Published: 16:51, 08 June 2018
One of Sheppey’s most-loved summer events has been scuppered.
The Sheppey Pirates’ annual landing and water fight at Barton’s Point Coastal Park, Sheerness, has been axed by the site’s leaseholder with only two months’ to go.
Pirates’ spokesman Adrian Collins, alias Captain Cutlass, said: “We are devastated. This was our 25th anniversary year and we had been planning a whole host of surprises. But on Friday we were told the event was off.
“People have been wonderful and already suggested alternative locations. Barton’s Point boating lake is the perfect venue for us but we will have to see if anything else can be arranged. Everything is still up in the air. This was all very sudden.”
The landing was scheduled for Saturday, August 4 with a pirates’ party, displays, living-history encampment and six live bands. The giant water-fight has become an Island tradition and signals the start of the school summer holidays.
The bombshell was made public on the Barton’s Point Facebook page on Saturday. It said: “We’re very sorry to say but the Pirates weekend will not be going ahead this year. But it will be back on next year! All campers who have booked will be fully refunded. Please call or pop into the cafe.”
The news came just days after two other events were put on hold on the 40-acre site. Saturday’s Sheppey SciFi Festival was postponed because the ground was waterlogged and has been rescheduled for Saturday, July 14.
But July’s 10th annual Sheppey Model Flying Spectacular, which last year attracted more than 3,000 visitors, has been cancelled after a dispute over field hire.
Mandy Shade, who has leased the country park from Swale council since April 2011, said: "So far, the pirates' landing and water-fight has been fabulous with no issues. But it has been getting bigger every year. It is a huge responsibility to ensure everyone remains safe. In the past, I have been responsible for all events on the park but it is now time for the event organisers to sort out their own licences. Unfortunately, there is no time to apply for one this year.
"There are ways to get funding to help. This way, it can be done properly next year."
She added: "All these forms take time to fill in but I am often too busy just trying to run a business and give work to young people."
The Sheppey Pirates first raided the Island in 1993 as part of a push to put Sheppey back on the tourist map. They were created to support the first World Walking The Plank championship which was held on the jetty at Sheerness seafront near the catholic church.
The event later moved to Queenborough before turning into a water fight at Barton's Point.
Meanwhile, Jan Bruce, secretary of the Barton Point Model Flying Cub, said: “I am devastated.
"We rent our main field from Swale council but hire an overflow field for our pilots and visitors to camp from the woman who runs the cafe.
“This year she bumped the fee up from £350 to £500. Last year’s event cost the club more than £1,000 to stage. We do it for the Island.
"But there was no way I was prepared to play her game and pay a £150 increase. It is a matter of principle.
"We even hired our own toilets and skip. I am hopping mad. This has broken my heart.”
A spokesman for Swale council, which owns the land, said: “We are disappointed that these community-led events are not going ahead this year.
“Running well-organised and, most importantly, safe events, is both a considerable responsibility and a financial undertaking. We can understand that this capacity is not always available in the community.
“We, along with other agencies, do work to support event organisers through the Safety Advisory Group, providing advice and guidance where appropriate, but ultimately decisions whether or not to run an event rests with the organiser.”
He said there were grants available to help run events.
Leaseholder Mandy Shade insisted she had kept the rent at £300 but had added £200 to cover clearing rubbish left behind near her boathouse last year.
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