopes play host to the majority of events.
Mr Roberts added: “In the interest of public safety, the food fair, usually staged around the harbour, will now be on the Slopes and the oyster eating challenge will also be staged, there, along with other family entertainment.
“In place of the Oyster Parade, a colourful festival-themed procession will wind its way from the oyster landing site to Tankerton.”
A strict 9pm curfew has been imposed for each of the three days in a bid to reduce disturbance to nearby residents.
Following last year’s 10-day festival, Canterbury City Council officials received a backlash of complaints over fears the event had got too big for the town.
Excessive drinking, littering and over-crowding were among the complaints - with 43 formal objections being submitted to the council.
Mr Roberts said members of the Association were disappointed the length of the festival had been significantly reduced but were confident a fitting event could be showcased by organising firm Event Umbrella.
Event Umbrella came under fire for the preparation of last summer’s festival, which was the last it was contracted to organise.
However, it was again handed control of this year's reformatted festival following a tendering process.
Mr Roberts said: “Despite the changes in timings, format and location, the members of the Association unanimously agreed to work alongside the city council and the organiser to assist with the planning and delivery.
“They were confident that this year’s festival will showcase the town, its heritage and the community and provide enjoyment to local families and visitors alike.”
The news comes just weeks after organisers of the Whitstable Regatta pulled the plug on the historic event which started in the 18th Century.
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