By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
Just when you thought it was safe, something else comes along and plans change. Again.
We should be used to it by now – planning, building up and getting excited in prospect, only for it all to be thrown into disarray as the date hoves into view.
We have had to forgo Christmases, holidays, family reunions, get-togethers and any number of social events as the ever-changing coronavirus mutations got the better of us. Hopefully, the end is now in sight, but how many times have we said that before?
Sadly, the latest victim is the long-planned and long-anticipated Ageing Well Festival. We have had to take it online for the last two years and were hoping to have a grand finale get together version at the Riviera Centre Torquay in March.
But it is just too close, we can’t take the risk of investing more time and money into a festival that could put people at risk even if omicron’s effect is on the wane by then. A weak virus is still a potentially dangerous virus to the one in twenty of our population that are vulnerable.
The circumstances are beyond our control and whilst we are postponing again, we are hoping to be able to host it at some point; who knows? The fact is, though, Ageing Well finishes at the end of March and this was meant to be the swansong.
Our hardworking and resilient festival committee members took the decision this week and are busy contacting the many entertainers and stallholders we already had lined up for the legacy extravaganza.
It is so sad that after all the hard work that has already gone into the festival, that they have been forced to take this decision, but the committee is by no means alone in these COVID times of having put in herculean efforts only to see the fruits of their labours wither on the vine.
We have to be pragmatic. We would hate for the Ageing Well Torbay Festival of 2022 to be remembered for all the wrong reasons, which would be ironic given its true purpose – a celebration of the very best of the Bay’s talents that have graced numerous stages in various venues over the years.
Putting more than 2000 people, the majority over the age of 50, under one roof at the Riviera Centre would be a high-risk strategy and one that we are not prepared to take.
Omicron could have disappeared by March 19th, the planned date of the festival, but we all know that kind of thinking is at best optimistic, and in reality, highly unlikely.
It continues to affect people across the country and whilst the number of infections might not be as high in Torbay, people continue to come down with it and struggle with it.
Up until a week ago, there were 1,143 cases per one hundred thousand people in the Bay and whilst that was considerably less than the national average of 1,758, it is still a lot of people.
In fact, since the crisis began, there have been just short of 24000 cases of coronavirus in Torbay and that is from a population of just 135,000. Assuming nearly all of those cases are single infections, one in 5.6 people. No wonder we now all know someone who has the virus.
Sadly 221 people had died by the end of 2021.
However, there is hopefully light at the end of the tunnel and the vaccinations continue apace at the centres in Brixham and Torquay with 86% of people aged over 12 now having had their first injection and an impressive 80%, their second. Sixty-two per cent have also had the all-important booster jab.
Experts are now suggesting that coronavirus will never go away and we will have to learn to live it with, but that is of little consequence for the one in five who have a disability or an illness that means they will continue to be at risk.
As things stand, Ageing Well Torbay may not be going out with a bang, but the structures that AWT have put into place over the years, will continue to support the most vulnerable in our society, not least through the Torbay Community Helpline, which can be contacted on 01803 446022.