Last weekend, over the late May Bank iphone 5 price Holiday I had an opportunity to visit the East Lancs Railway as it held it’s annual 1940s Wartime Weekend. For someone who lives relatively close to this event considering the distances I have travelled to other shows, oddly, this was my first time at East Lancs. The railway events tend to come in for criticism from purists, sometimes justified, in that it’s difficult to call them reenactments at all, given it’s often hard to tell precisely what they’re recreating. But the Bury based event does seem to have a more defined concept of what it’s trying to do.
It does mix in the more usual elements iphone 5 price associated with these type of events. 40′s style singers with songs of the period entertain the crowds. A ‘wartime’ wedding, a few battle reenactments to add excitement, and noise, to the proceedings all combine with the steam trains to give a comfortable and familiar feel to the days. So it’s not often a 40′s railway event can cause controversy. This year though, the East Lancs event managed it, however unintentional it was.
Local press reports had claimed that ‘Nazi Uniforms’ were going to be banned from the event this year after previous requests not to attend in this type of regalia had been ignored. Banning Nazi regalia and symbols liable to cause offence isn’t a new thing. It’s common practice at a lot of events, particularly railway based ones, and has been for a number of years.
But then it became clear talking to the iphone 5 price public at the event that, though Nazis and Germans are two entirely different things, the general perception was that all German uniforms (and therefore reenactors wearing them) had in fact been barred from taking part.
Event organiser Neil Parkington was at great pains to point out that this wasn’t the case. ‘That was never the intention’ Neil explained. ‘We’re very aware of the local community and requested only that no German or Axis Officer uniforms be worn. The wording is quite clear in all the notices and publicity surrounding the event and it’s repeated in the programme’.
‘German uniforms in their entirety were not banned at all this year and never have been. We had several battles and skirmishes organised over the weekend which Axis troops took full part in’. Neil added.
As if to prove the old adage that no publicity is bad publicity, while newspaper polls raged over the perceived rights and wrongs, early indications are that the event proved to have had another successful year with revenue seemingly unaffected. This was even more welcome given the weather refused to behave, as is often the case on a Bank Holiday.
‘We’re always willing to revisit the situation at any time and are continually looking to build on what we’ve achieved’ explained Neil ‘But the event is run for members of the public and it remains one of the most popular visitor attractions East Lancashire Railway holds every year’.
Events are staged over the length of the line from Bury to Rawtenstall with other attractions at stops along the way including Ramsbottom and Irwell Vale.
Like I said at the outset, I’d never attended before so I can’t compare numbers to preceding years but the turn out did seem good considering the wet and, at times, unseasonably cold weather. The battles, as always, proved a big crowd puller and though the large parade of last year in Ramsbottom couldn’t take place the smaller replacement one in Irwell Vale was well received. (Neil hopes to reinstate the large parade again in 2012 when he will again be able to enlist the help of the Army Cadet Force). Ramsbottom town, which is one focal point of the events was busy, as was the station.
I went along for four days, starting by helping the educational ‘Evacuee’ train trip on the Friday from Bury and then attending all of the three main days of the weekend. There was always plenty to do or see with 40′s dances starting on the Friday night, running throughout the weekend and a wartime themed dining train that same evening.
There was even entertainment provided for the daytimes too with tea dances and a high quality singing line up comprising Paul Harper, Katy Spitfire, Marina Mae, Natasha Harper and The Forces Sweethearts all performing at various places and times over what must have been a very busy weekend for every one of them. Yet they maintained their usual high standard of performance throughout.
Having four days at the events actually meant there was time for a change of look one day from the combat uniform and kit to the ‘Sunday best’. A welcome break from the weight of the former, though not as popular with the kids!
The railway does seem to actually get involved in the occasion too, actively taking part. There are other shows based around steam railways in the year where the ‘Wartime Weekend’ seems incidental to the railway and the trains. There’s others where one is almost entirely separated from the other in a lot of respects, with the town’s events taking place almost instead of the railway nearby.
East Lancs Railway cleverly avoids this by running a ‘Military Train’ loaded with vehicles and equipment up and down the line at various times and at one point I believe it actually ferried the Allied reenactment troops up to the battle site. The effect of this is to give the whole thing more of a railway at war type of feel to it than others I’ve been to. It also gives the event a strong ‘Home Front’ atmosphere.
There genuinely is something for everyone at East Lancs Railway’s Wartime weekend particularly where the towns with stations in get involved and join in with the spirit of the event. Ramsbottom is particularly notable in this respect and does become a hub mid way up the line and the town can become quite crowded at times but the local businesses cope well with the influx of people. Everyone maintains a friendly, curious and at times slightly bewildered air with the emphasis on friendly. But I found the locals and visitors to the event always willing to approach you and keen to ask questions. One particular little chap was extremely well informed to begin with, but was still happy to chat away happily enquiring and taking it all in.
I’ve never before known an event where so many photographers, whatever their level of ability, were kind enough to ask if they could take pictures before they did so. People do ask of course, but the percentage seemed far greater this time and it made a nice change. Personally, I was pleased to find that pictures taken of me appeared in the Guardian on the Bank Holiday Monday both online and in print and the National Post in Canada a day earlier in their Editor’s choice of Pictures of the Day.
All in all an event very well worth a visit in my opinion. But make a note in your diaries if you’re planning to take my advice and go along though because the regular date moves a week later next year due the Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. East Lancs Wartime Weekend 2012 will be held on Saturday 2nd June, Sunday 3rd June and Monday 4th June. But while that holiday will have an extra days holiday tagged onto it on the Tuesday, Neil Parkington explained that the 2012 event will still be run over a three period day from Saturday to Monday as ever.
I’ll certainly take time to participate in it next time having enjoyed it so much on this occasion. Plus it’ll save me all those miles of travelling for once. So anyone planning to visit next year I’m sure, as the song says, ‘we’ll meet again’.
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