Thursday, 25 August 2011

Residents Rave about Festival on their doorstep

Muse, My Chemical Romance, Pulp and The Strokes will have an unlikely group of fans cheering them on this weekend as they headline Leeds Festival – some toddlers, a crown green bowling team and the TOFFS, Thorner Over Fifty-Fives.

The Festival, which attracts 75,000 people and is the north of England’s largest music festival, has these unlikely groupies because of the work it has been doing in the community since the festival switched to Bramham in 2003.

That move was prompted by violence which flared at the old Temple Newsam site in 2002 resulting in £250,000 worth of damage and 44 people being injured. The following year Leeds Festival arrived at its present home in Bramham Park and the organisers, Festival Republic, went on a charm offensive in the nearby villages of Bramham and Thorner to reassure residents.

The result has been that in the last nine years the Festival has provided £500,000 of funding towards community projects predominantly in historic Thorner and Bramham – such as the TOFFS, Mums & Tots and Thorner Bowling Club - they also provide free VIP weekend tickets to the surrounding village committees, which are sold to residents – substantially below the public price – to further boost their respective community funds for projects such as Bramham in Bloom and the renovation of village halls.

And so, an unlikely army of rock festival fans has spawned in picture postcard, honey coloured villages just
north of Leeds.

Sam Hooton, landlady of The Swan pub Bramham for the last 19 years said: “The Festival does wonderful things for the village and we have had no trouble at all. In nine years we have had one festivalgoer in the pub and they were looking for a cash machine, it’s not like when it was at Temple Newsam when they nicked shopping trolleys and liberated gerbils.”

Janette Chapman landlady of the only other pub in Bramham, the Red Lion is equally supportive. “We have only been in the pub for seven months but it’s been great for business. We have been busy for the last fortnight as the workmen who construct the stages and the fencing come into the village and we expect them to come back once the festival is over and they start taking everything down again.”

It might not be everyone’s ideal scenario – 75,000 people descending on your village for a three-day rock music festival – but the residents in Bramham and Thorner have learned to live in harmony with the event and no doubt Thorner Over Fifty-Fives will be rooting for its continued success this weekend, even if they haven’t heard of Matt Bellamy.

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