Windrush Festival is back on . . . but not in Penwortham

Defiant organisers of Preston's Windrush Festival have vowed "the show must go on" despite having to cancel this year's event at the weekend with only 48 hours notice.

Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 5:24 pm

The Caribbean food and music extravaganza, which attracts bumper crowds every year, will now be held on September 19 - but not in Penwortham.

"We're going back to our original venue of Preston Cricket Club and we're calling it: 'Ain't No Stopping Us Now,'" said Adrian Murrell.

The title is seen as a parting shot at South Ribble Council who pulled the plug on the festival at the last minute, leaving organisers and food vendors counting the cost.

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James Blackrod performs at the last Windrush Festival in 2019.

Adrian refuses to get angry, saying he suspected all along there were people on the council who didn't want the event on Hurst Grange Park.

"Right from the first meeting I sensed things weren't right," he explained. "I was telling everyone they were setting us up to fail.

"But despite what some people have said on Facebook, I'm sure it isn't a racial thing because Penwortham isn't like that. Lots of people from there come to the festival every year.

"What I can't get me head round is it was the council who invited us in the first place. Yet they put every obstacle in our way to block it.

Crowds enjoying the 2019 Windrush Festival at Vernon Carus in Penwortham.

"To be honest we're not bothered. If they don't want us we'll go somewhere where they do."

Windrush opted to go to Hurst Grange Park after both their previous venues - Preston CC and Vernon Carus Sports and Social Club - could not accommodate them in August due to cricket commitments.

The offer to stage it at Hurst Grange Park followed the cancellation of the annual Penwortham Gala. But Adrian says he got "vibes" from the very first meeting with council officials and was not surprised when problems started to pile up.

"There were all sorts of issues, but the main one was when they told us just nine days before the festival that we couldn't have food," he explained.

Organiser Adrian Murrell says the festival will still go ahead, but not in Penwortham.

"We told them there was no point in having a festival without food and so we would have to look for an alternative venue. They had a meeting and came back to us last week to say we could have food.

"But then they were concerned our stewards and volunteers didn't have the experience to handle an event so big - despite the fact they have all been doing the job for the past seven festivals.

"There were issues over risk assessment paperwork for the stage, but it's the stage they themselves use for the Gala.

"And then they said we hadn't done a mailshot to 5,000 homes around Penwortham telling them it was on. But we had an email from the council saying they would do that.

"Quite simply they didn't want the event and they were trying to find any old reason to make sure it didn't go ahead.

"But despite all that it will go ahead, only across the river in Preston. That was the venue for our first two festivals, before we moved to Vernons. It's a great place and we're looking forward to a great day."

South Ribble Council chief executive Gary Hall said at the weekend: "We’ve been working with the organisers and given as much time as possible to try and ensure the event can go ahead safely and with regard to those living nearby and ensure an enjoyable experience for visitors.

“Unfortunately the event organisers did not provide adequate information for the event in time and there were outstanding safety concerns meaning. We had to make the decision to stand down resources and require that the event be cancelled.

“If a new date is arranged we will work with the festival organisers so that it can go ahead.

“We appreciate a lot of work has gone into the event and it is something people will have been looking forward to, but the safety of visitors and park users is our main priority.”