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Whitstable regatta in doubt after organisers fail to reach agreement with harbour board over venue

By Jodie Nesling

The organisers of Whitstable Regatta say its future is in doubt unless a suitable place to host the historic festival can be found.

At a meeting of the harbour board on Friday, The Event Umbrella, which formerly ran Whitstable Oyster Festival, submitted plans which propose holding the 225-year-old regatta around the West Quay.

But councillors on the board say they will not be able to guarantee space for the regatta due to a new restaurant/retail space being built. It will open on the site of a shed currently used to store fishermen’s equipment, which will have to be found a new home.

Last year's Regatta was held on the Tankerton Slopes
Last year's Regatta was held on the Tankerton Slopes

Cllr Neil Baker said: “Clearly the needs of the fishermen have to come first as the harbour is, first and foremost, a working harbour.”

But councillors agreed they would email suggestions to the company to try to resolve the issue.

Gus Corcoran, managing director of The Event Umbrella, is hopeful an agreement can be reached.

He said: “The regatta needs to be near the water.

“We want to put on events such as raft-building and sailing.

“We want the festival to return to the sea and engage the community.

“It has to be more than food and drink. We want to put on an amazing event.”

Gus Corcoran, Terry Parr of the Lions Club and James Green of Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company.
Gus Corcoran, Terry Parr of the Lions Club and James Green of Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company.

Proposals would see the regatta moved back to its traditional August date and run alongside Whitstable Harbour Day with a fun-packed programme.

The proposals state: “Through the engagement of such groups as the Sea Scouts, Scouts and Whitstable Guides, a host of events would be held across the week.

“Events would take place across the town’s beaches with care being taken not to duplicate events already hosted at the existing Harbour Day.”

The regatta, said to be the
second oldest in the world, has been beset with problems in recent years with the Whitstable and Herne Bay Lions Club stepping down last summer after 43 years at the helm.

The club said spiralling costs had forced it to quit the event and this year, at the 11th hour, The Event Umbrella took over.

The regatta was held on Tankerton Slopes and included an air show and fireworks, but attracted criticism for its lack of activities.

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