Friday, 21 September 2018

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THE next Wargrave Village Festival will be dedicated to Paul Daniels more than three years after he passed away.

The biennial festival, which runs from Wednesday, June 12 to Sunday, June 30, 2019, will have a “That’s Magic” theme in honour of the late magician, who lived in the village.

Daniels, who died in 2016 aged 77, was a regular contributor to the festival and his widow Debbie McGee still lives in Willow Lane.

He performed at the festival in 2015 and also helped organise events after the festival’s committee was formed in 2004.

Daniels regularly helped with the village branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s show at the festival, while he and McGee were judges for a Strictly Come Dancing event in 2013.

Festival chairman Graham Howe said: “It’s in recognition of Paul and Debbie’s contribution to the village. I’ve been in touch with Debbie and although it was a rhetorical question, she was very happy with it.

“My first memory of him is leading the festival parade in his car when my children were very young. It was most memorable when the parade assembled and he went to talk to all the children.

“Over the past 10 years he’s done the events for the RNLI, which is one of the biggest fund-raisers.”

Members of the festival committee agreed to the theme at a meeting on Tuesday.

Mr Howe said: “We try to find something that the event holders and individuals can adopt. I would expect to see the knitting group, who meet at the Bull on Thursday evenings, to knit all sorts of stuff like top hats and hang them up around the village.

“We are now asking the various village organisations to come up with their plans. They need to confirm what they are doing by October so we can put the programme together ready for the end of the year.”

Events for next year’s two-week festival include classical, jazz and rhythm and blues music nights, as well a big band performance on the final night.

West End star Adam Linstead will also appear, while there will be an antiques event and walk. Wargrave Theatre Workshop, which stages a play during each festival, will be performing Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

Daniels was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour in February 2016 and passed away at home just a month later. He had moved to the village in 1998 with his wife and the couple made dozens of appearances at community and charity events free of charge over the years.

He also helped with the annual village pantomime and set off runners at the Wargrave 10km race on several occasions.

After his death, Mr Howe said Daniels brought “enthusiasm and passion” to whatever he got involved with.

He said: “He really helped us in the early stages when this [festival] committee came together in 2004.  We did not know what we were doing and he helped and gave us advice. He helped one of the local parent teacher associations to establish the regular comedy night.

“He was always willing to listen to what we needed. He would help with details and be professional in his approach without making you feel overawed by this guy who was a massive entertainer.”

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