Stamford’s third Georgian Festival was declared “a triumph” by festival goers, attracting tens of thousands of people over the four days 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 was 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 SKDC, Councillor Matthew 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,” added Cllr Lee.
“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!” Not a bad problem to have.
Stamford’s second Georgian Festival built on a solid reputation from 2013 to again present a great weekend spectacle - a triumph of colourful entertainment with costume, markets, top speakers, carriage rides and fun amidst the ancient streets of this historic stone town.
Organiser South Kesteven District Council worked hard to ensure that the entire community was involved, helped by a Big Lottery grant to festival partner Stamford Town Council which enabled work with local schools.
The result was a superb event; bigger crowds, an estimated £1m boost for local businesses and accommodation providers, a boost to civic pride and an ever higher profile for Stamford.
Analysis showed more than 50,000 people visited the town over the weekend, spending an average of £55 per person. 60% of visitors were from outside Stamford and 76% of businesses surveyed had increased turnover or new customers.
The festival drew the crowds, attracted bumper markets, celebrated sell out shows and prompted Visit England Chief Executive James Berresford to comment:
“To my mind Stamford offers a quintessential English heritage experience and it’s festivals like this that help put any district on the map. You are in danger of making Stamford my very favourite tourism town. “
South Kesteven’s classic market town of Stamford, the UK’s finest example of unspoilt Georgian stone architecture, hosted its first Georgian Festival in September 2013 to conjure up the town’s colourful heritage.
Billed as a celebration of Stamford’s history and culture, the weekend festival ran from September 27–29, celebrating the Georgian era spanning the period between 1714 and 1830.
Organisers South Kesteven District Council and partners developed a programme of speakers and events including a costumed performance of the town’s infamous Bull Run, a 700-year tradition where a single bull was chased through the town’s streets then slaughtered.
Historic venues were enlisted as partners, from the Town Hall to Browne’s Hospital, Burghley House, St Martin’s Church, All Saints Brewery and the Corn Exchange
The weekend staged talks on Georgian architecture, floral design, fashion, natural philosophy, literature and poetry, artists of the period and the alchemy of brewing.
Stamford Georgian Festvial
Stamford Arts Centre, 27 St Mary's Street, Stamford, Lincs PE9 2DL
The Stamford Georgian Festival is core funded and organised by South Kesteven District Council