Saturday, 14 July 2018

Of festivals and other fun things on Beech Road ...... and beyond

Now the banner is up on the side of Rec and the bunting is fluttering in the breeze across Beech Road, which means it is that time of year again for the Beech Road Summer Fete which for a while was renamed the Family Fun Day and long before was the Beech Road Festival.

The promise to come .... 2018
And a lot hangs on the change of name for what had started as a small event to raise money for the Rec and draw local people together, grew to monster proportions.

The amusement rides grew bigger as did the crowds and for some it became an event to endure.

We always looked forward to it, invited friends down and passed the day in the Rec and later in the back garden listening to the music.

And like our neighbours it was a matter of getting in the food, checking out the assorted deck chairs cool box and car rugs and making sure that there was plenty of change to hand out to the lads who never tired of the rides and the stalls on Beech Road.

But the Festival of 2011 exceeded the rest in the numbers who converged on Beech Road and by common local consent it was time for a break.

Walking Beech Road, 2007
And now it is back, as a summer fete, with the accent on small manage able events on the Rec and on the green.

What lingers in my mind long after the music, swirly amusements rides, and the debris of discarded litter  was the Brookburn Steel Band performing on a wet drizzly day outside the old box factory along with  Murial's face painting stall, which combined face art with fresh strawberries.

Of course over the years plenty of street traders were drawn to the event.  Some were selling interesting art as well as food while a few I suspect were there just for the main chance.

Music in the Rec, 2006
But it was always the weather and there was a time when it seemed the weather alternated between cold grey days with rain and very hot ones.

All of which meant that depending on the weather the previous year, you either bought the sun cream, or made sure the wellies, jumpers and rain hats were ready.

One in particular still lingers in my memory when after a torrential downpour something like 20 of our Joshua's friends made for the house and every towel we possessed was pressed into service.

Or the year when the rain just fell like stair rods all day, and only a brave hardy few stuck it out, under the protection of the trees, listening to the bands.

It had begun in 1997 took its short break after the disastrous year of 2011 and returned more recently, but it wasn’t the first events in the Rec.

Peace in the Rec, 1984
In the summer of 1984 there was the Chorlton Peace Festival, and around the same time another day of music organised by Tommy from the Bowling Green.

And not to out change that big park, there were regular and very successful events run by the Unity Festival at Chorlton Park and since then there have been the equally successful Book Weeks run Manchester Public Libraries, the Arts Festival, and the annual beer and cider event.

Chorlton Carnival, on Oswald Road, circa 1937
Some have grown each year and others like the Arts Festival have become more modest affairs while some have vanished forever.

There will be a dwindling band of people who remember the Chorlton Carnival which ran through the 1930s and echoed the village celebrations of a century before.

These earlier ones I have researched and written about in my book but those from the 1930s are still as yet only a vague promise of things to come.*

Food, fun and interesting craft beer, 2005
This is all the more important given that they will soon pass out of living memory and I doubt that there are many accounts of what went on.

They were linked to the Alexandra Rose Day which was the prime fund raising activity for medical charities in the Manchester and Salford area and dated back to the first held in London in 1912.

There were a number of carnivals across the city during the 1930s but ours seemed to be the biggest, according the Manchester Guardian in the June of 1937, “The gala held in St Margaret’s playing fields, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, on Saturday [June 19th] may be said to mark the opening of the charity carnival season.**

So as we prepare for the events of next week it is worth reflecting that we have done it all before.

Location Chorlton

Pictures; The Peace Festival, 1984, from the collection of Tony Walker, The Chorlton Carnival, sometime in the 1930s, from the Lloyd Collection and pictures of Beech Road Festivals 1997-2010 from the collection of Andrew Simpson 

*The Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Andrew Simpson, 2012, The History Press

** The Chorlton Carnival "the most considerable effort of its kind undertaken in the city"

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