‘Events, dear boy, events’…

…That’s what prime minister Harold Macmillan famously told a journalist who asked what he most feared for his government. But he might just as well have been asking the question ‘What makes Wellington such a fantastic place to hang around during the summer?’ And in 2012, you’ve never had it so good…

How many community and cultural events do you think are going on around Wellington this summer? Ten? Twenty? Thirty? Well, in the new guide to the Wellington Summer Revels 2012 you’ll find forty – and those are just the ones we had room for.

We love events at Wellington H2A, and we want as many people as possible to hear about and all the events going on around the town – that’s why we started putting the Summer Revels guide together six years ago. Some of the events listed in the guide are ones that we organise ourselves, but most we collect from others, womble-like, by emailing, phoning and generally keeping an eye out. There are still a few things we miss, and increasingly we just can’t fit them all in, but at least the guide gives people an idea of what’s on when. We want the Revels season to feel like a festival – a whole series of concerts, fetes, fairs, walks, talks and more which are independent of each other, but which together make up a packed season of cultural activity.

This year’s Revels Guide features more events than we’ve ever listed before, and is another sign of how much we have going on around here. It’s particularly worth noting that the great majority of these events will be organised not by the council, but by volunteers – which just goes to show that local people have ideas, energy and enthusiasm in abundance.

So why is this summer’s events diary so full? Two organisations in particular seem to be ramping up their activities in our part of the county – the National Trust, whose local foothold is the Victorian villa Sunnycroft, and the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, which manages the Ercall Wood Nature Reserve in the shadow of The Wrekin. For our part, H2A has managed to set up a slightly fuller programme of performances for our Sounds in The Square events, with live open air music in Market Square on all but one Saturday in July and August, plus the first in September. And of course, June sees the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, so you’ll get a few extra events in the Revels to mark the occasion.

Here’s just a handful of events you can find if you pick up a copy of the Guide this year:

God Save the Queen!

You don’t need to be an ardent monarchist to make the most of the Jubilee – royal celebrations are a great excuse to get people together for a good time, and I hope the neighbourhoods around Wellington will be a hive of activity over the long weekend in June. The Revels Guide lists a handful of Jubilee-themed events, including the Jubilee Jive Party in Market Square on Saturday 2nd. This was an idea I suggested to the town council a few months ago, taking the decade of the Queen’s Coronation as a starting point to give the traditional street party a rock n’rolling twist – music will come from top fifties-sixties band The Replays.

Coronation Treat

Sunnycroft are organising a ‘Big Lunch’ picnic in their garden which everyone’s welcome to join in with (normal admission charges apply, alas) and I think All Saints Church may be planning something similar, with a big screen relaying the festivities from London, although as I didn’t hear final details of this it didn’t make it into the Guide. Another event as yet unconfirmed, but which I really hope comes to fruition, is the Jubilee Beacon on The Wrekin. This would be part of a chain of bonfires lit simultaneously on hills across the British Isles, recalling the beacons lit on our peaks at times of celebration and turmoil for centuries. Next time you go up The Wrekin, ask Tom Bolger at the Halfway House for an update.

Fetes and fayres

We’re looking forward to another busy Midsummer Fayre on 9th June, with around forty food and craft stalls outside the parish church, an army of volunteers offering tea and cakes inside, and a host of performances throughout the day from choirs, brass bandsmen, folk musicians, Morris dancers, a ukulele orchestra and a gang of fire-eaters.

Morris men in Market Square

We’ll also be getting into the Jubilee spirit with special ‘guest’ appearances from a troupe of kings and queens past – surely this will be the only Shropshire event this summer where you can see Queen Victoria not being amused, Henry VIII laughing at a court jester and Elizabeth I conducting a male voice choir!

Wrockwardine Fete

There are other fayres and fetes to look out for too. In May, the old Cottage Hospital will be marking its 100th birthday with a tea party in the garden, and on 23rd June the nearby Bowring Park will host the town carnival, with stalls, music, dancers and a dog display team. On 30th June, National Trust property Sunnycroft will be hosting its summer fete in its beautiful grounds, where strawberries & cream and theatrical performances are on the menu, and a week later the village of Wrockwardine will be holding its annual church fete at the new venue of Church Farm Guest House, where pony rides and a bouncy castle are promised. Fast forward to the end of the season and Sunnycroft feature again, this time for their Michaelmas Fayre, which will include craft stalls and music along with freshly-pressed apple juice from their own orchard.

Music & drama

Starting things off on 4th May, Michael Davey brings us the first of four free lunchtime organ recitals arranged across the season and featuring different local musicians. Elsewhere in the list are Hadley Orpheus Male Voice Choir, performing concerts in May and September alongside local Young Musician winners and the quintet Random Brass.

Male Voice Choir

H2A’s Sounds in The Square programme will see free, open air performances across eight Saturdays across July and early September, all funded by local businesses and the town council. This year, we’ve booked everything from blues and jazz to rock n’roll, choral music to Coldplay covers. Amongst the familiar faces like Diane Drummond,  Sam Newth and Three in a Bar, you can see Sounds newcomers the Wrekin Choral Society and internationally-gigging tribute band Viva la Coldplay.

Di and The Guy

Theatre is one area where we really should beef-up the town’s offer – let us know if you have any thoughts on how. But one thing we can look forward to this summer is the Belfry Theatre’s production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, as part of the RSC’s Open Stages project. I’m hoping we can get some excerpts performed at the Midsummer Fayre, so look out for that.

Up hill & in the Forest

Come up The Wrekin on Sunday 10th June and you’ll see an army of athletes racing to get full 9 gallon beer barrels to the summit in what must be one of Shropshire’s most unusual sporting events. Every year I get journalists contacting me about the race for some feature on ‘wacky races’ or weird local customs, so its fame is clearly spreading. If you’re brave and brauny – and have three friends who are similar – then register and have a go.

Barrel Race

For less strenuous Wrekin-based fun, Shropshire Wildlife Trust are running five family-friendly events in the forest. On 27th July, your little merry men (and women) can pretend they’re Robin Hood for an afternoon, and there’s more folklore a week later on 2nd August with ‘Giants and Woodland Warriors’. On the 17th August, the Trust’s Family Bushcraft event will teach you some handy survival tips, and on 8th September we’re all invited to let our hair down at the revived Wrekin Wakes – a sort of woodland ‘Woodstock’ with music and craft demos aplenty.

So there’s a flavour of what to expect, there’s more in the guide itself. I should stress there will be other things going on which didn’t make it into the guide – concerts, village events, open gardens and more besides. We’ll do our best to upload these onto the events diary at Explore Wellington, but keep an eye on the local press as well. Most important of all, support as many of these events as you can – not because you ought to, but because you’ll actually enjoy them! And if you think there’s a gap that needs filling, maybe organise something yourself. It might be hard work, but it really is worth it.

The Wellington Summer Revels Guide has just gone to the printers and should start appearing in shops, pubs, restaurants, libraries and other useful places around The Wrekin within the next couple of weeks. If you can’t wait that long and want one that’s even hotter than ‘hot of the press’, you can download a copy by clicking on the link: Wellington Summer Revels 2012