History of Bollington Festivals
The Bollington Festival Movement
One evening in the early 1960s, Dr John Coope,
a local medical practitioner and native of Bollington, and the
Rev. Derek Smith, then the Curate of St. Oswald’s Church, Bollington
Cross, were invited to be guests in a ‘Desert Island Discs’ ‘programme’
organised by a local society. The evening was a success and
it occurred to Dr. Coope and the Rev. Smith that the community
as a whole might benefit if further interest in leisure groups
and societies could be generated, since at that time the village
rather lacked ‘life’. They began to envisage an ambitious project,
involving the entire community, which would last for a week
or more and, it was hoped, attract a wide variety of amateur
talent resulting, primarily, in a week’s enjoyment for all
and perhaps, in the long term, the formation of new societies
and further growth in the community.
The first Festival was held in 1964 and had, as its theme,
‘The Fostering of the Community Spirit’. The format of that
first festival proved so successful that it has been retained
ever since. Central to the festival was an exhibition based
on the Festival Theme. In addition, various groups in the
village made contributions in the fields of music, drama, sport
and arts and crafts. A small number of professional artists were
invited to perform at the festival, but first and foremost
it was an occasion “for the ordinary people and ordinary
organisations of Bollington” (Dr Coope).
The choir formed by Dr Coope for the 1964 Festival not only
still exists but has gone from strength to strength, performing
oratorios, cantatas and part-songs in Bollington and the
surrounding district. In addition, it has, in recent years,
made a concert tour each summer, visiting southern Ireland,
Northumberland, Kent and Norfolk as well as competing in
the International Eisteddfod at Llangollen. It keeps the
title ‘The Bollington Festival Choir’ as a reminder of
its origins, and last year made a long playing record in aid
of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution including works
by Dvorák, Vaughn Williams and Benjamin Britten.
The 1964 Festival also saw the formation of the Festival
players, and in the sixteen years since then they have
staged a variety of shows ranging from drama to musical
and pantomime. They aim to produce plays in spring and
autumn and a pantomime or Christmas play in conjunction
with the Junior Festival Players (formed in 1968 for
the second Festival). The Players are now members of both the
Mid-Cheshire Theatre Guild and the Manchester & District
Drama Federation. Two years ago , the Players and Junior
Players were awarded a cup by the Manchester Drama Federation for
their production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’.
Another society which began to flourish after the first
festival was the Horticultural Society; it was reformed
during the Festival after many years without meeting.
Since then it has become a well-established society with almost
two hundred members. Two public shows are held each year
– the Spring Show on the first Saturday in March and
the Annual Show on the first Saturday in September. The latter
has gained a reputation as one of the best shows in the
area for vegetables. The Bollington Flower Club was formed
in the same year and is now a thriving part of the Horticultural
Society. It has played a prominent part in all four Bollington
Festivals, arranging beautiful lower Festivals to illustrate
the various themes.
The second Festival, held four years later in
1968 had, as its theme, ‘Leisure’. Like the first festival, it
proved a great success and encouraged the formation
of the Bollington Art Group (now with a membership of about
forty) and the Festival Photographic Group, as well
as the Junior Festival Players.
The third Festival took place in 1974, a significant
date for Bollington as it marked the transition of
the town under the Local Government Reorganisation
Scheme, from a separate local authority to an area
in the new Macclesfield District Council. The Festival
Committee regarded this particular year as an appropriate
time for Bollingtonians to take stock of their village,
considering what could be done to improve it and the
type of environment they were creating for their grandchildren.
The committee therefore chose as the Festival Theme
‘Towards the New Millennium’, and the exhibition included
a section on life as it might be in the year 2000,
as well as sections on Bollington Past and Present.
Again, all the other organisations in the community
were drawn in including the schools and youth organisations.
The Historical Committee contributed a model of ‘Bollington
in 1851’ and produced a booklet, especially for the
festival, which described aspects of nineteenth century
During this festival, a group of light opera enthusiasts
joined together to present, in the new Civic Hall completed
in 1971, the Gilbert & Sullivan favourite ‘The Gondoliers’. Calling themselves
‘The Bollington Musical Group’ they placed the following note in
their printed programme:
“The group was formed for the express purpose of
putting on an operetta for the 1974 Festival. We
started with about forty playing members. Some fell
by the wayside; others joined us and we go to press
with thirty-five playing members and about a dozen
others helping in various ways.
Some of our members are very experienced in the amateur
theatrical world. Some of the Principals are taking
leading roles for the first time. Finance dictated
that we make most of our own costumes and scenery.
So all in all the production has been a great challenge
but tremendous enthusiasm has made it possible to
overcome the problems. For example, we have sung our
way through four Musical Directors. We don’t seem any
the worse for it and hope they are not.
What of the future? We do not know. If you are interested
in what we may develop, please contact our secretary.”
The ‘future’ turned out to be very successful indeed.
The production of ‘Gondoliers’ was very well received
and, under the new title ‘Bollington Light Opera
Group’ (BLOG), the group has staged annual, and since 1978,
twice-yearly shows which have been very much enjoyed
by audience and participants alike.
The 1974 Festival also provided the inspiration for
six local brass band enthusiasts to get together ‘for
a blow’ on various instruments in the front room of
a house in Shrigley Road. Eventually, seven more joined
he original group and since then the band has become
well known and is in considerable demand giving its
services to many charitable organisations throughout
the district. In 1977 it raised money for the Silver
Jubilee Appeal receiving a certificate for its efforts.
The wives and mothers of band members have provided
much support, holding bring and buy sales and coffee
evenings in order to raise funds for the purchase of
several new instruments.
Following the success of the Senior Band, a Junior
Section was started.
In 1979, when Bollington was twinned with Thurles,
County Tipperary, the Brass Band accompanied the Bollington
Twinning Committee to Ireland for the official twinning
ceremony. As well as marching through the streets of
Thurles with the local band for the twinning ceremony
the Bollington Band also entertained about 12,000 spectators
at the semi-final of the “All Ireland Hurling Championships”
between Limerick and Tipperary and gave a concert to
a packed and appreciative audience.
The Festival Movement has undoubtedly brought growth and vigour
to a small town which, in the 60s, was trying to readjust to life
without King Cotton and to kindle anew a sense of community spirit
and local pride. At the time of the third Festival, Dr Coope observed:
“Bollington has two groups, the new residents and the old core
of Bollingtonians, and one of my aims has been to get them to
work together because there is great strength there.”
Through the Festival Movement, this aim has been admirably achieved;
Bollingtonians old and new have joined together to make the
Bollington Festival a much enjoyed occasion which has, in the
sixteen years of its existence, led to the formation of many
new clubs and societies representing all age groups and a wide
variety of interests.
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