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Bollington Festival History IV

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Continued …

Festival Fortnight

The aims of the 1980 Bollington Festival were, as on previous occasions, threefold. In the words of the Festival Chairman:

“The first is to extend our capacities to their full stretch. Perhaps we will surprise ourselves in the process and this may lead in turn to new growth in the community. Secondly, we invite artists and performers from outside to stimulate and surprise us by bringing rich and new experiences into our lives. Lastly we want to increase our awareness and concern for that biggest surprise of all, life itself.”

With these aims in mind, the Festival Committee had organised a wealth of activities involving both amateurs and professionals but concentrating, in the main, on the “ordinary people and ordinary organisations of Bollington.”

The Exhibition “Man and Nature”

Central to the Festival theme “Man and Nature” was the Exhibition, most carefully and painstakingly researched and assembled, with the help of experts, over a period of twelve months. The purpose of the Exhibition was to show “how all living things, including man, are part of one seamless garment and are dependent on a common evolutionary origin.” (Dr Coope). Housed in one of the three marquees in the Festival Centre, the Exhibition was divided into three main sections – the origin of life and the emergence of man; man’s major needs today, including food, shelter, energy and psychological needs, and the ways in which the satisfaction of these needs affects the natural environment; and life in the future, as seen through the eyes of local school children.

Exhibits included an ammonite 130 million years old, with traces or iron pyrites (Fools’ Gold) on its surface; dinosaurs’ footprints (great favourites with younger visitors to the Exhibition!); an Iron Age House, specially constructed by the recently formed Bollington Venture [Scouts] Unit; a model of a contemporary living room (in contrast to the interior of the Iron Age House), contributed by Arighi Bianchi of Macclesfield; and a display of plants and animals from the locality, organised by the Cheshire Conservation Trust.

So large was the Exhibition that it required the services of over a hundred stewards for “policing” duties and five sturdy volunteers very bravely undertook to sleep in the Festival Centre every night throughout the duration of the Exhibition.

The entire Exhibition was a credit to all involved, and it is hoped that the transcription of part of it on the following pages [actually a separate document], together with the accompanying photographs, will illustrate the dedication and enthusiasm with which it was constructed.

[Unfortunately we don’t have the photographs that originally accompanied this document.]

A striking feature of the Festival was the care with which the various societies, organisations and visiting artists had chosen material appropriate to the theme “Man and Nature”.

On the first Sunday of the Festival, the Bollington Festival Choir gave a splendid performance of Haydn’s “Creation” which set the scene perfectly for the succeeding days. Later on, some Mendelssohn songs, exquisitely sung by the William Byrd Singers, reminded the listener of the close relationship between man and nature, and the production of “Acis and Galatea”, described by one critic as “the pearl of the Bollington Festival” transported the audience to the pastoral groves of nymphs and shepherds. The exhibition of paintings by Paul Mountford and the Bollington Art Group depicted nature as seen through the eyes of man and the Festival of Flowers, held this year in the Methodist Church, was a perfect example of the co-operation of man and nature. On yet another plane, the backdrop to the very popular “It’s a Knockout” competition provided an ingenious link with the Festival Exhibition, depicting dinosaurs playing on the foothills of a volcano!

Other Festival attractions included the Light Opera Group’s production of “La Belle Hélène” by Offenbach, commemorating the centenary of the composer’s death, the hilarious comedy “Ring Round the Moon” presented by the Festival Players, the Junior Festival Players’ charming interpretation of “Pinocchio” and a performance of “Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” by the pupils of All Hallows Catholic High School, Macclesfield. A breath-taking display of international folk dancing was given by teams from all over the world, including the celebrated Orlyk Dancers from the Ukraine and the Mykita School of Dance presented an evening of “Dancing Through the Ages”. Two folk concerts hosted by the Wood family attracted large audiences, as did the Brass Band events, and the enthusiasm and support of the competition and spectators alike. On the final Saturday, a Grand Pageant took place with over sixty floats, vintage cars, bands, motor bikes, horses, Morris Dancers and visiting Festival and Rose Queens. The Pageant was an unqualified success, and represented the most ambitious carnival ever staged at a Bollington Festival.

Despite meticulous planning months in advance, it would be most unusual if every single aspect of a large-scale venture went according to plan, and the Bollington Festival Committee had to make a few adjustments to the programme of events in the days leading up to the Festival. The boxing tournament which was to have been staged in the Festival Centre was cancelled because the organisers, Macclesfield Amateur Boxing Club, were unable to provide sufficient bouts of high quality; the tournament would have included three schoolboy contests and featured too many novice boxers. Also the Grand Festival Ball* and the Poetry Evening with Tarantula were cancelled because they had, surprisingly, not attracted sufficient support. These, however, were the only “casualties”; all the other events proceeded virtually as planned – a great tribute to the organising ability and dedication of the Festival Committee.

“Small Available Joys”

During the Bollington Festival, Granada Television cameras visited the village to film international actor and former resident Robert Longden, as he took an affectionate look at his home town, returning at Festival time after a long absence. The cameras were present at rehearsals for “La Belle Hélène”, “Pinocchio” and “Ring Round the Moon” and at Festival Exhibition “Man and Nature”, and Bollingtonians were looking forward to seeing the results in a programme in the “Celebration” series entitled “Small Available Joys”.

Unfortunately, the film was a disappointment to most, and included only brief scenes from the productions of the Opera Group and Festival Players; the Exhibition was omitted altogether. In fairness to the producer, however, it must be admitted that the pre-programme publicity ha hinted that the character of Robert Longden would be in quite high relief, with the Bollington Festival simply one strand in the story – not the main theme as we had all hoped.

A conversation with the director, Peter Carr, about a week after the transmission, revealed that the construction of a twenty-six minute “documentary”-type film is not as easy as one would imagine. Trade Union regulations and the prohibitive cost of week-end filming (three times as expensive as week-day filming) greatly restrict the times at which camera crews can be available and, in the case of the Bollington Festival, the uncertain weather was a further limiting factor. Such constraints restrict rather than prohibit a director’s free choice, and Peter Carr had a variety of options open to him. In the event, he chose to merge three separate themes – the life of Robert Longden and his family, Bollington at Festival time and the impact of the Bollington Festival upon Robert (hence presumably, the emphasis on the theatrical aspects of the Festival.) there was also a desire to “let the film speak for itself” – to contrive certain situations and then allow them to develop in their own way. This kind of approach, although successful in some contexts, brings with it the danger of loss of cohesion, and it seems to me that the main fault of the film “Small Available Joys” was that, with its many themes, it lacked unity and purpose, failing to capture the spirit of Bollington and to appreciate fully the significance of the Festival Movement in the life of the community.

* This was replaced by a more informal Festival Dance

Continue Kathryn’s story …

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