Willowfest 2023 celebrates successful return

See how much-loved music festival returned in style following nine-year absence

Ignoring the dark skies and moody forecasts, Peterborians descended upon The Embankment in their thousands over the weekend to welcome The Willow Festival back to the city.

The much-loved festival – which was once a staple of Peterborough’s summer social calendar – was enthusiastically embraced by one and all following an enforced nine-year break.

Now under the stewardship of chief organiser John Scriven, the new-look Willow Festival stuck to the previous organisers’ approach of having 176 acts play on seven stages over the three days (July 21-23).

"it’s a really cool concept,” John said, “it works.”

The crowds certainly seemed to appreciate having the “same ethos” on display:

"It’s well organised,” said one music fan, “and a pretty accurate reproduction of what the Willow Festival used to be.”

One way in which the updated festival did go its own way this year was in delivering on its promise to be “more attractive to kids.”

Organisers were thrilled to see families come along in large numbers over the weekend. Evidently, the fun fair, kids’ hub and circus attractions were extremely popular over all three days, as was the free admission for under 14s.

Though there were spells of good weather and blue skies for the crowds to enjoy, the heavens did open on several occasions. While festival veterans – armed with their golf umbrellas and oversized ponchos – shrugged it off and carried on grooving, others headed for WillowFest’s welcoming marquee stages, where they could get their groove on and sing along in the dry.

“All the tents were full,” said music fan Thomas: “it was a great turnout for all the bands.”

Following the event, those attending the festival took to social media to sing the praises of the resurgent event’s organisers, volunteers and performers.

Con Carey described Willowfest 2023 as an “outstanding weekend,” adding “We had a ball with all of our extended and adopted family members.”

Marianne Ryan said it was “great to be able to come to a local festival.”

“Thank you so much for coming back,” she added: “I love being able to take my teenager to a local festival and introduce her to lots of music styles.”

Performer Austin Gold, who said he “had a blast playing with heavy weather conditions,” spoke for many when he said: “Big shout out to organisers - let’s keep this an annual summer event.”

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