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Storm Arwen forces Sawbridgeworth's Christmas fayre to end early



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Gale-force winds and heavy rain failed to dampen the festive spirit in Sawbridgeworth, despite the town council and police bringing a premature halt to Saturday’s Christmas Lights and Fayre event.

As stallholders held tightly onto their gazebos, officials decided it was not safe to continue and advised everyone to pack up early.

The annual event, which was cancelled last year due to Covid, is organised by Sawbridgeworth Town Council and saw community groups and businesses gathering in Bell Street car park, along with a funfair for children and Santa in his grotto.

Santa and his town trader elves Venetia and Berrin (53432619)
Santa and his town trader elves Venetia and Berrin (53432619)

Great St Mary’s dazzled with a candlelit display that filled the church.

The town’s mayor Cllr Greg Rattey was really proud of people for battling on through the elements as Storm Arwen took hold.

He said: “It was still a fantastic atmosphere and we got far more people than I thought given the weather – we even had a gazebo fly off!

Mayor Greg Rattey joins Santa and a four-week-old baby making his first visit to a grotto (53432628)
Mayor Greg Rattey joins Santa and a four-week-old baby making his first visit to a grotto (53432628)

“I was really proud of it all and how people rose to the challenge. It was typical stoical Sawbridgeworth because everyone made the most of it. There were people singing in Bell Street in the rain – it was absolutely fabulous – and they really deserve a special mention, while the candles in St Mary’s were breathtaking.”

Sawbridgeworth’s police inspector Mark Collins said: “A safety briefing was carried out at the start of the event and the weather caused some concerns, but the organisers were quickly able to address these.

“Approximately 90 minutes into the event the risk assessment was revisited due to the deteriorating weather conditions. A decision was made by the town council, and supported by the police, that, for reasons of safety, the event should be cancelled due to the weather.”

He added: “Sawbridgeworth Lights is always a very good and safe event and one that we enjoy supporting. It’s a shame it had to be cancelled, but it was for the right reasons.”

Supporters of the town's air cadets prepare to serve food to visitors (53432646)
Supporters of the town's air cadets prepare to serve food to visitors (53432646)

Chris Hunt, clerk of Sawbridgeworth Town Council, said they were aware other towns had cancelled their events and so needed to assess the safety of their own fayre.

"As this Christmas fayre is the first since lockdown we were determined the local community had something to look forward to and welcome in the start of Christmas," he said.

"Father Christmas managed to arrive safely, and due to this we wanted to get lots of children to meet him and pass on their Christmas wish lists.

The candlelit display in Great St Mary's Church. Photo: Grey Rattey (53404838)
The candlelit display in Great St Mary's Church. Photo: Grey Rattey (53404838)

"As the event progressed, the wind got stronger and gazebos were lifting up, so we managed to secure them with extra weight from bringing in lots of sandbags.

"Reports of trees being blown over locally filtered through to us and the extra weights were also failing. Unfortunately, I decided that for the safety of everyone the event would need to close."

He added: "Albeit the event closed early, people braved the conditions and turned out to support their local event."

The candlelit display in Great St Mary's Church. Photo: Greg Rattey (53404845)
The candlelit display in Great St Mary's Church. Photo: Greg Rattey (53404845)
Police and air cadet helpers at the event (53432622)
Police and air cadet helpers at the event (53432622)
Santa greets youngsters eager to tell him what's on their Christmas list! Photo courtesy of Greg Rattey (53404848)
Santa greets youngsters eager to tell him what's on their Christmas list! Photo courtesy of Greg Rattey (53404848)
Fun fair rides kept the little ones entertained (53432625)
Fun fair rides kept the little ones entertained (53432625)
Town mayor Cllr Greg Rattey with two festive friends. Photo courtesy of Greg Rattey (53404851)
Town mayor Cllr Greg Rattey with two festive friends. Photo courtesy of Greg Rattey (53404851)
Major Greg Rattey takes the mic to welcome visitors (53432631)
Major Greg Rattey takes the mic to welcome visitors (53432631)
There was a variety of stalls and attractions at the town fayre (53432634)
There was a variety of stalls and attractions at the town fayre (53432634)
Firefighters manning their stall (53432637)
Firefighters manning their stall (53432637)
Elitsa won the competition to design a Christmas badge (53432640)
Elitsa won the competition to design a Christmas badge (53432640)
These three children are enjoying a spot of festive fun thanks to Oakridge Garden Centre (53432643)
These three children are enjoying a spot of festive fun thanks to Oakridge Garden Centre (53432643)


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