Darts Farm carol service investigated by council

Darts Farm is being investigated after hosting a controversial outdoor carol service last week.

Howard Lloyd www.devonlive.com

The backlash came after images from the event on social media apparently showed significant numbers of people apparently not socially distancing or wearing face coverings.

It was held on the grounds of Darts Farm, in Topsham, on the evening of Wednesday, December 16.

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

After a barrage of criticism via social media, Darts Farm defended themselves, insisting that they had followed the suggestions from the Government’s ‘Covid-19: suggested principles of safer singing’ guidelines’.

“You could say that it was more organised than most busy high streets on a Saturday,” said a spokesperson.

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

But East Devon District Council have now announced that they are looking into the ‘planning and control measures’ to work out if rules were broken.

They are currently awaiting information from the business.

“East Devon District Council is currently investigating to establish what planning and control measures went in to this event to determine if any offence was committed,” said a spokesperson.

“We are currently awaiting further information from the business so have no further comment to make at this time.”

The event, which included a collection for Exeter Foodbank and offered mince pies and mulled apple juice, was watched by many on Dart Farms Twitter feed, although that link was swiftly removed.

On its Facebook page, people vented their anger and disgust at the event.

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.”

In response, 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.”

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