ORGANISERS of an annual County Durham rock festival are looking for a new venue after being refused permission to use a showground, despite taking measures to make the event Covid secure.

Festival organisers of the event in Stanhope, Weardale, said they were "shocked" by the decision, but showground committee members said they had to put the town first.

Stone Valley North’s festival, titled ‘Keep the Faith’, was to take place in Stanhope’s Unthank Park at the start of next month.

Months of planning went in to get the festival to comply with government coronavirus restrictions.

The event was limiting ticket sales, groups were restricted to no more than six people and festival goers were required to bring their own tents, blankets and chairs.

It was to be smaller than usual, but it had still attracted some big names, including The Jam, The Specials and Small Fakers, among many others.

Some residents had welcomed the festival's return because it provides a boost to the local economy. Others said they feared festival-goers may ignore the safety measures if they have too much to drink

In a statement on social media Stone Valley Festival organisers said: “We have learned that Stanhope Agricultural Committee, having already accepted the booking and payment, have reneged on their agreement and will not permit the use of Unthank Park for the event.

“This has left us truly shocked since the event is entirely consistent with current government regulations and guidance and never in our time in music festivals have we ever known an organisation to accept payment and terms for the booking, only to subsequently have a change of heart for no new reason and leave our customers in the lurch.”

Festival organisers have contingency plans and are contacting the various groups who have approached them previously to host a festival to secure an alternative site in the area, An announcement is expected within the next ten days once a new booking has been secured.

Richard Mews, chairman of Stanhope Show said: “We took a provisional booking but we have to run everything by the committee.

"We had not agreed anything with the organiser and there was no payment or anything down in writing yet. The festival did a presentation for us about how they had prepared and put safety measures in place before we went to vote.

“It was narrowly voted not to let the field be hired out. There was a mixed reaction – a lot of people wanted it to go ahead for the economy but a lot of people didn’t want it to go ahead because of Covid. It just turns out more people voted against it.

“We fully sympathise with the organisers, it was a narrow vote but we have to keep the people of Stanhope first."

Should any customer want a refund, either immediately or following the announcement of the new location, they should contact