SIRF 2021 cancelled

Published: 17 July 2021
Reporter: Peter Lathan

Stockton International Riverside Festival 2021

SIRF, Stockton’s International Riverside Festival of outdoor arts and street theatre, which celebrated its 30th year in 2017, has cancelled the 2021 event.

A statement from the organisers, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, issued on Friday 6 July, says: “due to the rising rate of infections in our communities and the current pressures on our emergency services we have taken the incredibly hard decision to cancel this year’s SIRF, which was due to take place in Stockton from July 29 to August 1.

“We were really looking forward to bringing SIRF back and in early May when we confirmed our intention to go ahead, rates had fallen to 21.8 per 100,000 population. But now rates are rocketing towards 1,000 per 100,000 population.

“Staging a major event like SIRF is a huge undertaking involving public and private organisations as well as volunteers. We have taken this decision after consulting with partners and considering the strains that are evident across the many services that we rely on to help us deliver the festival.

“We’re very conscious that police, health, and fire colleagues are all experiencing staffing pressures and we do not want to add to that pressure.

“Unfortunately, as SIRF is just 13 days away and faced with this huge rise in infections we cannot call on many thousands of people to come together at this time. If you’ve been to SIRF you’ll know that performances are typically enjoyed by crowds of people standing and sitting shoulder to shoulder. In light of the very high levels of infection in our communities we just aren’t prepared to put people at increased risk.

“And it’s not just about protecting festival goers, it’s also about protecting staff and volunteers from all the other agencies we rely on to stage SIRF. They range from emergency services and technical support staff through to our Visitor Experience volunteers, who are predominantly young people.”