Thursday, 18 July 2019

Now that really was magic

Now that really was magic

THE Wargrave Village Festival lived up to its theme of “That’s magic”, says the organiser.

About 8,000 people attended the three-week festival, which featured 42 events including theatre and musical performances, a family food and fun day and a variety show, parade and fete.

The theme was chosen in tribute to Paul Daniels, who lived in the village until his death in March 2016 from a brain tumour, aged 77. His widow, radio presenter Debbie McGee, presented a show about their years of working together.

Festival chairman Graham Howe said: “The tagline of the piece should be ‘That’s magic — achieved’.

“Overall I think about 5,000 tickets were sold but then if you add the parade and the fete and food day, it would push the total number of people towards 8,000.

“We had an organisers’ soiree where we had about 17 different societies that contributed, which was about 120 people. That does not include the actors and performers, bar staff and people setting things up, which would take it up to about 200 people involved in delivering the festival.”

Among the most popular events was the parade on Saturday, which began in Highfield Park and ended at Mill Green, where the fete took place. The parade was led by Bill Sloane, the Mayor of Wokingham, his wife Mary and Mr Howe.

Those taking part included bagpipers, drivers of classic cars, and girls from 1st Wargrave guides dressed up as votes for women campaigners and carrying a banner.

Girls from the Robert Piggott Infants School were dressed as Mary Poppins and the boys as chimney sweeps and were awarded the Robert Morley Shield, named after the actor who lived in the village.

Mr Howe said: “At the fete there were easily 1,000 people on the green despite it being the hottest day of the year so far.”

The variety show took place in the festival marquee on Mill Green that evening,

It began with a theatre workshop act based on the Greatest Showman and featured singing, dancing and magic.

On Friday night there was a Crystal Ball in the marquee which included a glass of fizz before a three-course dinner plus live music.

Earlier in the week there was Wargrave in Vogue, where about 300 women were “pampered”, and a champagne tasting event where 90 bottles were drunk.

About 350 people attended the comedy club, where the acts included Simon Evans, who has his own Radio 4 programme.

The compère was James Phelan, the BBC Radio Berkshire presenter, who is McGee’s nephew. From Thursday to Saturday St Mary’s Church hosted a flower festival on the theme of “reveal”.

One piece, by Judy Rowlands, was on show in the new extension and featured a pair of McGee’s shoes.

Mr Howe said: “I really think this year’s festival was the best so far. We have really stepped up.

“Everyone commented on how slick everything was in terms of logistics and I don’t think that often gets the recognition it deserves.

“What we also achieved this year was to make children more involved so, rather than having a taste day, we had the family food and fun day and we had lots of kids at the bingo night and lots of children’s performances, which were wonderful.

“As far as we are aware, we are the biggest festival of its sort run entirely by volunteers.

“There is nothing elsewhere where you get 40 events over two-and-a-half weeks with around 20 different organisations contributing to this quality. Wargrave really is magical place to live.”

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