Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Remembrance ceremony scaled back for safety

RESIDENTS of Watlington are being encouraged not to congregate at the town’s war memorial on Remembrance Sunday.

The parish council and the Watlington branch of the Royal British Legion have scaled back their plans for November 8 in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Poppy wreaths may now be laid at different times on both the Saturday and Sunday of that weekend to avoid crowds gathering.

The organisers want to ensure that this process is completed by 10.30am on the Sunday.

Leaflets asking people not to congregate will be distributed across the town and the information will be published on Facebook and in the Watlington Times.

A parish council meeting heard that about 23 organisations typically laid wreaths at the ceremony. Council chairman Matt Reid said that a “gradual build-up” of wreaths over the two days would take away the focus on 11am on the Sunday.

“Really, I think we have got to scale back and think about the most minimal contact,” he said. “Small scale and as simple as possible needs to be our driving ethos on this one.

“We should at the very least plan for a wreath from the parish and individual organisations should be able to send representatives.

“We want to mark this, as it’s important to mark it, but I think to bring in too much organisation at this stage is going to send out the wrong message, especially to neighbouring parishes and those that have cancelled their services.

“I don’t feel it would be disrespectful to put it over the Saturday as well. If anything, it would give it more space and would be more manageable.”

Councillor Nicky Smallbone agreed that having wreath-laying over two days would discouraged people from gathering to watch.

Nigel Mogg, president and chairman of the Watlington branch of the Royal British Legion, said: “It’s disappointing but we have got to face it — we should not have any gatherings of any sort. I agree we should go into Saturday. If all 23 are laying wreaths it’s going to be tight on Sunday morning.”

Councillor Terry Jackson suggested giving each organisation a designated time slot to lay a wreath. Councillor Andrew McAuley agreed and suggested having marshals on duty to ensure this went smoothly.

Tessa Mogg, secretary of the Legion branch, said she welcomed the idea of residents staging mini remembrance events on their own doorsteps at 11am on the Sunday.

Councillor Tim Horton said all the wreaths could be put out together for organisations to collect as this would create far less risk.

“There’s still a month to go nearly,” he said. “We don’t know exactly what the position will be closer to the event.”

Cllr Horton said he would discuss the proposed arrangements in detail with Mr and Mrs Mogg and report back to the chairman.

The ceremony will be photographed by resident Nicola Schafer.

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