Chester has lost two of its biggest crowd pullers after the Giants and Romans pulled out of the summer’s festivities.
Every year thousands of people flock to the city to watch as 14ft giants and hundreds of Roman soldiers parade through the streets during a packed season of events.
But this year, The Chronicle can reveal, organisers of the Roman festival have cancelled the two-day event over concerns about the state of Grosvenor Park and not being able to secure adequate funding for the second year in a row.
And the annual giant carnival, which draws tourists from all over the world, has been moved to Ellesmere Port after the parade’s dates originally clashed with the Roman re-enactment.
Chester the Giant City, who organise the popular carnival, said despite the Romans withdrawing their booking, they couldn’t rearrange the event as it had to be on June 1 – when they are parading through Ellesmere Port.
Organisers of the Roman festival, which sees re-enactment groups travel from all over the world, attacked Cheshire West and Chester Council for their lack of support, saying they ‘don’t seem bothered about heritage’.
“People love coming to Chester, it is a Roman city, they can walk the walls and see beautiful buildings,” said Charlene Harston, who runs Chester Roman Tours with her husband Paul.
“It is a shame – people love it, they love coming together in the city. People come here for the heritage, but the council and the people in charge don’t seem to be bothered about heritage.”
Charlene said they decided to cancel the festival for the second year running after CWaC allowed race days on the same weekend and they feared the park refurbishment wouldn’t be completed in time.
They have also struggled to get adequate funding for the event since Chestival folded in autumn 2012.
“It is £20,000 minimum, and there is no way we can get that kind of funding without help. This year there hasn’t even been a mention of it,” said Charlene, who said they might organise a small event at the amphitheatre on the Sunday but nothing on the scale of the festival.
“Chester needs to wake up and smell the coffee. They didn’t want our plans for the Roman fort, so we’ve gone to Flintshire, if this keeps happening we might move the festival there.”
Kristine Szulik, the Giants project manager, explained the carnival had to be on June 1 as it was always at the end of a five-week placement for University of Chester students, without whom the event couldn’t go ahead.
“If we don’t have it that weekend they will have gone home,” said Kristine, who added it was a shame the Giants wouldn’t be doing the parade in Chester for the first time ever.
“It is not the same weekend every year, we have to fit it around the university placements. It just so happens the council couldn’t do that weekend as the Romans were already booked in.
“The carnival needed to be held that weekend and Ellesmere Port jumped on it. We are fixed with them for that date. I did not know the Romans had cancelled, even if I had known there wouldn’t be anything I could do.”
Kristine, who also said the Giants HQ on Sealand Road would be relocating further out of Chester and towards Flintshire next week, said she hoped the Giants would return to the city in October to take part in Gay Pride.
“We are not leaving Chester, we are already committed to Ellesmere Port, and I think it will be fantastic.”
Andrew Bentley, director of city-based arts organisation Chester Performs – which took over many of the responsibilities of Chester Festivals when that organisation folded in 2012 – said he was not aware the events had been cancelled.
But he explained the organisation was not involved with any funding and had supported both the giants and Romans in the past.
“This summer is really busy, there are lots of fantastic big events going on,” said Mr Bentley, who said the decision was made by the individual companies not Chester Performs.
“We hope to help out these kinds of organisations, but this year we haven’t been approached.”
A spokesperson for CWaC confirmed the giants had been turned down for their date, but had been offered dates ‘the weekend before and the weekend after’ June 1, but they had declined.
“It takes a lot of management and organisation to put on these events in the city centre,” she said.
“If a date is taken a date is taken. We work on a first come first served basis. We offered both the weekend before and after and they turned down both.
“However the Roman festival has now been cancelled. If they want to change the date we will work with them.”