Essex set to pull the plug on the Southend Festival

Essex, I understand, are set to stop staging first team cricket at Garon Park, in Southend, one of their two festival grounds alongside Colchester’s Castle Park.

The county were forced to re-locate the Southend Festival from Southchurch Park back in 2005 after continuous vandalism had made the continued use of the venue, located close to the sea, impractical.

Determined to maintain a festival week in the town, the local council subsidised the Garon Park week to the tune of £15,000 per year, while a festival committee was set up to underwrite the costs of retaining first-class cricket in the area.

However, despite much hard work behind the scenes, the new location at Garon Park, around a mile and a half from Southchurch, failed to capture the imagination or large support of Essex followers, although there was a reasonable attendance for this year’s Clydesdale Bank 40 match against Somerset with 3,500 people turning up.

Garon Park was first used for first-class cricket in 2005 when Durham were the visitors and although the pitch has provided plenty of interesting cricket since then, the venue itself has been described as soulless in contrast to the much-loved Southchurch Park where the Australians famously made 721 in a day back in 1948.

Now it appears that the Southend Cricket Week is about to go the way of so many cricket festivals over the past 20 years and be consigned to the history books. Essex are unlikely to pursue an alternative ground – whether in Southend or elsewhere – to add to their existing Colchester festival and are likely simply to stage another County Championship and one-day game at their Chelmsford headquarters.

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