A look ahead to the 2014 Garstang Show

PUBLISHED: 09:28 31 July 2014 | UPDATED: 09:28 31 July 2014

Town crier, Hilary McGrath

Town crier, Hilary McGrath

Archant

Summer has arrived in style in Garstang with agricultural and arts events expected to attract thousands. Emma Mayoh reports

Garstang Arts and Music Festival; Gillian Lamb, Mary Thornber, Anthony Coppin, Hilary Burns, Bill Barnes and Austen LynchGarstang Arts and Music Festival; Gillian Lamb, Mary Thornber, Anthony Coppin, Hilary Burns, Bill Barnes and Austen Lynch

The pretty market town of Garstang is one of Lancashire’s more genteel destinations with its quaint streets, a interesting array of independent shops and some lovely floral displays. It could be a model for small towns trying to revive their fortunes, but it doesn’t happen by magic. It takes bands of dedicated locals.

Among them are the organisers of the Garstang Show, a popular agricultural event which marks its 199th year on August 2. The show has agricultural exhibits including cattle, sheep, goats, horses, rabbits and poultry - a celebration of the local farming and horticultural roots in the area.

There will also be a demonstration from the 3Sixty mountain bike stunt team, who hold several world records, as well as workshops from the Blackpool Circus School and the Young Farmers will have a tug-of-war. There will also be dog agility displays and gun dog scurries.

Thousands of people flock to the event - it seems to get bigger each year. It is now one of the hosts of the Horse of the Year qualifiers and many winners from the Lancashire event go on to success at the national competition.

Garstang show; Leslie Hull, David Hewitt, Ros Hargreaves, David Hewitt, Sally Hull, Phil Halhead, Melissa Wood and Jayne GibsonGarstang show; Leslie Hull, David Hewitt, Ros Hargreaves, David Hewitt, Sally Hull, Phil Halhead, Melissa Wood and Jayne Gibson

Show chairman David Hewitt said: ‘It is steeped in history and is very popular among the local farming community. The standard of entries in our agricultural competitions is staggering and people consider it a real achievement to win a prize here.

‘But it’s not just about the competitions. There is a really strong social side and it is very popular with lots of different people.’

Its success is testament to the passion of the small committee which organises it. It takes 12 months of planning - although next year’s 200th anniversary has been in the making for several months already. But the organisers say the show’s success can also be attributed to the support shown by the Garstang community, particularly during hard times including when flooding caused the event to be cancelled.

‘We stood in the tents in the field at 6am with water up to our knees and ducks swimming around us,’ said David. ‘But local people got involved and an auction of promises helped raise money to ensure the show could continue. We would definitely not be here without the support we get from people in the town.’

Independent Garstang Traders; Selina Gray, David Brewin, Alison Allen and Jill CrossIndependent Garstang Traders; Selina Gray, David Brewin, Alison Allen and Jill Cross

The final preparations are being made for this year’s event and around 15,000 people are expected. David continued: ‘I have lots of happy memories of coming here as a boy. As I got older I got more involved and once you’ve started, it sucks you in. It is such a lot of fun; you can’t help but want to be involved. This year is going to be fantastic. The standards in the agricultural competitions are so high. It’s very exciting.

‘We are also particularly looking forward to our 200th anniversary next year. We have big plans and although we celebrate every year, next year’s show is a milestone and it will be special indeed.’

Garstang is famous for its status as a founder of the Fair Trade movement and its great success in Britain in Bloom. And just a few weeks after the Garstang Show, the Garstang Arts and Music Festival kicks off with a week-long programme from August 18– 25.

There will be art exhibitions, drama, lectures, floral art demonstrations and photography competitions, as well as street entertainers and musical performances. The event is organised by the Garstang Arts Festival Committee which is hoping for a good turnout this year.

Alex Buxton at Aged In OakAlex Buxton at Aged In Oak

Chairwoman Gillian Lamb said: ‘It is a fabulous event and it is one we like to get the community involved in as well as showcasing local talent. There is a lot going on and we are lucky to have so many people involved.

‘Thursday during the festival is a particular highlight because High Street is full of street entertainers and there is lots going on for people to get involved in. We are very excited - it takes a lot of organisation but it is worth it.’

There is also a Town Criers’ Competition which forms part of the festival. Competitors from around the globe, including some from as far away as Australia and New Zealand, will take part in this year’s tournament.

Hilary McGrath, Garstang’s town crier who will be one of the judges, said: ‘It really is a very enjoyable event and I’m really pleased to be involved in the festival again this year. Hopefully, our visitors from Australia and New Zealand will have a lot of fun in the competition but also see what a lovely town we have.’

There is also a group hoping to promote Garstang’s retail strengths. The Independent Garstang Traders was set up recently to attract shoppers and tourists. It has long been a wish of the group’s president, Jill Cross, to create a dedicated group for the local businesses. Through social media and promotion the group’s committee, made up of Jill and other business owners James Mullen, Alex Buxton and Lyn Nickson, intend to promote the variety of 150 shops and services.

Jill, who set up cake business Iced of Garstang with sister Lynne Shimell almost eight years ago, said: ‘That is a surprising number of businesses to be in an area of this size. There are few shops that are part of a chain, most of them are independently run. We need to celebrate this and shout more about it.

‘Being from Garstang, I want it to be the best place it can be. It is fantastic to be working with like-minded people for the good of the town. This is such a fantastic place but we need to make sure as many people know about it as possible.’

Latest from the Lancashire Life