Hat’s off to the Hatherleigh Festival – a blazing success

The sun was out and so were the crowds as hundreds flocked to Hatherleigh near Okehampton for the town’s Festival which was held during the third weekend in July.

Celebrated Dartmoor-based author Michael Morputgo, together with the impressive Hatherleigh Silver Band took part in the Centenary Peace Concert on Thursday evening in the Community Centre before Jealousy & the Cat, a classic rock covers band, opened the weekend’s musical extravaganza with a rousing performance in the town square on Friday night.

Thanks to the excellent weather, good music and a mix of culture-led exhibitions sprinkled around the town the feel-good atmosphere lasted throughout the whole weekend.

Entertainment and workshops catered for all ages and tastes and were a delight, while the town’s children were whisked off to Wonderland by the Mad Hatter (Rob Pudner) Alice (Sophie Turner) and Queen of Hearts (Amy Eden) on Saturday afternoon. Rob was delighted to act as MC for the afternoon’s proceedings and along with members of his team provided interactive family-friendly fun which clearly enthralled young and old alike. There were songs, stories, dancing and even some parachute games.

The fabulous Hummingbirds all-girl close harmony trio provided the curtain raiser for Saturday evening’s stirring entertainment, as the exceptionally talented Clara, Grace and Betty performed a most enjoyable repertoire of classic 40’s favourites with a modern twist.

Well known in the South West, alt folk band The Strange and The Beautiful presented an original and fine acoustic set followed by Soul Craft who treated the packed town square with a soul-based covers catalogue that got the crowd rocking, while Virtuoso Blues guitarist Vince Lee, a ‘veteran’ of the South West’s music scene for the past 30 years, rounded off the evening with an upbeat variety of rhythm & blues, rock & roll with a soupçon of calypso thrown in for good measure.

An altogether different crowd ‘flocked’ to the main marquee on Sunday morning as the Reverend Leigh Winsbury led an unconventional, but meaningful Sunday Service to a packed congregation, and was accompanied by the splendid Unity Gospel Choir. (I loved the anecdote about the bees and the beehive Rev – sorry, you had to be there!). Watching Jane Payne create a clay salt pig at her studio in Hatherleigh Pottery on Sunday afternoon was most rewarding, (at least I now know what a salt pig is – every day’s a school day, thank you Jane).

With the local pubs and food stalls enjoying brisk trade it was encouraging to see everyone making good use of the recycling bins too which were distributed around the square. Clearly Hatherleigh is environmentally ‘on message’. The stewards and marshalls did a grand job on traffic control and overall the organisers must be well-pleased with the success of the event which could not have been staged without the help and support of the many volunteers. Hats off to them all.

Whether it was the live music, watching the artisans at work, the fine weather or simply the Tally Ho’s ‘own-brewed’ Pale Ale, the Festival brought out the best in everyone. I’m looking forward to next year already!

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Author: Eric Partridge

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