THE CANCELLATION of the Abergavenny Food Festival (AFF) is a “real tragedy for the town”, mayor Tony Konieczny has said.

The mayor was speaking a day after the cancellation was made public on the AFF website.

The festival, which usually attracts tens of thousands of visitors and some of the top names in the industry, was due to be held on September 19 and 20.

Chief Executive of AFF Kim Waters said despite best efforts to find an alternative to cancelling the event, the festival eventually succumbed to its own popularity as well as a lack of clarity on the current situation.

“The last thing anyone wants is 40,000 people in one place at the moment,” he said. “We looked at every possible permutation, but given the scale of the event and our commitment to it being completely inclusive, it didn’t feel right to allow some people in and not others.

“It was also too much of a risk to shell out on lots of equipment and stalls and then be told we couldn’t have the event.”

Asked whether the losses incurred from the cancellation could put the event’s future in jeopardy, Mr Waters added: “It is going to be our most challenging year, that is for sure, but I am confident we have the reserves to get us through to next year. We have to thank our sponsors and the rates relief scheme for helping us with that.

“This will clearly have an impact on the town’s economy, but at the moment there are bigger things at stake, and we’ve all got to pull together.”

Reacting to the news, Mayor Konieczny said: “It is a huge loss to the town but was not for the want of trying.

“It is another terrible sign of the impact of coronavirus on the economy in Monmouthshire and is a real tragedy for the town.”

The mayor said he worries about the “knock-on impact” of the cancellation as well as the already-perilous position the town’s independent businesses find themselves in.

Lucy Hywel, joint organiser of town business group YFenni Business Community, said while the decision was the right one, the impact of the cancellation will be felt.

“The festival has a long history and has been brilliant for the town over the years, especially given the national coverage it gives to Abergavenny,” she said, “but it seems there was no other viable decision.

“The lack of clarity on whether the festival would have been able to go ahead means you can’t be planning and taking bookings from people.”