Darts Farm defends carol service from Covid criticism

Darts Farm has come under fire after pictures circulated on social media of a carol singing event which appears to show vast numbers of people not socially distancing or wearing face coverings.

132 comments so far, mostly scathing! – Owl

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com 

However, the popular farm shop in Topsham – which shared the event live online yesterday – has insisted that the event was safe and well-organised, and did not breach Covid-19 regulations.

An outdoor Christmas carol evening was held within the grounds of the farm last night [Friday], December 16, from 7.30pm.

Visitors were asked to congregate outside by The Shack with Christ Church Woodbury and SW Comms Band leading the music.

A screen shot of the outdoor Christmas carol evening at Darts Farm

On its Facebook page yesterday, Darts Farm stated: “Everyone is welcome, there is no need to book.

“Please note, we will not be handing out booklets. Instead, all of the carols can be found here https://www.dartsfarm.co.uk/outdoor-christmas-carol-evening – please bring your phone with you to access them.”

The event, which included a collection for Exeter Foodbank and offered mince pie and mulled apple juice, was watched by many on Dart Farms Twitter feed last night and the link has since been removed.

On its Facebook page, people have vented their anger and disgust at how the event has potentially put peoples’ lives in danger.

One person said: “Who thought this would be a good idea? I’m furious how you think you could be above the law?”

In agreement someone said: “I am beyond fuming. You’re bragging about supporting families who have been hit hard by Covid then you host a get together to sing carols.

“The pictures show the massive crowd with no distancing and no masks. Covid has affected us all in one way or another, but you go ahead with a get together that the government has banned others from.

“Those that attended and whoever thought up such a stupid idea should be fined too.”

Another said: “This is disgusting. In the current situation and having friends working at RD&E and also having family and friends currently recovering from Covid and laying in ICU with Covid this is appalling.

“By all means have a carol concert, but lay down Covid rules such as masks must be worn, social distancing and limit numbers.”

A concerned Devon Live reader added: “I am horrified having watched it on Instagram. Hundreds of people were not socially distanced and without masks. They are singing which increases the spread.

“This is surely illegal, immoral, irresponsible. Several people could die as a result of this.”

A spokesperson for Darts Farm said: “We are so thrilled to have been able to run our Outdoor Christmas Carol Evening last night, that complied with all the guidance from the government’s ‘Covid-19: suggested principles of safer singing’.

“With unlimited outdoor space and using closed off car parking, everyone was able to social distance and stand where they wanted. You could say that it was more organised than most busy high streets on a Saturday.

“The actual programme for the evening, including all of the carols, was on our website so that everyone could follow and sing using their phones – reducing any contact with no one gathered around a screen with projected words.

“From all those that attended, we have had nothing but positive feedback and interestingly the only criticism has come from those that didn’t actually attend the evening.

“The comments we have received include, ‘really moving hearing people singing together again even at a distance’, and ‘a big thank you for the organised carol service this evening. You do not know how much we needed that. God bless and merry Christmas’.

“It was brilliant to be able to see our local community come together in festive spirits in what has been a very challenging year. Outdoor carol singing is something that has been encouraged by the government in their recent guidance to help lift our spirits this Christmas.”