Churches help out after failure of Weymouth Olympic initiative

By agency reporter
August 7, 2012

Weymouth’s Bayside Festival for the Olympics has gone into liquidation. But churches from the area are helping shocked stallholders and security staff.

Festival organisers suddenly closed their gates on Friday 3 August 2012, blaming poor attendance.

However, church volunteers stepped in to support the confused and angry exhibitors and traders with free drinks and a listening ear. The event had been due to run for the duration of the Olympics.

"Many of these traders, exhibitors and security staff face losing a lot of money as they’ve paid for pitches and lost potential takings," said the Rev Anni Douglas, co-ordinator of Weymouth and Portland churches’ Refresh 2012.

"So we sent our volunteers round the site to see how people were feeling, listening to them and providing refreshments. They really appreciated it and we had a good response," she added.

Refresh 2012, set up by the local churches to provide activities, youth events and exhibitions at the Olympic sailing site, were also hit by the closure. They had set up Bedouin tents on the festival site, offering a quiet zone for visitors to relax and to have hand and foot massages.

"We’ve now had to hire a replacement tent which we’re hoping to put up in the town centre," said Ms Douglas.

Refresh 2012 had offered to meet with the festival organisers Mainsail Ltd and the borough council on Friday to try to rescue the event. But their offer to mobilise an army of 300 local church volunteers to run the site and keep it going fell on deaf ears.

The festival had attracted 17,000 fewer visitors in the first three days than predicted. As a result, Organisers Mainsail Ltd had reduced the admission price and numbers had begun to pick up. But it came too late for the events company who closed the doors on Friday.

Refresh 2012 is one of the many responses to the 2012 Games from churches under the banner of More Than Gold, the initiative set up by all the main Christian denominations for the Games.

David Willson, CEO of More Than Gold said, "This response by the churches is a great example of the way Christians can offer united, practical help, compassion and take on the role of peacemakers."


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