Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Art festival postponed as councils help tackle virus

AN art festival in Watlington has been postponed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Organisers of Watlington ArtWeek decided to delay the event, which was due to take place from May 2 to 10, to the late summer.

The potential new dates are August 29 to September 6.

In a statement, they said the priority was to consider the potential health risk to the artists, residents, venue owners and managers as well as visitors to the town.

They added: “Artweek is an important uplifting event for the Watlington community and having a date to look forward to was felt to be more important than cancelling.

“As well, of course, to encourage the positive business impact the event offers for the vibrant independent High Street.”

A total of 81 artists, up from 45 at last year’s inaugural event, have signed up and their work will be displayed at 35 venues, including all three churches, St Leonard’s, Watlington Methodist and St Edmund Campion Roman Catholic Church.

This year, Watlington will have the largest regional Artweek in Oxfordshire, outside the City of Oxford. The artists will be using the extra time to create even more art to explore, view and buy.

The organisers say they will be focused on delivering a memorable event. This will include using the town hall for a large-scale art installation with a climate change message.

Jaine McCormack, Watlington Artweek co-ordinator, said: “It is very much hoped that we can use our 2020 Artweek as a celebratory event of our global recovery from this terrible pandemic and Watlington’s support for our community during this time.

“Art can play a significant role in uplifting spirits, bonding a creative community, attracting visitors and as therapy after tough times.”

Meanwhile, residents of Watlington have been offering help and support anybody self-isolating.

Parish council chairman Matt Reid said it had been updating its emergency plan and looking at all aspects of what it needs to have in place. He said: “It was obvious from the start that our biggest strength will be people’s willingness to help each other. As a part of that planning, we realised that as more volunteers start to come along there would need to be good communication and some method of verification of identity etc.

“We obviously won’t have time to do the normal level of checking but this is a community resilience effort and by the nature of the requirements there will be minimal contact with third parties anyway, so let’s make a start and get systems in place early.”

Councillor Reid asked volunteers to register with the council centrally by sending an email with their contact details to wpc@watlington
-oxon-pc.gov.uk along with the tasks they could help with on postcards that have been distributed.

It can then provide a unique identification number that volunteers can write on their postcard that the council can verify independently should anyone be anxious.

Benson Parish Council held an emergency session last week where members discussed how to best support the community. They agreed to support those groups and organisations that were best placed to deliver help to the community. The council will:

• Secure an immediate grant of £500 to support the Benson Help Hub start-up activities and offer the use of its printing facilities to create flyers. The group has been formed to help the elderly and vulnerable, such as those self-isolating.

• Set aside additional funding in grants for any other initiatives that support the community.

• Reduce the risk of infection by closing Benson youth hall in Oxford Road and moving all activities to the main hall.

• Consider using the youth hall and areas of the main hall as storage facilities, if required.

• Move to Microsoft Teams or other platforms for meetings, where possible. The council will try to include the public in these sessions.

• Actively think of innovative ways to use its resources for community benefit.

• Do its best to keep communications up to date.

The council is also encouraging residents to continue to support the high street.

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