Words by Damon Cooper. Photography by John Cooper
Arriving for the celebrations on Hainsworth Park, volunteers greeted us with a leaflet and a smile whilst a brass band roared in the background. Local festivals fly the flag for every person, business and organisation involved in the area so there was quite a lot to discover.
We followed the beat of Dhol drums and found ourselves with Bhangra Dancers rehearsing by the main stage. Vibrantly dressed, they shone bright whilst the sun stayed hidden behind clouds. Kushi soon introduced herself as the director of Punjabi Roots Academy, a one stop service offering entertainment for events and workshops if you wish to learn new skills.
They performed to an integration of Eastern, Bollywood and Western music amongst a delighted crowd. A culture clash that was a joy to embrace against the backdrop of The Sunny Bank Mills Stage. Whilst the historic mills might not be physically hosting the event this year, Sunny Bank has played a big part in the revival of our community and was here in spirit.
Inspired by the dancing, I stumbled over to Pro Fit 28 for a race against time on the rowing machine and ended up beating Gavin as fastest male rower. Never met Gavin but I rowed 100m in 20.7 to his 23.3 and it made my day. Emily won the battle of the sexes at the time, clocking in with an impressive 19.7!
The sports and recreation team from Bagley Lane demonstrated their strength by lifting heavy kettlebells and weights. More fun was provided with a tug of war rope and obstacle courses to encourage exercise. Burning some calories with them certainly was no chore and spurred a lost passion for fitness.
AEGIS, a Yorkshire based martial arts and leadership academy laid out some mats and a bag so everyone could practice fighting moves whilst learning a Wonky Olympics which included racing on space hoppers. I was too big to take part and it would have been an unfair advantage to the kids.
Our readers will be surprised that I have gone six paragraphs without mentioning food, but I can’t rein in my gastronome tendencies any longer and need to let you know what was eaten. Thai Sun, a hidden suburban gem had a pop up and served me their noodles for lunch. The vegetarian dish filled a nice little hole and I was glad so much choice was on offer!
Festival dining has come a long way from the burger and hotdog affairs of yesteryear with street food from all over the world offering more options for our taste buds. I couldn’t help but treat myself to a vegetable samosa or two from Deeva, the local Indian restaurant also present on the day. Due to my obsession with Asian food, I did miss out on diverse cuisine such as Mexican Burritos from Sabrosa Street and Italian pizzas served by The Big Red Oven.
Others brought picnics to eat alfresco on the park with friends, family and their dogs. Mr Barista and the tea tent served a variety of drinks with the latter’s profit going towards funds for the 2018 Festival so everyone was well catered to enjoy the day as they pleased.
This was all made possible by Farsley Community Initiative, a group of volunteers from the area who spend most weeks throughout the year planning and raising funds for the Festival. From engaging with potential sponsors, hosting pub quizzes, hosting tombola contests to shaking collection tins and sorting out the entertainment, the team certainly had their work cut out.
Ann-Marie Keighley, one of the helpers kindly took me on a tour of the park and gave a lot of credit to local businesses, the council and the local volunteers for putting this together. Breeze from the council came up trumps once again in their mission to make Leeds the best city in the UK for the under 19s by providing a Miley Cyrus wrecking ball type inflatable thing amongst other gladiator style apparatus for our youngsters to play on.
After our circular, we parted ways and I went to discover some of the stalls and activities happening in the heart of it all. It was nice to meet Parallel Parents, an independent fostering agency matching children in care to loving families and it was even nicer to hear some people showing interest in helping. Thank you Farsley for having a heart and a bigger thank you to agencies working tirelessly to make the lives of children in care better.
Other honourable happenings on the day include Suitcase Circus generously giving one lucky child a new bike for helping, story time with Rainbow Factory, face painting by Debbie Austin, street performers and much, much more! It was much smaller than previous years when this Festival took over the town street but understandable considering the large fine facing whoever takes responsibility for this event if they don’t clear the roads for a certain time.
Still this group punched above their weight once again to deliver an amazing occasion and are on the lookout for people with skills, spare time, to fundraise and lend a hand for next time. If you want to get involved then contact email@example.com for more information.