Review of the Year: 1940s weekend among the highlights as festival fever took over the town

Brighouse 1940's Weekend. Madeline and Claire Smith dancing in the street.
Brighouse 1940's Weekend. Madeline and Claire Smith dancing in the street.

Groups from all around the town worked hard to put the town well and truly on the map. It is now known throughout the land and abroad for its festivals, events and its brass bands.

The year started with a pantomime by Brighouse Theatre Productions. This was followed by a presentation of the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar,” staged at the Civic Hall, one of our local centres for creating a night scene in Brighouse.

The film nights have been successful at this venue with films such as “Frozen” and “Philomena” being shown throughout the year.

But credit must go to the Brighouse Business Initiative (BBI), who have staged several events and festivals in town over the year.

It all started with the Local Food and Craft Market in April which brought local traders into the town with their locally made produce ranging from jams to bread; chocolates to cakes. Several of these traders are now running their businesses commercially after displaying their goods to up to 50,000 potential customers at one of the Brighouse markets.

It has been said time and time again that Brighouse has the best markets in Calderdale.

The BBI then held the great 1940s Weekend in June. Despite the weather, more than 100,000 people turned out to visit our town.

The 1940s Weekend has become the largest 40s event in Yorkshire, if not England. There are already bookings for the 2015 event which promises to be even bigger.

All this has been made possible by the residents of Brighouse, who turned out in their hundreds in costumes of the era, danced to Glenn Miller and sang to Gracie Fields.

The whole town came alive with forties music. We had a gala concert in the Civic with celebrities of the time performing for us. From Thursday night to Saturday a complete programme of entertainment, including dances and film filled the town with 1940s music and song.

August saw the first Canal and Music Festival in Brighouse. The complete town centre was closed off and the streets filled with market stalls, music and dancing. We even had vintage cars giving a spectacular display of preserved vehicles.

Bethel street car park was the main stage for music, which carried on with dancing into the night. People sat around Thornton Square enjoying their food and local beer while listening to the music on the second stage.

Mainly local artists were booked, but some came from as far away as London. Our local lad, Roger Davies, gave a packed concert at the Civic giving pleasure to all who attended.

Over the two days it was estimated that more than 50,000 visitors came to sample our town and its unique layout for staging events.

September welcomed in the third annual Brighouse Festival. This year it got even bigger and better. From poetry to rug making, choral works to brass bands and theatre, Brighouse really covered the arts in every respect.

The Mikron Theatre and the Brighouse and Rastrick Band were but two of a list of more than 30 groups and artists who appeared in the festival. It was well attended by the good folks of Brighouse and paid for itself, a feat not often seen these days. It will be back in September 2015.

As well as these high profile events the BBI organised ambassadors for Grand Central Railways to greet trains at Brighouse station. The ambassadors can be seen every Sunday at the station helping passengers who visit our station.

In the coming year it is hoped to improve the station, making it friendlier upon arrival and welcoming to visitors coming into town.

Incredible Edible has made a tremendous improvement to the plots of otherwise uncared for land around the town. They have taken under their wing more than 14 areas and the results have been very noticeable over the year.

Their combined diligence in resurrecting these neglected areas is a fantastic achievement and worthy of praise from us all, making the town look cared for and tidy. Anchor Bridge is a prime example as is the towpath by Bethel Street car park.

Brighouse Cinema at the Civic has shown several good films over the year and it is hoped to make this a more permanent feature of the night scene in Brighouse.

Also in November, local soprano Rachel Harrison organised a wonderful concert with soloists Alla Moskow and Paul Holroyd accompanied by The James Shepherd Versatile Brass. Another one is planned for spring 2015.

Finally, Brighouse celebrated a Victorian Christmas. It is the largest specialised street market in Calderdale with more than 100 stalls of local produce, crafts and food. Shops were decorated in Victorian style and lots of people got dressed up in Victorian costume.

Music and entertainment filled the streets. Mince pies, mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, local pie and peas were served on the streets.

Central Methodist Church organised a visit by the Three Wise Men on their camels. Father Christmas arrived in a carriage with shire horses, brass bands played and children sang carols. Jugglers, acrobats and magicians entertained.

They all had a good time in Brighouse. When asked why they liked to come to our town to perform, their reply was always: “Because the people here are so nice and friendly.”

As we go into 2015 it’s good to look back and realise what we can do when we work together for the benefit of all.

The Brighouse Echo staged a “Brighouse has Talent” competition, another first for the area.

“What a great idea to get people together with their families. It went very well and discovered even more talent in the town.

Brighouse seems to have a knack of organising great events and festivals which are fun for young and old alike. It’s not just the Brighouse Business Initiative, it’s the whole town that makes these weekends great.

So what can we look forward to in 2015? All the markets in April, August and November will be two-day events, together with the 1940s Weekend.

The whole town will be closed off so that you can have free access to bigger and better entertainment so that we can bring even more into the town.

Brighouse – the place to be.