The organisers of one of the UK's last properly free festivals, Strawberry Fair have reluctantly taken the decision to cancel this year's event.
Justin Argent, Chair of Strawberry Fair said on the event's website, (here), "Gaining a secure license that will allow the Fair to continue for many years to come has to be the top priority for the Strawberry Fair committee. The police appeal of the decision made by Cambridge City Council means that we now have to put all our efforts into fighting that appeal, rather than into the detailed preparations for the 2010 Fair which should now be taking place, and we are not prepared to compromise either the appeal or the Fair itself."
The police's appeal against the license means that a final decision on the appeal would be made too close for organisers to be able to plan the event properly. Argent added, "The timetable for the appeal means that we will not know whether the Fair can go ahead as planned until far too late in the day. We do not want to pass this risk on to the many supportive suppliers, traders, and artists whose livelihoods would be severely damaged by a last minute cancellation. By taking this decision now, people will be able to find alternative activities for 2010 safe in the knowledge that we are doing all we can to make sure Strawberry Fair returns in 2011 and beyond."
The event which was expected to attract 15,000 people, had been licensed for Saturday 5th June with the conditions that the stages reduced from 6 to 3, the sale of 'legal highs' be banned (whilst presumably still allowing the sale of that other legal high, alcohol, which is repsonsible for 40,000 deaths each year), and the number of toilets doubled. At last year's event police dealt with more than 400 cases, which included warnings for drugs offences and fines for public urination and defecation. Supt Mike Brown in an interview with the BBC earlier this month, (here), said: "The police do not in any way oppose Strawberry Fair taking place. Unfortunately, each year it is necessary to deal with those who would use the event as an excuse to offend."
Argent concludes, "We sincerely hope that the police will make use of the extra time before the 2011 event to develop a more sympathetic and realistic policing strategy - and we look forward to entering into detailed discussions with them, the Council and local communities to ensure that there is a secure future for this well-attended and popular cultural event."
The programming committee for Strawberry Fair will be working on plans for alternative, venue-based activities across the city through out the year to provide an outlet for the local talent showcased every year at the Fair.
The first Strawberry Fair was held in 1974 and has become an integral part of the festival calendar over the last 30 years.
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