The decision by Essex County Cricket Club to end the Southend Cricket Festival after 105 years is being contested by a task force who are hoping the county will backtrack on their recent decision.
A committee has been formed to apply pressure on Essex to bring about a change of heart and it is keen to force a special general meeting to contest the controversial decision to end the festival.
“We need five per cent of the membership on our side to call an SGM which we consider to be 200 people, so that’s something we’re aiming for,” confirmed Trevor Lawrence, chairman of the task force committee.
“However, we remain committed to putting on a festival of cricket for the people of this town,” he added. It is understood that the Unicorns have been approached to play one of their Clydesdale Bank 40 games at Garon Park in 2012 while another possible option is to host a Twenty20 event at the Southend venue involving Ireland, Holland and a Lashings XI.
Essex insist that they consulted with members before finalising the festival’s future but it is reported that not one of the 100 members attending the recent public meeting in the town to discuss retaining the festival week had been asked for their views.
It is also understood that Southend Borough Council, who offered financial support to the festival, have not been consulted either about the county club’s decision and Derek Jarvis, council cabinet member for culture and tourism, has reiterated his desire to keep first-class cricket in the town.
“I’m 100 per cent behind what the task force committee is trying to achieve,” said Jarvis. “The decision defies logic but we have a meeting with the club in two weeks and we will be pushing for the festival to be brought back.”
Essex played at the seafront location of Southchurch Park until 2004 when they decided to move a mile and a half inland to Garon Park but in the seven years that the new venue – which lacks the charm of Southchurch – has staged first-class cricket, it has failed to attract the level of support Essex desired.
That has now led to the club taking the decision to end Southend’s cricket week, leaving Colchester as the sole surviving Essex festival.