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Garden Quarter in countdown to wartime festival

Published date: 17 June 2014 |
Published by: Staff reporter
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A neighbourhood in Chester is in final preparations for a nine-day festival to commemorate the centenary of the First World War while also celebrating the community in the century since.

The Garden Quarter Association has been awarded a £10,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant for the festival from June 29,  which will include a street re-enactment, new artwork and music, a 1914 guided tour of the streets and a film, featuring current residents representing their 1914 predecessors.

There will be a major street festival, a music concert, a special screening of War Horse at the community cinema at the Methodist Church and a civic service of remembrance.

The festival will kick off with the Centenary Fayre on Saturday, June 28, which is being hosted by Chester Blue Coat Primary School in Walpole Street.

Headteacher Vince O’Brien said: “Not only are we running the opening event here, but we are also hosting the Hundred Years Concert in our new hall.

“Additionally, the children are working with professional artists in creating a new community mural and working with Theatre in the Quarter in preparing a musical and dramatic performance for the festival.”

One of the festival highlights will be the 1914 Street event, where children will be led down Cambrian Road which will have been transformed into a street from 1914, filled with characters from that time who will interact with the passers-by.

“This could offer the children some very powerful learning experiences,” said Vince.

“We are very proud to be part of such a wonderful community event.”

The residential heart of the Garden Quarter is known locally as the Cambrian community. Residents there have been organising successful street festivals for nearly 20 years and they will be hosting the main festival day in Cambrian View on Saturday, July 5.

The big day will include two stages with live music, cabaret, and specially themed vaudevillian performances to reflect the period before the First World War.

There will also be plenty of activities and stalls for people of all ages.

The evening will end with a candlelit ceremony to remember those from the community who paid the ultimate sacrifice through both world wars and the wars since.

But there has been plenty of activity taking place in the streets in the lead-up to the festival. The grant has supported the making of a new community film, building on the enormous success of the film which was made for the Garden Quarter’s VE Celebrations in 2005.

Film-maker Neil Kendall said he had been thrilled with the level of involvement.

“Our aim was to capture the spirit of this area in those months leading up to the start of the First World War. It has been so much more challenging to find locations and costumes as opposed to the one we did for 1945, but the response from the locals to help and to be in front of the camera as our predecessors from that time has been incredible.”

Neil said the film will feature a lady aged 102, alongside toddlers of two, her age at the outbreak of the war.

“This is going to be one terrific film, and something very special to pass to future generations,” he said.

Local people have also been researching the stories of the people who lived locally in 1914 and those who served their country at war.

The findings of this research will be retold in a 1914 tour of the streets by city historians Geoff Taylor and Yvette Askey on Sunday, June 30.

Association co-chairman Matt Baker said: “There will be new artwork being created, murals, sculptures, plenty of home-grown original musical performance and new poetry from the young people in Bridge Foyer.

Matt said while the grant was to support a commemoration of the war, he said much more would be going on at the festival.

He added: “We think it is totally right to commemorate the people from our neighbourhood who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the First World War and those who continued their lives back here.

“But we also wanted to reflect on the way that this interesting corner of Chester has evolved over the decades. There is much to celebrate; it is a vibrant and creative community with lots to be proud of.”

The Lord Mayor of Chester, Bob Rudd, is also the councillor for the Garden Quarter and he has also supported the festival by using his Cheshire West and Chester Council members’ budget allowance. “I am very proud of the community I represent and they are commemorating the event in such a special way,” said Cllr Rudd.

The festival will end with a civic service of remembrance at St Thomas of Canterbury Church opposite the University of Chester on Sunday, July 6 and a trench singalong with trench rations in the Bouverie pub in the evening.

More information is on the facebook page www.facebook.com/gardenquarterremembers.

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