The tide may be turning on the coronavirus pandemic, but not quite quickly enough to halt the cancellation of an in-person Portsoy Boat Festival and a further three staple events in the north of Scotland calendar.
Uncertainty over the timeline for the easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions which enable large scale outdoor events to take place has dashed hopes of the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival being held in June.
It’s the second year in a row that the two-day festival, which usually attracts 16,000 visitors to the coastal town, has been postponed. However, with funding from EventScotland as part of the Year of Coasts and Waters, a digital version of the celebrations will go live from June 25 – 27 instead.
Portsoy Community Enterprise say it will act as a preview for next year’s showcase, with that the hope that the festival will return to Portsoy on June 17-19, 2022.
Festival chairman David Urquhart said the decision was made with a “heavy heart” but that the digital festival would shine a light on Portsoy and the wider area to viewers across the globe, as well as maintaining the festival’s reputation as a leading Scottish maritime event.
“We simply cannot plan”
He said: “It had always been our desire to deliver a safe festival, but our number one concern has been to protect the safety of the local community and the many thousands of visitors who descend upon Portsoy over the festival weekend.
“We simply cannot plan with any degree of confidence that we will be able to deliver the event the town deserves, and our visitors have come to expect, and public health has to be our key consideration.
“So, we are working on delivering a festival on a virtual platform to share our flagship event with audiences around the world. While festival lovers won’t be able to come to Portsoy, we will deliver a festival to them through streaming.
“This festival will maintain our profile, providing some fun and entertainment on the weekend the festival was due to take place and will give a taste of things to come in 2022.”
Details of the digital offering will be released shortly, but it will have a focus on seafaring activities, food and drink, crafts and music.
Running for 148 years, the decision follows similar ones made earlier by organisers of shows in Sutherland, Banchory and Turriff.
Show chairwoman Angela McWilliam said: “It is with great disappointment, although not unexpected, that we have made the final decision to cancel this year’s show. We have held out hope that this decision would possibly go the other way, however, this is sadly not the case.
“Due to the uncertainty of the Covid-19 crisis, public health and the wellbeing of all involved with the show being our main concern we must take this unpopular decision.
“We are optimistic for next year and the committee will do all it can to make that a special show for all.”
Hopes for 2022 events
A spokesman for the latter said organisers hope the event will return to Fraserburgh Leisure Centre in 2022.
He added: “The decision was made in the best interest of the public and also to our emergency services who would have been present on the day.”