Verity party in burger van row

Friday’s Party on the Pier at the centre of a catering row after objections to ‘Barnstaple van’ taking Ilfracombe trade.

AS Ilfracombe gears up for its big Party on the Pier to celebrate the switch on of Verity’s lights this Friday, a North Devon catering van owner is still bemused after being dropped from the event.

The Lush Food Company had been booked by organisers to provide on site catering during the 6-8pm festivities in honour of Damien Hirst’s statue, but was cancelled after an online backlash claiming it was taking business away from Ilfracombe traders.

The post on Ilfracombe Town Council’s Facebook page by John Mackenzie asked: “Please could you tell us who gave permission for a Barnstaple company to bring in mobile catering to take away trade from our own Ilfracombe businesses.”

It attracted more than 200 comments, many in support, and Lush’s owner Jason Clark said shortly after the booking had been cancelled.

“I was just a North Devon business asked to go and do something in the area and it was taken away from me because of something written on the internet,” he said.

“I do feel a bit hard done by, it just felt like they gave in too easily.

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“Of the thousands of people they expected, I would have taken about five per cent of trade – we can only serve so many people in a couple of hours and it would not have made any difference to the businesses along the quay there.

“Ilfracombe people I have spoken to during the past few days all said they do not feel that was the voice of the town. My staff come from all over the area, including Ilfracombe and Woolacombe, not just Barnstaple.”

Ilfracombe Marketing Group chairman Philip Webb said the whole episode was unfortunate: “It goes to show social media has a lot of responsibility, it can quickly develop into something quite big, with people jumping on the bandwagon and we wanted to make sure that local people were on board with this event,” he said.

“It is a community event, it is for the people of Ilfracombe and when we realised the strength of feeling in the town we felt it better to deal with the matter promptly, and have the local traders on board and supportive of the event.

“The catering will be provided by the traders on the quay, who assured me they will be up to the task and open on the night. The aquarium will also be open.”

* FRIDAYS Party on the Pier has been organised by a group of councillors, officers, businesses and residents put together by the Ilfracombe Marketing Group.

The switch on of the lights that will illuminate the 67 foot verity for the next 20 years will be carried out just before 7pm by a mystery guest and followed by a firework display.

The Heart FM Roadshow will on hand, as will a mobile disco, bouncy castle, children’s rides and a larger ride for older revellers will be provided by Rowland’s.

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