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Autumn and winter events could be cancelled this year, including Kent fireworks displays, Santa's grottos and pantomimes


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Although we currently might be enjoying some of the balmiest temperatures of 2020, thoughts are already turning to the events calendar leading up to Christmas - and whether there will be anything left to look forward to.

Each year as the cold nights draw in, families across Kent delight in bonfire night celebrations, pantomimes, and flailing around on ice rinks.

Queenborough's annual Christmas lantern parade. Picture: Phil Lee
Queenborough's annual Christmas lantern parade. Picture: Phil Lee

But with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continuing to alter our way of life, what will the usually-packed events calendar look like this year?

With social distancing measures remaining in place for the foreseeable future, things are not looking too healthy for many of the indoor events and large-scale gatherings associated with the autumn and winter seasons.

And parents who survived the past few months thanks to largely good weather could be forgiven for viewing the coming months with dread.

Trick-or-treating

Originally an American tradition, trick-or-treating has become a much more popular pastime in the UK over the years.

Children across the county dress up as ghouls and monsters and knock on neighbours doors, hoping to nab a treat or two.

Under current guidelines trick-or-treating would not be possible. Picture: Chris Davey.
Under current guidelines trick-or-treating would not be possible. Picture: Chris Davey.

But under social distancing guidelines, it is unlikely children would be allowed to call on multiple households for sweets and chocolate that has passed through different people's hands.

According to some reports, confectionary manufacturers are already bracing for a reduction in sales this Halloween.

Data insight company Kantar reported £59.8m was spent on chocolate and sweets alone for Halloween 2019.

Pumpkin picking

Families hoping to get out in the fields this autumn to hand-pick their spooky orange squashes are in luck.

Families will be able to pick the spooky orange squashes at Pumpkin Moon
Families will be able to pick the spooky orange squashes at Pumpkin Moon

Pumpkin Moon, the popular pick-your-own venue, have confirmed that customers will be able to return in 2020 because the activity is already suitably socially distanced.

The organisation has premises in Old Chatham Road, Sandling near Maidstone, and in Lower Rainham Road, Rainham.

James Kemsley, farm manager, said: "It's all open-air, obviously outside as well, so I think we'll be pretty much ready to go."

Mr Kemsley recently opened the Maze Moon in Rainham, designing three miles of tracks created out of planted maize, offering a challenge for families looking to get an early fix of the Halloween season.

Fireworks night

It is unclear whether fireworks displays will go ahead in 2020
It is unclear whether fireworks displays will go ahead in 2020

With large gatherings banned for the foreseeable future, it is difficult to envisage how a major fireworks display would be able to go ahead.

Two organisers have already cancelled their displays for 2020.

The Sittingbourne Fireworks Spectacular at the Appleyard Sports Bar, in Gore Court Road, has confirmed their event will not be going ahead this year.

And Edenbridge Bonfire Society, famous for its giant, topical effigies, has also announced it will not be going ahead in 2020.
A spokesman said: "It is with deep regret that we announce the cancellation of our bonfire parade and firework extravaganza for 2020. Stay safe and we look forward to seeing you on 6th November 2021 bigger and better than ever!"

The organisers of the Quex Park display, in Birchington, are awaiting on confirmation from the council for their event to go ahead.

A spokesperson said: "We have submitted all our paperwork, including our Covid Secure assessments to the local authority and we await their decision as to whether the event can proceed.

Kent Cricket annual fireworks display. Picture: Andy Jones
Kent Cricket annual fireworks display. Picture: Andy Jones

"As soon as we get a response from them we will inform the public, however should the local authority agree to the event they still have the power to cancel it should there be a spike in the R rate."

The display is scheduled for November 7.

Gravesend's popular riverside fireworks along the sea front may not return this November due to difficulties with adhering to social distancing guidelines at a mass gathering.

A spokesperson from Gravesham Borough Council said an official conversation has not yet been had, but that it looked unlikely the event would be going ahead

Medway Council has cancelled its fireworks display at Great Lines, Gillingham.

Santa's Grotto

It looks unlikely that Santa grottoes will go ahead this year
It looks unlikely that Santa grottoes will go ahead this year

Meet-and-greets with Father Christmas are unlikely to go ahead this year due to social distancing guidelines.

Under current guidance, children would not be allowed to have a close up photo, a hug or even be handed a gift by Santa.

But some organisations are looking into ways of still being able to offer Christmas activities for their customers.

Tammy Woodhouse, managing director of Millbrook garden centre, with premises in Gravesend and Staplehurst, said that while a Santa's Grotto looks unlikely this year, they are looking into different methods of embracing the festive period.

She said: "Grottoes are going to be difficult, I don't know how we'd be able to do them, so I think it's unlikely we'll do our grotto.

Santas could be out of a job this year
Santas could be out of a job this year

"But we are looking at lots of other options, and we know we've got to make it special for Christmas.

"We will be doing breakfast or afternoon tea with Santa, using some of the experiences we used to do in the grotto - we can keep family groups together and separate from Santa."

Winterland Margate

Last year, Kent's historic theme park put on a festive extravaganza to celebrate the holiday season.

Visitors to Dreamland in Margate were greeted with fairy light walks, a market with festive food and drink, crafts and free festive film screenings.

Winterland Margate at Dreamland will not be going ahead this year
Winterland Margate at Dreamland will not be going ahead this year

But the event will not be going ahead this year.

A spokesperson told KentOnline there are currently no plans to operate Winterland in 2020.

The theme park had hoped to celebrate its 100th anniversary with a host of events this year, but most have had to be cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic.

Pantomimes

The time-honoured Christmas tradition is at threat this year, as the arts industry continues to grapple with organising indoor events that adhere to social distancing guidelines.

The Marlowe's Chris Wong, Ben Roddy and Lloyd Hollett in Mother Goose. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography
The Marlowe's Chris Wong, Ben Roddy and Lloyd Hollett in Mother Goose. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography

Kent’s biggest pantomime has already been cancelled for the first time ever amid the uncertainty.

The Marlowe Theatre, in Canterbury, has been forced to postpone its production of Jack and the Beanstalk until 2021.

Marlowe chief executive Deborah Shaw said: "We’ve waited to make this decision as long as we could because we know how much our audiences love their yearly visit to see our pantomime.

"However, we’ve had to postpone due to the continued uncertainty around when we’ll be allowed to re-open the main house at full capacity."

The Marlowe is not the only theatre to cancel - the Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells announced its production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would also not go ahead until 2021.

Jack And The Beanstalk is coming to the Stag Theatre in Sevenoaks this Christmas
Jack And The Beanstalk is coming to the Stag Theatre in Sevenoaks this Christmas

But all is not lost for avid pantomime families, as one theatre in Sevenoaks announces a Covid-safe show to take place later this year.

The Stag theatre will be putting on the jokily titled Jack And The Two Metre Beanstalk, which will be performed in front of a significantly reduced audience thanks to coronavirus safety precautions.

Empty seats in front, behind and to the sides of each family who attend mean the auditorium will only hold around one third of normal capacity.

Ice rinks

Families who enjoy a spot of ice skating may be in luck, after one council gave the go ahead for an outdoor ice rink this winter.

Ice skating can go ahead in Tunbridge Wells this winter
Ice skating can go ahead in Tunbridge Wells this winter

Skating in Calverley Grounds has been approved by Tunbridge Council Borough Council, after a safety assessment.

The attraction will operate in accordance with the social distancing guidelines and legislation in place at the time of opening.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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