A TOWN'S annual ale festival held in the run up to Christmas has officially been cancelled by organisers.

The Harwich and Dovercourt Bay Winter Ale Festival was scheduled to take place at the Kingsway Hall, in Dovercourt, near the end of November.

The popular festival has been running since 2002, and normally takes place over three days.

However, the event has now been taken off the calender for 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Colin Cheesman, chairman of the organising committee, said: “So many people look forward to this festival and see it as the start to the run up to Christmas.

"However disappointing, I am sure that everyone will understand that it would have been impossible to run the event in a Covid-19 secure manner and it is the right thing to do to announce the cancellation.

"As with so many organisations across the Harwich Peninsula, we must hope that we are in a position to return in 2021.”

A spokesman for the festival said volunteers who help run and organise the festival were hoping the coronavirus might have been a "thing of the past" before the decision was made to cancel the event.

He added: "This is clearly not the case so it was considered time to formally make the announcement."

The festival had been held at the Kingsway Hall since it began in 2002 but the hall was not available in 2015, causing the festival to be cancelled.

However, Parkeston Railway Club agreed to host the event in 2016 and also provided the venue for the 2017 and 2018 events.

Then last year the organising committee took the decision to return the festival to the Kingsway Hall, having thanked the railway club for its support over the past three years.