The riverside at Castlefields

The riverside at Castlefields

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Wheels in motion for Shrewsbury's summer of fun

Growing up in this wonderful old town back in the 1960s, there was the carnival every year, there was (of course) Shrewsbury Flower Show, and there was the West Mid Show.
And that was pretty much it in terms of big events.
Oh yeah. Circuses would arrive in town from time to time, and fun fairs would occasionally pitch up down on Frankwell, but - hey - look at Shrewsbury today. Just look at all the festivals and other crowd-pleasers we have going on during the year.
I was reflecting on all this as I watched cyclists whizz past me on Sunday during the Shrewsbury Cycle Grand Prix.
This top cycling event attracts thousands of enthusiasts and also professional riders from across the UK.
It’s really quite a spectacle - and brings life and a splash of colour and drama to the town centre on what would otherwise be a very quiet Sunday afternoon.
As the riders flashed by, I recalled how deadly quiet the town used to be during the Sundays of my childhood. In those days, you could have walked from the railway station to the market hall without meeting another human being. If you spotted a cat in those days, it was a big deal.
Yes, yes, I know. I’m going back to an almost forgotten era when the shops didn’t open on a Sunday. 
But the change in mood in Shrewsbury is not just to do with shops being open on Sundays. It’s to do with the fantastic variety of events now populating the ‘Shrewsbury Calendar’.
Just think of what we now have going on in this town, from the Big Busk and the Cartoon Festival in April to the Children’s Bookfest, the Shrewsbury Regatta and the Shropshire County Agricultural & Horse Show in May, plus, as I say, this rather wonderful Cycle Grand Prix.. and we have all this before we even get to June!
And then we have the River Festival scheduled for this coming Sunday, then Shrewsbury Carnival on June 13, the Shrewsbury Half Marathon on June 21, and the amazing Food Festival on June 27 and 28. June also sees the Belle Vue Arts Festival sprinkle its own fairy-dust upon the streets and avenues just to the south of the town centre - and more on this in a moment.
Going into August we have the tremendous trilogy that is: the flower show, the folk festival and the steam rally; three truly superb events.
Into September and we have the Shrewsbury Triathlon and the big music event, Shrewsbury Fields Forever.
Oh, come on, people. There’s really no excuse here for being bored!
There must be plenty of larger towns than Shrewsbury that would be envious of all this.
Just to return to the Belle Vue Arts Festival, by the way, this is now in its 12th year, it gets under way this coming weekend, and there’s just so much going on it’s hard to know where to begin.
This year’s theme is ‘Memories’ and the festival will feature a host of activities including art, photography and poetry exhibitions, workshops, history talks, quizzes, pub walks, and music, as well as the ever popular and successful Open Garden Day and the colourful Scarecrow Trail.
Even if Belle Vue isn’t your neck of the woods, check out the arts festival website and pop along to some of its attractions.

Phil Gillam’s gentle novel of family life, Shrewsbury Station Just After Six, is available from Pengwern Books, Fish Street, Shrewsbury.

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