Best-ever Georgian Festival attracts thousands

SKDC Georgian Festival 2017
SKDC Georgian Festival 2017
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Stamford’s third Georgian Festival has been hailed the best and most successful yet by organisers South Kesteven District Council.

The four-day event, which took place from Thursday until Sunday, was declared “a triumph” by festival goers, attracting tens of thousands of people to England’s first conservation town.

The promise of a spectacular finale drew a crowd of more than 5,500 people to Red Lion Square to witness the story of Stamford and its infamous ‘bull run’ projected on to the side of All Saints’ Church.

The Saturday evening ‘Illuminati’ event was a huge success, with hundreds gathering to join in the procession from St George’s Square and along the High Street before finishing in Red Lion Square.

The procession included drummers, stilt walkers, dancers, the ‘gigante’ puppet of Ann Blades - historic Empress of the Bullards - as well as and hundreds of children and community participants carrying red torches.

St Mary’s Church bell rang to start proceedings, as it had for centuries, to announce the boarding of shops and the barricading of the street with carts and wagons before the bull was let loose.

It was the cue for the finale to begin, introduced by ‘street pedlar’ character actor John White and with performers in All Saints’ churchyard.

The church became the backdrop for a 

stunning sound and visual light projection telling the tale of early Stamford and its barbaric bull run tradition, which took place for 700 years from the time of King John.

Echoing through Stamford’s historic streets was the story of the chase and slaughter and the blood and thunderous noise of the annual ritual, and how it was finally halted in 1839 with the Dragoon Guards’ ‘arrest’ of the bull.

A five-minute fireworks display and confetti cannon concluded the programme, with rousing applause from the crowd.

It was a fantastic finale to a very busy weekend across the town. There was a craft market in Broad Street and a military encampment on The Meadows, street entertainers amused shoppers across the town and there were performances in Browne’s Hospital, the Town Hall and the Endowed Schools, among others.

For sheer spectacle, the sight of an historic horse-drawn carriage making its way through the streets was hard to beat, but many other events came close including the acrobats on horses down on The Meadows and those who had dressed in Georgian costumes for the occasion.

The leader of the council Matthew Lee (Con) officially opened the event on Thursday, alongside mayor of Stamford Tony Story and historian Dan Cruickshank. A poem penned especially for the event was also read by the town’s Poet Laureate Emma Cuddeford.

Of the festival, Coun Lee said: “The whole event was a triumph of colour, spectacle and entertainment – a real celebration of Stamford.

“Although we haven’t had official confirmation of numbers, judging by the crowds, it was our biggest year yet. It was fantastic to see Red Lion Square packed with people enjoying the finale on Saturday.

“Our last Georgian Festival in 2015 added nearly £1 million to the local economy and we hope to top that this year. As importantly, we hope that the festival will have left residents and visitors will fantastic memories this year.

“We would particularly like to thank the residents of Stamford for their support and patience during the festival. We are extremely grateful for everyone’s cooperation during the festival.”

Social media was red hot over the weekend, with one comment really standing out. It was a complaint that “there just wasn’t enough time to do everything!”