Southampton Boat Show organisers incensed over late Covid cancellation

Organisers of the Southampton International Boat Show are incensed over the city council’s decision to cancel the event on the eve of its opening day due to coronavirus concerns.

The annual show and the smaller accompanying Ocean Village Boat Show – due to run from Friday until September 20 – were cancelled on Thursday afternoon by order of the Southampton City Council.

The authority cited the need for “stronger control measures” to reduce the transmission of Covid-19 in Southampton and across the country.

Southampton Boat Show
The boat show usually draws some 20,000 visitors to Southampton (Ben Birchall/PA)

But organisers of the show – which is said to bring in some 20,000 people to Southampton each year – said they were bitterly disappointed with the late cancellation.

They said all precautions had been taken to ensure the event, also known as Boats2020, “exceeded all safety requirements” relating to social distancing, and insisted that a shortened four-day show could have taken place in line with Government guidance.

Lesley Robinson, CEO of show coordinators British Marine, said they were only notified at 6.34pm on Thursday of the cancellation order.

“We are desperately disappointed that BOATS2020 will no longer be taking place, especially receiving the news at the eleventh hour before opening,” Ms Robinson said in a statement.

“A tremendous amount of work has been put in and it was heartening to see committed exhibitors on site (on Thursday) getting geared up for opening.

“British Marine has remained committed to staging this not-for-profit boat show to support the leisure marine industry and our host city of Southampton, and I am deeply saddened that it will now no longer be taking place.

“Alongside our exhibitors, we were ready to open a show that exceeded all safety requirements. We are truly perplexed as to why we are unable to run the show at least until Monday in line with the government restrictions imposed yesterday.”

Southampton City Council’s director of public health Debbie Chase acknowledged event organisers and the people of Southampton had been “doing a fantastic job” regarding measures to fight the spread of Covid-19, and she was “very sorry to disappoint them and everyone who was looking forward to attending these events”.

Southampton Boat Show
The Southampton City Council says the decision was regrettable but unavoidable (Ben Birchall/PA)

“The decision, while regrettable, has been made after detailed analysis of the public health risks and discussions with our colleagues in the city, including the police,” Ms Chase said in a statement.

“Covid-19 is still very much with us and we all need to stay alert, particularly at this sensitive time.

“Anyone who was planning to make the journey to one of the boat shows in Southampton should not now make that journey.”

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