We can't afford to lose Willow Festival

A couple of years ago I had a real Kevin Costner moment; build it, I thought, then they will come (Field of Dreams, a film well worth re-watching).

Saturday, 11th June 2016, 1:00 pm
Updated Monday, 13th June 2016, 12:58 pm
Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

The vision came to me whilst I was live on air, playing “I am a cider drinker,” a vision of a massive day out in Cathedral Square for the whole city, a huge party, involving market stalls, local bands, dancers, marching bands and the Wurzels; Peterborough’s Big Day Out!

Just imagine it as I did; a whole day of entertainment for the city and by the city, inspired by local people and involving local businesses, bringing everyone together to celebrate our different cultures and our shared values.

It was to be a day of unity, tolerance and joy, all finished off in the late summer sunshine by the fabulousness of the Wurzels, surrounded by a thousand bales of straw, combine harvesters and five thousand people dressed in denim dungarees.

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With sponsorship and the odd bit of arm twisting, the whole event was going to cost the council about a third of the average cabinet member’s yearly allowances; I had even negotiated a special discount from the West Country cider drinkers themselves, so desperate were they to appear.

Granted, it was only an outline plan, a sketchy idea, but one which wouldn’t be too difficult to bring to fruition I thought; an event, which with a bit of work and effort could help put the city on the map. I even gave the council officer concerned the Wurzels’ direct line!

Then I waited and waited and waited but I heard nothing.

My point is this; I know how difficult it can be to try and work with council’s to attempt something a bit different and out of their comfort zone and I also appreciate that to them I might just be a daft lad with a crazy idea; creative people and bean counters very rarely see eye to eye.

But Mark Ringer and his band of dreamers were different; way back in 1998 they built their vision (with the help of the council) and people did come, in their tens of thousands.

The Willow Festival, one of the biggest free music festivals in the world, was born, giving a rare chance to hundreds of unsigned bands and acts to showcase their ability and in so doing well and truly shining a positive light on the city of Peterborough.

It’s sad then that something so positive has descended into such negativity, with the council and the organisers now at loggerheads over this year’s festival on the embankment.

After looking at the accusations and counter accusations and the “He said, she said” nature of it all, I am astounded by how intransigent and childish both sides have become.

Peterborough cannot afford to lose something like the Willow Festival and it seems all concerned need to get their respective acts together quickly and rescue the situation before it is too late.

It would be a crying shame for the people of Peterborough if the festival didn’t go ahead and if, as it seems, we just need to bang some heads together, I would like to volunteer my services, free of charge.

Failing that I could always ring The Wurzels.