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Too big' family festival is cancelled over costs

PUBLISHED: 13:04 29 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:53 25 August 2010

A POPULAR family festival that was marred by violent thugs has been cancelled. Thamesmead Festival, due to be held in July at Birchmere Park, off Eastern Way, has been canned over financial concerns following an evaluation of last year s event. In July

A POPULAR family festival that was marred by violent thugs has been cancelled.

Thamesmead Festival, due to be held in July at Birchmere Park, off Eastern Way, has been canned over financial concerns following an evaluation of last year's event.

In July 2009 the festival had gone without incident until near the end when more than 200 youths armed with bottles and bricks forced the organisers to close the event.

A police helicopter was brought in along with riot police from the Met's Territorial Support Group.

Erith and Thamesmead MP John Austin was at last year's event and praised police for their swift response in "averting major violence". The MP, who is retiring from public office on May 5 had called the police, fearing the trouble could escalate.

At the time he said: "The festival had to be brought to an early close to avoid a major confrontation in which many bystanders could have been hurt.

"I fully support the decision taken by the organisers, Trust Thamesmead, and the actions taken by the police which minimised the impact on people."

He said it was "tragic" that the event had almost been destroyed by "mindless thugs".

The decision to axe this year's festival was taken by the Trust's Board of Trustees after consultation with the public.

It indicated a widespread feeling that the festival had become too big and had outgrown its original purpose as a local celebratory event for Thamesmead residents.

Trust Thamesmead Board chair Vic Grimes said: "In the current economic climate we are no longer able to justify the very high cost of this one-day event, and in particular, the money we spend on entertainment and security.

"Our resources are limited and rather than spend so much on a single event we feel we can contribute more to the local community by helping to deliver many more smaller events in Thamesmead throughout the year."

The Trust's Community Forum, which represents many sectors of the community, has endorsed the decision.

Forum spokeswoman, Angela Colman, from Thamesmead Christian Fellowship, said: "As a member of the forum I believe one of our aims is to invest in positive activities that will benefit the whole community."

martin.sawden@

archant.co.uk

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