Worstead festival goes back to its rural roots

A popular summer event in the Norfolk calendar is going back to its roots of being a celebration of village life as it plans for a new-look weekend this year.

Worstead Festival is downsizing and focusing on home-spun have-a-go events along with music, crafts and local produce.

The changes come after a 'gap year' in 2010 when the event was cancelled after running out of steam following a 45-year run during which it raised more than �1m for local causes.

The festival will stick to its traditional last weekend in July slot, but will be on a smaller site, with no main ring, and a new emphasis on pubic participation.

New chairman Jon Lowe said old favourites such as heavy horses and vintage tractors would still be there, but the stalls would concentrate on crafts rather than trade stands.

Attractions would also include a children's activities area, steam engines for the first time, and an area for public competitions such as tug of war, welly throwing and hay bale tossing.

'We are trying to get people involved and enjoying the festival, rather than having to put up with it,' he explained.

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The event used to attract up to 30,000 people to the historic weaving village which has 650 residents - some of whom used to move out when the festival took over the whole village during the weekend.

'We want people to look forward to the event and get involved, instead of going away. It is the only way to make the festival sustainable,' added Mr Lowe who said the festival had begun that way but had lost it over the years.

The former festival was wound up and handed the new committee �15,000 to prime the pumps for this year and another �7,000 for next.

Mr Lowe said the event would still aim to raise money for local causes, but it might take a couple of years to establish itself.

'If regular visitors come they will not notice a huge difference, just a chance of emphasis,' he stressed.

The action will be concentrated on the playing field, a neighbouring field, the church and village hall area - but the usual car parks would be operating thanks to the ongoing support of local landowner and former festival president Gavin Paterson, he added.

The festival's strong music programme - which kept going last year despite the main event cancellation - would again have bands playing throughout the weekend from Friday night, July 29, when the traditional road run would also be held.

Over the main weekend, July 30-31, the village hall will host cream teas with background live music, A local community choir will be singing in the church where there will be displays of weaving, recalling its links to the famous Worsted cloth.

More information about the festival from 01692 535620 or visit www.worsteadfestival.org