Summertime in Shrewsbury

PUBLISHED: 17:31 26 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:27 20 February 2013

Summertime in Shrewsbury

Summertime in Shrewsbury

Sarah Hart looks forward to a season of fun in the county town

June is upon us, which means Shrewsburys Summer Season programme is well and truly up and running, jam-packed with a medley of marvellous entertainment from big festivals, shows and open-air concerts to Shakespearean theatre, art and literary events.

And on the fringes of the county town Attingham Park, run by the National Trust, has its biggest ever bumper crop of special events, running right through the summer months.

The highlights this month are the Shropshire Olympian Festival, recreating the sporting and cultural pageantry of the spectacular jamboree brought to Shrewsbury in 1864 by Dr William Penny Brookes, the celebrated Much Wenlock doctor who is widely regarded as the father of the modern Olympics Games. It promises to be an unforgettable weekend of Victorian fun and games and pageantry as the town commemorates its heritage as a small stepping-stone on historys road to the magnificent modern Olympics.

Town centre park, The Quarry, festooned with colourful banners, bunting and flags and lit up by spectacular illuminations at night, will become a scene of Victorian-clad competitors and entertainers. Even the many thousands of spectators expected are encouraged to don flat caps and waistcoats or long skirts and bonnets, to dress in Victorian style for the occasion.

The free extravaganza starts on Friday, June 17, with a schools day, an afternoon Victorian concert in St Chads Church and the first adult runners under starters orders for an evening Severn Loop Race.

On Saturday, June 18, the festival joins with the Shrewsbury Carnival for a day of historic entertainment, complete with a Victorian-costumed parade through the town led by Queen Victorian and Dr Penny Brookes.

Therell be a line-up of athletics, field events and less serious Victorian fun and games, culminating in an Its A Knock-out-style Shropshire Team Challenge.

Throughout the weekend therell also be a Victorian funfair, Punch and Judy, maypole dancing, Victorian crafts, a Victorian photo booth, jugglers, street theatre, a Penny farthing display. Audiences can re-live the Old Time Music Hall at Theatre Severn on the Saturday evening, followed by illuminations in The Quarry.

Organisers hope visitors will make a real effort to dress the part for a Great Victorian Picnic on Sunday, June 19, with a prize awarded for the most pleasing outfit.

"Come as a dairy maid, a farmer or a gamekeeper. Men can get away with rolled sleeves and a waistcoat and ladies a blouse and long skirt to look a bit Victorian," says Shropshire Councils festivals officer Joy Durrant.

Queen Victoria will draw festivities to a close in a medal awards ceremony before a grand finale performance of a 1,000-strong choir singing the festival anthem that has been specially written by Shrewsbury-based composer Mary Keith.

Big picnics are a common feature of the Season during June and July. Attingham Park hosts a Mad Hatters tea party in the walled garden of the estate from noon on Saturday, June 18 and Sunday, June 19 with visitors urged to dress as their favourite Alice in Wonderland character.

And vintage rockers are invited to get their air guitars and picnics at the ready for the first of The Quarry concerts on Friday, July 15 which sees Status Quo and 10cc knock out some of the best-known rock anthems of the 70s.

Then its back to the 1980s, and a musical feast, for aging eye-linered New Romantics on Saturday, July 16 as Mark Almond headlines a starry evening of music from Kim Wilde, Kid Creole and The Coconuts, Imagination, China Crisis and Captain Sensible.

Theres more feasting at an evening Walled Garden picnic and barbecue at Attingham Park on Saturday, July 22, while The Illyria Theatre Company perform Fantastic Mr Fox, based on the Roald Dahl novel, at Attingham Park on Saturday, July 29.

On Thursday, August 4, Shrewsbury gets a treat with the return of the nationally acclaimed touring theatre company The Lord Chamberlains Men.

Named after Shakespeares own theatre company and following the same tradition of a male-only cast, with men playing the parts of female characters, they will be staging the Bards most popular comedy A Midsummer Nights Dream. Audiences will get a glimpse of how the Elizabethan play would have been performed originally.

It will be an open-air performance in the riverside location of Shrewsbury High School grounds. The audience is advised to take a picnic and their own seating.

The play is part of a national and European tour by the classically-trained troupe of actors. Creative director Mark Puddle promises a "raucous, no holds barrred comedy" performance.

Shrewsburys literary trail this month, takes on a Victorian theme to mark the 150-year-old celebrations of the Olympian festival. On Saturday, June 11, Shrewsbury Library is opening up for history tours of the former Shrewsbury School building, followed by tea with the headmaster. Visitors will get a flavour of how the school would have been during Charles Darwins days as one of its most famous pupils. Tours start at 10am and 2pm.

On Friday, June 17 local author and photographer Gordon Dickins will explore the work of his favourite Victorian writers in an afternoon talk at the library.

The celebrated Shropshire author Katherine Swift is to talk about her new book, The Morville Year, at the library on July 20 at 7.30pm. The Morville Year is a follow on to her best-selling book The Morville Hours which described the creation of her stunning historical-themed gardens at The Dower House, Morville Hall, near Bridgnorth.

Also, next month, two more literary notables, the historian Sir Roy Strong and philosophical gardener and author Mirabel Osler, will be in discussion at The Lion Hotel about Oslers recently published memoir The Rain Tree. The event on Thursday, July 7 starts at 11.30am and includes a two-course luncheon.

August sees the first Shropshire Festival of Transport at the County Showground, the famous Shrewsbury Flower Show and the ever-popular Shrewsbury Folk Festival.

The Festival of Transport has its inaugral show on Sunday, August 7, celebrating the history of all types of transport from vintage and classic vehicles to the latest modern cars, including emergency service and military vehicles.

Highlights of the world-famous Shrewsbury Flower Show on Friday and Saturday, August 12 and 13 include show-jumping, jousting knights, motorcycle displays, spectacular fireworks, guest appearances from celebrity chef Gino DAcampo and TV gardener Chris Beardshaw and, of course, magnificent floral displays and gardens.

Some of the best UK and European folk bands will descend on Shrewsbury Folk Festival, at the County Showground, from August 26 to 29, among them The Imagined Village, fresh from TV appearances and the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, the Oysterband and Bellowhead. The folk festival is now one of the biggest and best events of its kind in the UK.

Getting bigger every year the Shrewsbury International Street Theatre Festival will bring colour and dramatics to the town centre from September 2 to 4. This is the sixth year of the festival which attracts performers from all over the world and draws crowds of up to 30,000 people over the three days. Performances take place on stages and circled areas around the town centre. â– 

For further information on the Shropshire Olympian Festival visit For full information on the Shrewsbury Summer Season pick up a free brochure from Shrewsbury arts and tourist venues or visit

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