Tolerance festival can't be tolerated

CANCELLATION of a village “festival of tolerance” is being blamed on a minority of local residents who could not put up with the disruption they claim it caused.

David Green

CANCELLATION of a village “festival of tolerance” is being blamed on a minority of local residents who could not put up with the disruption they claim it caused.

However, last night the local parish council chairman said the Laxfield Festival of Tolerance had been called off because of a delay caused by uncertainty over funding, not because of protests about the nature of the event.

The festival was founded three years ago as a local contribution to promoting mutual tolerance around the world.

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Its theme was based on a major incident of intolerance in Laxfield when, in the 16th Century, a local shoemaker, John Noyes, was burned at the stake for refusing to follow the stipulated religious doctrine of the time.

The first three years of the festival brought together history and the arts, Tudor re-constructions and music, mixed with modern drama and contemporary bands.

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Thousands of people from a wide area attended each year, boosting numbers who visited the church, the two village pubs and attractions such as the local museum.

However, the festival has attracted controversy from the outset with some local residents not liking use of the word “tolerance” and others believing the disruption caused to normal village life - including the closing of the village street for a day - is not justified.

Simon Gallo , who founded the festival, confirmed yesterday that the event had been cancelled this year and said he thought the root cause of the delay in getting parish council approval was intolerance on behalf of a minority of local people.

By the time the parish council agreed to go ahead with the event, scheduled for September 20, it was too late to confirm the provisional booking of artistes and caterers.

“It is a great pity because we had £15,000 of funding in place and many people were looking forward to the event,” Mr Gallo said. “However, it was too late for the bands, one of which was coming from the United States, and the caterers. These people have busy programmes and you can't leave it to the last minute.”

Mr Gallo, a member of the parish council, said the annual festival had been a “huge success” and he was disappointed about this year's cancellation but was confident the festival would be back next year in some form.

Tony Oakes, parish council chairman, said the delay in coming to a decision about this year's festival had been the result of uncertainty over its financial cover in the case of bad weather.

“Maybe the parish council dragged its feet a bit but it was because of the funding,” he said. “If we had been overly concerned about the complaints there wouldn't have been a festival during the past three years.”

Mr Oakes said there would be a village event - perhaps a “fun day” - on September 20 instead of the festival.

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