At a crisis meeting held last night in the town the committee that organises the Axbridge Pageant made the decision to postpone this year’s August production for 12 months.
The artistic director John Bailey said that due to the Government’s advice to cancel meetings for the next few weeks meant rehearsals would be affected and there would be a reluctance for people to commit to the pageant.
“We cannot risk it,” he said, “The coronavirus has blown it away, and we have had to bow to the inevitable and put it off for a year.”
However he said he remained committed to the project and fortunately no money had yet changed hands as tickets had not yet gone on sale. Nigel Scott the treasure said it was fortunate that no major purchases had been made as the finance of pageant was vital to its success. John Bailey agreed saying the pageant had to be a sell out in order to cover costs and although things may improve by August ticket sales would be hit as a result of the crisis.
Some of the factors behind the decision included the large number of the audience who would be in their 70s or older, many in the cast being of a similar age and the uncertainty over the length of the coronavirus crisis inevitably would be a brake on residents volunteering.
The pageant was set to take place from August 29-31 but will now be rescheduled to be performed on August 28-30, 2021.
John Bailey’s full statement:
In troubled times difficult and troubling decisions, inevitably, need to be made. I have had the privilege to oversee two Axbridge Pageants in 2000 and 2010, and have spent the last two years progressing and developing the 2020 Pageant with the exceptional community that is Axbridge. Hard work? Yes, but always rewarding and heart-warming because of the collective will of the people who believe in something and want to make it happen.
It is, therefore, with heavy heart that I need to announce that we have found it necessary to postpone the Axbridge Pageant for 2020. I am sure, that in the light of escalating events, that I do not need to outline in great detail why we have made this difficult decision. However, the acceleration and severity of the Coronavirus leaves us with no alternative.
In making this decision we are seeking to protect the commitment, passion and enthusiasm that the community has for this unique event. A spectacle which has achieved international recognition and has even gone into the history books. Plaudits indeed, and all the more reason to protect it from the scourge of our time.
This, of course, is hugely disappointing news for the many people who have worked tirelessly on the event and for the hundreds who were about to embark on the exciting journey of bringing the Axbridge Pageant to fruition in August of this year. But, very sadly, these are exceptional times and we are sure you will realise that this is the responsible thing to do.
However, we must feel that this postponement is not without a sense of hope. By making the decision now we firmly believe that we can put the whole thing on ice and hope to re-convene when there is no longer a threat to our society. To that end we cautiously announce that the Axbridge Pageant will be put on hold until August of 2021. It is to be hoped that, later this year, when we have negotiated our way out of the present gloom we may be able to pick up where we left off.
In the meantime I send you all the warmest of wishes.