Strictly star Reverend Richard Coles has pledged his support for the UK mainland’s oldest theme park as it goes into administration.
Wicksteed Park, in Kettering, Northamptonshire announced on Monday that it had gone into administration and the doors to the attraction would not open again, reports CambridgeshireLive.
A post on its Facebook page said: “It is with great sadness that we have to announce that Wicksteed Park Limited has gone into administration.”
The closure of the park will result in 48 permanent and 67 part-time staff being lost as the hospitality and leisure industry battles to survive in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands of pounds have been donated to an online fundraising appeal by many people who have fond memories of the park.
The bid to save the family favourite park has even been backed by former Strictly star, Chancellor of the University of Northampton and Vicar of Finedon Rev Coles, according to NorthantsLive.
He tweeted: “Wicksteed Park has gone into administration. It was the pleasure dome of my childhood, and for tens of thousands of Cytringans. A sad, sad day.”
After being made aware of the fundraising fight, Rev Coles who won the hearts of TV viewers as a contestant on the 15th series of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, tweeted: “Right! The battle is on to SAVE WICKIES! #WicksteedPark.”
Oliver Wicksteed, chairman of the Wicksteed Charitable Trust, which owns the park, said the coronavirus outbreak had left it with no income for months – apart from a small amount of car parking revenue.
In a statement, he said: “We are all devastated by what has happened and the effect this will have on our staff, their families and our visitors.
“We fully appreciate the effect this decision will have on staff members who have already been through months of uncertainty and difficulty due to Covid-19 and we are working hard to ensure they have access to the support and advice they need at this time.
“We are working hard to enable the park to continue but the reality is that without urgent significant support Wicksteed Park will not survive as we know it.”
The trust has said it will try to keep the park and pavilion areas open for people to enjoy for their daily exercise.
It has also pledged to honour any bookings for forthcoming events as well as annual passes and will try to retain functions and shows in the park pavilion as soon as government guidelines allow.
Mr Wicksteed added: “The new company, funded by the trust, is a much streamlined business aimed at getting the park through to next spring when it can hopefully start to reopen fully but we need people’s help, support and understanding in order to try and make that happen. The costs of the old business were crippling and could not be sustained with the huge loss of revenue already suffered this year.
“Even if park rides opened in July, the costs of social distancing measures and the reduced capacity at which the park would have to operate, would have meant it was unlikely to be financially viable.”
Though there has been some help through the Government’s furlough scheme, the cost of keeping the country park open, without the rides and attractions, still required a substantial income each month.
Mr Wicksteed said: “We have been overwhelmed by the messages of support received from people across the country during the current crisis and would like to thank people for their continued backing and loyalty.
“The green space access that we have provided during this crisis has been crucial for people’s mental health and wellbeing.
“But ultimately, Wicksteed Park is a private park which costs a great deal of money to maintain if we are going to continue to open for people to use free of charge, as we have for the last 99 years.”
He went on to say: “We now need people, not least the Government, to recognise all we have done for the many millions of people who need our park and our work supporting the community.”