A SPECTACULAR fireworks display which draws thousands of people to Colchester’s Castle Park has been cancelled for the first time in its 50 year history.

Coronavirus has reared its head again, this time claiming the town’s largest fireworks display.

The organisers, fundraising group King Coel’s Kittens, formed in 1962 to initially raise cash to support people with special needs.

The display typically raises tens of thousands of pounds, with £34,250 donated to Colchester Hospital for its new cancer centre in 2019.

Last year, ticket sales for the sell-out event were limited to 8,000

But this year, organisers say Covid-19 has put a stop to what would have been the 50th anniversary show.

Spokeswoman Jackie Bowis said: “With the government restrictions on mass gatherings and the guidelines Colchester Council have given us for this year, King Coel’s Kittens have decided that the event would not be viable.

“We would struggle to cover all the areas of requirements, such as social distancing, timed entry and exit for the public and personal hygiene facilities.

“We would not be able to have the parade of the guy or live entertainment which is usually provided by magician Michael J Fitch.”

Last year, the display was themed around the Apollo moon landing and featured the traditional burning of a Guy Fawkes effigy.

Ms Bowis added: “One of the biggest problems would be social distancing and monitoring of those people who choose not to pay to attend the event, but gather around the outside perimeter of the fence.

“We are very sad to have to cancel.”

Organisers are already looking ahead to 2021, when the group hopes to put on a “celebratory spectacular to remember”.

The display draws visitors from across north Essex and typically relies on a range of partners including Colchester Council, Dynamics Fireworks, Marks Tey Radio, Zephyr Security, the Mercury Theatre, RH Electrics and St John Ambulance, to ensure a top-notch display.

“We are very grateful to them for their ongoing support,” said Ms Bowis.

After it was set up in 1962, King Coel’s Kittens developed under the guidance of Bill Tucker, a former journalist with the Gazette and its sister paper the Essex County Standard.

A number of representatives from different organisations met to discuss ways to raise funds to purchase equipment for people with special needs.

In 1970, the first King Coel’s Kittens fireworks display took place in Castle Park with a small crowd enjoying a display set off by the members of the group.

This event snowballed into one of the biggest events in the town’s annual calender.

The group has raised more than £500,000 since it started from which charities have benefited.

The cash has helped organisations including Headway Essex, St Helena Hospice and Colchester’s Youth Enquiry Service.