KEY events, which had to be cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be taking centre stage in Harwich and Clacton in 2021.

Tendring Council has confirmed the Illuminate Festival, scheduled for November to mark Harwich’s link with the Mayflower Ship, will now run next Spring.

The Mayflower Ship’s captain Christopher Jones hailed from Harwich and sailed its crew to the New World, now known as America, 400 years ago.

At Tendring Council’s cabinet meeting today it was also revealed the Mayflower Trail in Harwich would be installed from next week – coinciding with September 16, the date the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for from England to the United States.

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Alex Porter, Tendring Council’s cabinet member for leisure and tourism, said the events would kick-start the year.

“Last year’s Illuminate Festival was a roaring success, and this year was due to wrap-up a year of festivities as we celebrated 400 years since The Mayflower of Harwich took the Pilgrims to America,” Mr Porter said.

“Of course Covid-19 has changed things somewhat, and instead many of the celebrations will now take place next year, subject to coronavirus restrictions - including the Illuminate Festival, which although traditionally held around Thanksgiving will now re-launch the Mayflower 400 programme.

“With the current Covid-19 restrictions, it would not be possible to do it justice this year, but instead we hope to bookend 2021 with Illuminate Festivals.

He said next year marks Clacton’s 150th birthday and he is working with tourism partners to look at ways to celebrate the occasion.

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Mr Porter added: “These proposals will complement a whole series of planned events, which could make 2021 a very special year indeed, and further details will follow over the coming weeks and months.”

Also discussed at the meeting was a draft Tourism Strategy for the district.

Covering the next five years, the strategy sets out an ambition to increase the number of jobs associated with the sector, improve the district’s profile, work more with tourism business partners and improve the quality of life of residents by doing so.

Mr Porter added: “More detail will come in the Delivery Plan which will follow on once the Tourism Strategy is adopted, but it is exciting to see us having a real focus on what is an incredibly important part of our economy.

“One of the key aspects is to recognise the unique nature and selling points of all our towns and villages. We are blessed with unspoilt coastline, family attractions, heritage of international importance, stunning countryside and some of the best events in the country.

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“We obviously need to recognise the challenges our businesses face, operating throughout a pandemic, and so one of the key focusses of the first year’s delivery plan will be to provide ‘back to business’ support to reignite our economy – such as through these two Spring events.”

The draft strategy was agreed by cabinet, and will now go out for a six-week consultation.