A Potted History of The Allesley Festival


The birth of Allesley Festival took place in 1975 when Allesley Primary School PTA organised a Summer
Festival on Saturday 8th July with stalls, sideshows and exhibits together with a programme of events starting
with a procession from the Lower School (where Norton Grange is now) to the Upper School in Antrim Close.
In 1976 the Festival was over 3 days - Children’s Film Show for the “tinies” and Junior Disco for the “teenies”
on Friday evening, Procession and School Fete on Saturday afternoon and Gardens Walk on Sunday afternoon.
To this day the Festival Committee has rightly regarded the Procession and School Fete as the “heart of the
Festival”.

In that sweltering summer of 1976, the procession started from near The Smithy Garage in Wall Hill Road - a
longer and more arduous route than today. No marshals, no road closure orders, no police interference - and
Jaguar workers leaving their Browns Lane site used to wind their windows down and throw coins to the
walkers! From 1982 to 2000 the Procession started from The White Lion car park (apart from 1986 when a
small procession started from St Helens Way) and from 2001 from the Jaguar Museum car park until its sad
demise. The gates from that car park on to Browns Lane could not be opened other than for royal visits and the
Festival Procession - so we were told! Since 2012 the Jaguar Sports and Social Club has kindly allowed the
Procession to start from their car park. In 2001 current joint chairs Lyn and Jan fought and won a battle with
the Police (who wanted amongst other things the Festival to pay £1800 for a police presence on the day) to
retain the Procession with strong support from a handful of councillors. Many of you reading this will
remember the press coverage - and may also remember that our procession was the only one of several
community processions in Coventry that survived. We fought the law and the law didn’t win! Out of all this
came the 50 page Risk Assessment and Operational Order that has to be produced each year to get the Road
Closure Order. The unfortunate result was that in 2011 the Procession had to be cancelled on health and safety
grounds, mainly due to a lack of manpower (marshals etc). We don’t want this to happen again.
In 1977 the first Festival Ramble took place on a Tuesday evening - Allesley to Meriden but not along the
A45! An Arts and Craft exhibition at the Church opened at 7.45 on Thusday evening 30th June and remained
open every day till 9pm on Tuesday 5th July. The Post House advertised its 3 course Sunday Lunch in the
Festival Programme - £2.55 per head! In 1978 the Festival extended to 8 days including two Sundays of
Garden Walks and four Evening Concerts or Old Time Music Hall. From the early 1980’s the programme of
events showed a different event on each of 8 days and from1992 a multiplicity of events over 10 days as it still does today - only just more of them now.

From day one any surpluses from the Festival were donated to local causes. In 1983 for example £1500 was
shared between 20 local charities etc. That is the equivalent of some £4700 today and compares favourably
with £6500 given away at the 2014 Festival Presentation Evening last October. But please remember - from
day one the Festival has not been about raising money; its prime purpose is to put on a wide variety of events
to bring the community together.
As mentioned above, Arts and Craft Exhibitions played a major role in the Festival in its early years but
disappeared from the programme of events from 1979 to 1985. In 1986 a Craft Fayre took place for 4 hours at
Lower School on the second Sunday afternoon. Then in1991, again on the second Sunday afternoon the Art
Exhibition as we know it today was born in the Village Hall. In 1993 it moved to its current home in the
Church Hall and became a two day event on Procession Day and Gardens Walk Day until 2003. In that year it
moved to the first Saturday and Sunday of Festival Week and proved to be even more popular as it no longer
coincided with the following weekend’s big events.
Another popular event, albeit not run by the Festival Committee, is the Gilbert and Sullivan Evening in
Festival week. It first made its appearance in the 1984 Festival Programme. “The Music Group of Allesley
invites you to a Do it Yourself Mikado”. The programme of 1984 also says “for tickets contact Don Lindon on
402680”. So does the Diary of Events for 2015! Congratulations Don, what a wonderful contribution to
Festival Week.
Before the Live Music Nights were introduced by the Rainbow in 2004 (again not events run by the Festival
Committee) and extended to both Saturdays in 2007, Procession Day used to conclude with dances, discos,
BBQ etc, the first BBQ and Dance being in 1976 at the Lower School followed in 1977 by a live band and
ploughman’s supper at the Upper School. In 1979 again at the Upper School a Festival Disco was held on the
first Saturday of Festival Week with a fish and chip supper, followed in 1980 on the same day by a Barn
Dance. Moving on to 1984 a Festival Dance “for all the family” was held the night before Procession Day at
the Sportsmans Arms (now of course Stonebridge Manor Quality Hotel) with a Barn Dance at the School on
‚Äčthe first Friday. In 1989 it was a 60’s Dinner Dance at the School with live music and “Chicken n Chips. Dress
optional (but preferred). Fluorescent socks and mini skirts welcome”!! In the early to late 90’s, dancing to live
music (e,g. The Swains) events were held at various venues like Sherbourne Fields school and later the Village
Hall. And then in 1998 and 1999 came the famous (should that be infamous) disco nights at Northfield Farm
Staircase Lane. Lyn cannot be persuaded to give us the lowdown but great nights were had by all. In 2000 and
2001 the disco moved to the Elms Car Park (Marquee) and then in 2002 and 2003 to Stonebridge Manor. The
end of an era!

The Programme/Diary of Festival Events since 1975 makes for interesting reading. The annual Rainbow v
White Lion cricket match started in 1982, becoming Rainbow v Corley from 1998. The then Jaguar Fun Run
started in 1985 and has since morphed into the10K race plus Festival Fun Run organised by Northbrook AC.
The Quiz Night started at the School in 1987, moving to its current Village Hall venue in 1999.From 1987 to
1999 a Festival Pitch & Putt competition was held at Allesley Park. In 1987 a Fashion Show took place at the
United Reform Church, the precursor to the ever popular Ladies Evening as it is today. A skittles evening has
taken place annually since 1990. A one off auction night was held as far back as 1981 by the School PTA never
to be seen again till the modern day festival auction started in 2011. And finally back to the Gardens Walk that
has featured in the Festival since 1976. Residents of the “Alley” cottages - 42, 44 and 46 Birmingham Road -
have opened their gardens every year since.

What a record - and a big thanks from the Festival.