The Isle of Thanet Festival of Remembrance comes to an end after more than 70 years

A donation to Maurice House marked the end of the Isle of Thanet Festival of Remembrance

The Isle of Thanet Festival of Remembrance annual event has come to an end because there is no longer a suitable venue.

For more than 70 years the festival has staged the Royal British Legion’s second largest display of remembrance apart from the national commemorations held at the Royal Albert Hall.

But the closure of the Margate Winter Gardens has left the festival committee with no suitable venue for the annual event and the sad decision to close it down has been reached.

On Friday, 11 November, following a service of remembrance at the RBL Maurice House  care home in Broadstairs, the IOT Festival Committee formally presented the home with a cheque for £1100 to mark the end of an era.

The Festival Committee says it can see no prospect for the refurbishment of the Winter Gardens taking place in the foreseeable future.

The last Festival of Remembrance was the 72nd and took place in October 2019. There still were a very large number of RBL standards on parade although in recent years the number of them had dropped owing to the formal closure of many RBL branches and veteran groups such as the Far East POW Association, the British Korean Veterans Association, Second World War campaign groups like the Burma Star organisation, as well as the amalgamation of numerous regimental organisations.

The last of the IOT Festivals in 2019 included a brilliant display by the Band of the Blues & Royals, perhaps the best military band performance ever held by the IOT Festival. Previous years also featured performances by the Gurkhas and their display team, and the bands of the Royal Marines, the Royal Air Force, the Royal Artillery, the Coldstream Guards, and dozens of others over the years.

The Military Wives Choir, the Legionnaires and local cadet groups also made regular appearances. Chelsea Pensioners regularly attended, to the delight of everyone present. The vicars of the Margate parish churches of St. Johns or All Saints normally led the service each year along with their choirs, and invariably each festival ended with a couple of hours of dancing and socialising amongst veterans, their families and friends.

The Isle of Thanet Festival of Remembrance was well supported by locals and others, including coachloads who came out to the Winter Gardens to see it.

The Festival incurred heavy expenses on securing the bands, many other of the featured events and rental of the building, and these costs rose over time, but in large measure due to programme sales, raffles and generous corporate and private donations, the Festival never sustained a loss.

Although originally founded as an independent organisation that supported a number of military charities, over the lifetime of the IOT Festival of Remembrance it raised many tens of thousands of pounds in support of the Royal British Legion.

The Festival was a regular fixture on the calendars for each successive National Chairman of the Royal British Legion, the Lord Lieutenant the County,  local MPs, mayors and other dignitaries.

A committee spokesperson said: “ It is with great sorrow but no lack of commitment on the part of the director and committee that the Festival organisers have had to rest from their labours at present.

“They hope to resurrect the Festival should the opportunity arise to renew its work in an appropriate and affordable venue. The present committee, all unpaid volunteers, mainly consists of ex-service men and others, who have honoured the service community throughout long lives, but members then will be looking for new volunteers to carry that work forward. In the meanwhile, we hope the community will continue to support charities who serve the veterans’ community.”

The cheque at Maurice House was presented by the Director of the Festival, Peter Steele, picked by the previous long-serving director, the late Austin Walker, MBE, who had committed himself to lead Festival for more than twenty years.

Alongside Mr. Steele at the presentation were his deputy, John Pankhurst, and long-serving treasurer, Ela Lodge-Pritchard. Other members in attendance were Brian White, Geoff and Gwen Mullender, Kevin Minnis, and R. John Pritchard.

Receiving the presentation cheque on behalf of Maurice House were manager Tracy Tremble and business manager Sue Samuels.


    • Why do you suggest it’s EITHER art galleries or theatres? It should be BOTH, especially as the Turner brings hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Thanet economy year in, year out…

      • Because there obviously isn’t enough money for both… and don’t believe the hype re the unprovable benefits to the area. Having lived in the area for the best part of 40 years, I can assure that even 15 years ago (a couple of years before TC opened) Margate and Cliftonville shopping areas were far better than they are now.

        Back on topic: Why can’t TC offer to put this important annual event on, ditto the TDC-funded Dreamland?

  1. It is with great sadness that I read of the IOT “Festival of Remembrance” having to close. Our Independent Vindicatrix of East Kent Association – Merchant Navy have attended for many years and it was an important date in our calendar. If only thee was another venue able to continue this service of Remembrance locally it would be great but obviously that has been explored. Today I read of some morons who have set fire to a War Memorial in Scotland and it makes me wonder – what did our heroes die for? With or without a Festival of Remembrance – WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.

  2. “The Cenotaph” model that was always on the stage of the main Hall just behind the military band during every Service of Remembrance at the Winter Gardens has also been moved to Maurice House along with the poppies that were used in “the fall” over the seated musicians, in silence after a recording of the sound of Big Ben striking eleven times, at end of each service. No one who ever witnessed that will ever forget it or its deep significance. That enduring memory will always brings tears to the eyes of everyone who has beheld it, for all of us tears of sorrow at past, present and future sacrifices, and for many,too, pride in records of active service and commitment. “At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.”

    • I had the honour of witnessing the Service of Remembrance for 4 years in a row when I worked at the WG. Always extremely touching.

      Why haven’t TDC (a) commented on this, and (b) came up with a viable alternative?

  3. I am an ex serviceman albeit of over 60 years ago, and prefer to try and forget, rather than remember! Can’t churches be used? They are by and large empty nowadays anyway!

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