What is the Old Town Festival?
The Old Town Festival is put on by the people of Swindon, for the people of Swindon and offers many performance opportunities from the very young to those in their golden years. Commonweal School have been actively involved with the Old Town Festival since 2004. The school provides a large marquee for the Festival’s Family Day which takes place each year on the Lawn, and in return the school’s PTA hold a very successful mini fete alongside. Josie Williams, the Commonweal School Community Arts Development Officer was the Chair for the last 3 years before handing over to Sarah Church. The committee is a group of local volunteers who work closely with the Old Town businesses to promote the event and to provide the entertainment and food. South Swindon Parish Council is our largest sponsor this year, alongside the fantastic local businesses you will see around the Festival and in our programme.
A word from the Chair of the Festival Committee:
“I am so pleased to have the privilege of helping organise the Old Town Festival this year. Many of our former committee members have stood down and I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank them all, along side this year’s committee, for their dedication and hard work in organising such a valued community festival. Special mention must go to Josie Williams who stood down as Chair last autumn, and a huge thanks for her enthusiasm and leadership over the years. Thank you also to our Patron Sheila Harrod for her continued support which is much appreciated by us all.
The Old Town Festival will continue to be the family and community fun week that everyone values, and we hope to continue to attract volunteers to the committee as we organise this year’s Festival and look forward to next year.
Please join us on the Lawn for live entertainment, the funfair, dog show, plenty of stall browsing, a bite to eat and a drink at the bar. There’ll be fantastic live pop and rock music at the Bowl, as well as a week full of community cultural and musical events."
For further info and to keep up to date with all things Old Town Festival please visit our dedicated Facebook group on the link below.
The first Chairman of the Old Festival was Neil Hillier, Arts and Leisure Officer for Swindon Borough Council. The very first Festival was held in the Summer of 1991.
In order to get the Old Town Festival started Neil required the help of the Old Town Business and Professional Association (OTBPA) whose Chairman at the time was Michael Deacon. An augural meeting took place in the Cross Keys in Wood Street (now Bakers Street) and it was decided that the businesses would help to establish the Old Town Festival. The first festival was in the summer of 1991 and in keeping with Old Town architecture it was decided to have a Victorian theme with both the public and business owners encouraged to dress up in Victorian costume. The very first event was enhanced by Queen Victoria herself (Mary Ratcliffe) and although beginning with a small finance budget it was deemed a great success.
The committee of Neil Hillier and Richard Deacon decided that for 1992 we would need a lot more help with more entertainment with a full programme of events both in the streets of Old Town and Town Gardens. A local committee was formed with Neil Hillier as Chairman and Committee members of Richard Deacon, Sue and Alan Benfield, Ted and Shirley Ludford and Michelle Taylor.
The 1992 Festival was a huge success and fully established the event in the Old Town calendar. Over the many years since the Festival has become an integral part of the community of Old Town and many Old Town residents and personalities have contributed to its success over all the years.
This year, once again, the Old Town Festival is in the capable hands with new committee members on-board and many months of planning this will be the biggest and best yet.