Barry Pearson revels in the entertainment about to hit Ashbourne.
IN only a couple of days, our town launches Ashbourne Festival 2014, 17 days of variety, excitement, education, stimulation of the senses and, above all, sheer enjoyment – the likes of which we are privileged to welcome to our small town.
It may be small but it has a big heart.
Since its inception, the festival has grown, its scope has widened and the quality of its artists has similarly grown.
I well recall the pride in which it was held by its first patron, that truly great British actor, Alan Bates.
He encouraged its development while being pleasantly surprised at its growth and the place it readily won in the hearts of Ashburnians and Derbyshire folk in general.
Before looking more at what this year has in store, I would like to pay huge tribute to the people of Ashbourne Arts Festival, a relatively small core of dedicated volunteers whose time is given freely not just during the couple of weeks of the festival but, frankly, throughout the year.
Just think of the work needed to bring us our 17 special days.
This core is then supplemented by additional volunteers who make it all work in the most practical of ways. This is particularly visible during Streetfest, controlling people and traffic and encouraging us all to donate to help to defray the vast cost.
Then there are the sponsors and supporters – a team committed to our enjoyment, richly deserving of our thanks.
I recall, a few weeks ago, writing of the many things that we enjoy – gorgeous countryside, theme parks, great restaurants, characterful pubs – but I put the festival at the top of my list.
So what can we look forward to?
This year opens with Not The Rolling Stones and closes with what has become an Ashbourne tradition – Picnic In The Park.
Between those two events we have theatre, both comic and straight, music of almost every genre, talks, presentations, poetry, competitions – literally something for everyone.
It does not take too much to keep me amused but this coming weekend is just that – too much!
What an incredible range of talent is about to be unleashed upon us – humour in bundles, featuring an international cast of street entertainers, both solo and group, and about as diverse as it is possible to be.
A ballet for Five Supermarket Trolleys! A variety of comedy! Physical dexterity!
I look forward so much to my returning favourites – the Wardens – who are outrageous. To me there is some added fun when they pick on motorists with no sense of humour.
May I repeat my plea for Derbyshire Dales District Council to instruct its enforcement officers to just stay away for this fun weekend – having said that, I would love to see them meet the Wardens.
Please do watch out for the Streetfest marshalls with their buckets – it is for a good cause and will help to ensure the continuation of what has become a great tradition.
Lastly, if I may: the festival this year has its last event on October 7, unavoidably rescheduled from June 21 – an evening with Michael Portillo. I checked recently and there were about 50 tickets still available. I would suggest a great closing event.
Enjoy your festival – I will.