Highlighting hi-jinks in Shipston

Shipston Proms 2013

Shipston Proms 2013 - Credit: Archant

From summer Proms to the annual Wool Fair, Sharon Chilcott is looking forward to an event-packed year at Shipston-on-Stour

The High Street, Shipston

The High Street, Shipston - Credit: Archant

Whether it’s in celebration of food, heritage, sport or culture, life in Shipston-on-Stour is punctuated by a series of eagerly-anticipated annual events, which all help to put this attractive and vibrant South Warwickshire market town on the map.

Sheep shearing at Shipston's Wool Fair

Sheep shearing at Shipston's Wool Fair - Credit: Archant

Key dates for 2014 are the annual Wool Fair, the summer Proms, a bigger-and-better food festival, a repeat of a successful angling festival and the well-established pre-Christmas Victorian evening. Alongside the main events, there’s also a full programme of entertainment at the Townsend Hall in Sheep Street, including the proposed Wool Fair Barn Dance on March 21, which precedes a day of festivities in the town on Bank Holiday Monday, May 26.

Tuition at Shipston Angling Club

Tuition at Shipston Angling Club - Credit: Archant

Shipston Food Festival 2013

Shipston Food Festival 2013 - Credit: Archant

This is when the townsfolk reflect on the town’s importance in Medieval times as a centre for the wool trade ? the name for Shipston originated in the 11th century as ‘Scepwaestune’ ? Sheepwashtown, because it’s where sheep from the Cotswold Hills were brought to be washed in the River Stour. The Wool Fair was resurrected in 2009 after a lapse of 150 years and with its exhibits of rare breeds of sheep, shearing demonstrations, exhibitions featuring the various uses of wool, street entertainment and stalls, it proved a real crowd-puller. The sixth Wool Fair in 2014 will provide even more attractions for all the family, promises organiser Bob Armstrong: “We are responding to requests for more sheep by having a larger sheep exhibition with a record number of rare breeds. We will have shearing demonstrations throughout the day and the very popular ‘guess how long it takes to shear a sheep’ competition. We will also have knitting and weaving demonstrations and it is hoped that the magnificent Shipston Tapestry will be completed in time for the fair. There will be ample opportunity for people to ‘have a go’ at weaving and knitting; there will be a range of quality stalls and throughout the day there will be music and entertainment which will appeal to all ages.”

Vegetable stall at Shipston Food Festival

Vegetable stall at Shipston Food Festival - Credit: Archant

For many, the highlight of the town’s year is the Shipston Proms, a fortnight of eclectic, entertaining and inclusive music, this year from Thursday, June 19 to Saturday, July 4. 2013’s offer included a launch party night with TV gastronome Loyd Grossman’s new wave band, The New Forbidden, a Fame contest and workshops, school concerts, classical, folk, funk and rock events, many free of charge. Darren Clarke, secretary of the Proms committee said: “This year’s Proms will raise the bar again.” Orchestra of the Swan are confirmed on June 19 at Townsend Hall and as usual the fortnight will come to a climax with the now legendary Dancing in the Street event in the High Street - a family event with a magical atmosphere.

Shipston Angling Club stepped into the limelight last July and August with a host of 60th anniversary activities for both anglers and non-anglers. Fun and fishing over three festival weekends started with a duck race on the club’s stretch of the River Stour at Willington, included a three-day competition which tested more than 40 anglers from all over the country and culminated with an Introduction to Angling day at the club’s lakes at Aston Magna, attended by around 30 children and their parents.

The club will repeat the same three weeks of events again in 2014 ? on Sunday, July 20 there will be another charity duck race from Willington; the weekend of July 25 to 27 sees Fish ‘n’ Frolics at Shipston Sports Club; and on Saturday and Sunday, August 2 and 3, there will be free angling tuition at Aston Magna Lakes.

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2013 also saw Shipston staging its first food festival. Cooked up by local resident Dan Scobie, the not-for-profit event was such a recipe for success that this year it will be extended it over three days. The celebration of all that’s good to eat will take place from Friday, September 19 to Sunday, September 21, culminating with a festival day in the town square, where there will be a mix of stalls, cookery demonstrations, music, and entertainment. Adding to the fun will be a programme of events hosted by local food and drink businesses – already confirmed are brewery tours, wine tastings, an open farm event and special meal offers in restaurants and pubs.

It wouldn’t be Christmas in Shipston without The Rotary Victorian Evening and 2014’s date is already marked on the calendar ? Friday, December 5, 6pm to 8pm. It is organised by the Rotary Club of Shipston-on-Stour ? their way of saying thank you to the people, companies and organisations who support their various fundraising activities throughout the year. The wraps came off the 2013 event on Friday, December 6 when this great family evening attracted a record number of visitors. There was the chance to shop from gift stalls and, for children, the excitement of a visit to Father Christmas in his grotto. Carol singing, the town lights switch-on, a Tree of Life to remember loved ones, entertainment from the Shipston Town Band and the Stratford Ukulele Band, fire-eaters and stilt walkers all added to the atmosphere – expect more in the same vein next Christmas.