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May Bank Holiday 2020: Morris dancers protest over move

Woman takes part in dance Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jack in the Green is held in Hastings every year over the weekend of the first May Bank Holiday

Morris dancers and organisers of other early May Bank Holiday events are protesting outside parliament against the decision to move the date in 2020. Why are they so angry?

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day, which marked the end of World War Two in Europe, the government has decided to move a bank holiday.

It was announced in June that the 4 May holiday would be moved to 8 May to commemorate the anniversary.

None of the objectors is disputing the idea of having a public holiday to mark the occasion, but the decision to move 4 May rather than organising an extra one has caused outrage.

Event organisers said they had already planned and booked their events and did not have time or money to re-organise.

They said a second holiday should be arranged, but the government said that would hit the economy.

Weddings, school exams, holidaymakers and calendar makers have all been hit by the date change, according to St Ives MP Derek Thomas, who organised a debate about it in parliament.

Organisers of the Jack in the Green festival, in Hastings, East Sussex, which helps to attract about 40,000 people to the town over the early May holiday, are behind the protest.

Keith Leech from the four-day long folk festival, which features a dancing parade through town celebrating the start of summer, said 11 months' notice was not enough, with bands, venues and accommodation already booked for 2020.

He will be joined by Morris dancers from across the country and other event organisers including a group of motorbike riders to raise awareness of the array of events that "would be lost by this last-minute idea".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption VE Day celebrates the end of World War Two in Europe when Nazi Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945

He said a study in Hastings estimated the change would lose the local economy about £6m, predominantly from the hotels, pubs and restaurants.

Mr Leech said organisers were still discussing how to cope with the date change, with options including moving part of their festival to 8 May (although that would be a "clash of cultures" with VE Day), or "truncating" the event into two weekend days.

More than 5,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the government to keep the holiday on 4 May, while another has been launched by a woman whose wedding is booked for that weekend.

'Cack-handed'

Petition founder Louise Exley said as a teacher, she arranged her wedding to ensure guests would have the Monday already off work.

She said: "We have been waiting and saving for this day for years only to find out our perfect day is being stripped of us, due to sudden changes made by the government."

In his parliamentary debate, MP Derek Thomas said it was "absolutely right" that Britain commemorated VE Day, but criticised the "cack-handed way" the decision was reached with less than a year's notice.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Isles of Scilly host the World Pilot Gig Championships each year

Steve Ryman, secretary of the World Pilot Gig Championships held every early May Bank Holiday in the Isles of Scilly, agreed.

"I'm not against commemorating VE Day," Mr Ryman said, adding: "I'm in awe of the sacrifice those people made."

But the decision to move the Bank Holiday was just "bonkers and ridiculous", he added.

Calendar manufacturers have also been hit, with one firm, Allan & Bertram, saying replacing the May page in 400,000 calendars would cost the company £200,000.

David Pike, group managing director of Exeter-based Calendar Club, said the June announcement was "very awkward and a "bit of a nightmare" as most calendars were printed in spring for the following year.

He said reprinting would be "prohibitively expensive", so the firm would provide stickers advising purchasers about the date change.

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Media captionAndrew Bennett, managing director of calendar maker Allan & Bertram

Mr Pike said the date change was for "laudable reasons" but should have been planned years in advance, not months.

He said: "The 75th anniversary has been known for 74 years.

"Someone had a bright idea. On the face of it it was a good idea but they really did not think through all the repercussions."

'Fitting tribute'

Mr Thomas said: "The only possible, practical and pragmatic response is for the government to keep the bank holiday to commemorate VE Day and to reinstate the early spring bank holiday on Monday 4 May."

Andrew Stephenson, miknister for business, energy and industrial strategy, said he wished the decision could have been made in a "more timely fashion" but holding a second bank holiday for VE Day would affect many businesses.

He said the extra bank holiday for the Queen's diamond jubilee in 2012 cost the economy £1.2bn.

A spokesman for Mr Stephenson's department said moving the holiday was a "right and fitting tribute to our heroes", adding: "We considered the practical implications of moving this bank holiday."

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