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Tuesday, 07 July 2015

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The jewel in our jubilee crown

THE Whitehaven Diamond Jubilee Festival has proved once again why it is the jewel in our area’s crown.

From star-studded concerts and celebrity guest stars to talented chefs, amazing air and sea displays, and even a singing robot, the hundreds of thousands of people who descended on Whitehaven harbour had a weekend to remember.

Dyna-mania swept through town on Sunday as the superstar magician Dynamo proved to be the biggest crowd-puller of the event, with hordes of fans packing the streets to get a glimpse of his jaw-dropping trickery.

Such was the demand to see Dynamo’s close-up street magic that his planned walk-about around the harbour had to be scrapped on safety grounds, with fans instead invited into the main arena to gather around to watch his stunts at close quarters.

“I couldn’t go out there, I think I’d be killed!” Dynamo joked with the crowd gathered in the festival arena.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Gerard Richardson, the chief executive of Whitehaven Festival Company. “It was an absolute circus – but in a good way. The things he did defied belief, and if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

But Dynamo wasn’t the only success story from the annual festival that has become the highlight in West Cumbria’s calendar.

Dazzling mezzo soprano Katherine Jenkins delivered a sensational opening to the festivities on Friday night – the day before she performed before the Queen at the Derby during Her Majesty’s Jubilee weekend celebrations.

Accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra, Katherine performed a range of songs to the capacity crowd, including Amazing Grace, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu, Shirley Bassey’s I Who Have Nothing and Time To Say Goodbye.

It was a fun-filled night of nostalgia on Saturday, as stars from the seventies, including the Bay City Rollers (whose set included Bye Bye Baby, Shang-a-Lang), Showaddywaddy (Under The Moon of Love) and Steve Harley (Come Up And See Me, Make Me Smile) sent fans dancing down memory lane.

And the curtain was brought down on the festival by The Charlatans, The Enemy and Simon Townshend, who rocked the arena with stunning sets crammed full of their greatest hits on Sunday.

“Katherine Jenkins is in a league of her own, and it was wonderful that she accepted our invite to come back to town,” said Gerard.

“The seventies bands were also fantastic, and to see the whole crowd waving in unison along to the Bay City Rollers’ Bye Bye Baby was a real highlight for me.

“And to finish with The Charlatans and The Enemy, two great bands to round off a great weekend.”

Chefs have become synonymous with Whitehaven Festival, and this year was no different with Ainsley Harriott and firm friend of the town Jean Christophe Novelli among those who entertained the crowds with their sense of humour and culinary craft , while Strictly Come Dancing’s Anton du Beke and Coronation Street star Michelle Collins both proved a major hit with festival-goers during their special guest appearances in town, posing for pictures and signing autographs for the many well-wishers.

Among the numerous other attractions were tall ships, air and jet ski displays and a continental market.

And the highlight of the weekend for many was Sunday’s spectacular show from the Red Arrows.

The visit by the iconic air display team was a major coup for the organisers during Jubilee weekend, and they didn’t disappoint with an awe-inspiring demonstration on Sunday.

The skies above Whitehaven Harbour were also lit up by two dazzling firework displays, particularly on Saturday when there was a patriotic red, white and blue theme. The money saved from last year’s cancelled Saturday night display was carried forward to help pay for an extra special show this year.

The response from the public was overwhelming, with many describing the festival – and particularly the fireworks – as the best the town has seen.

And this view was shared by the celebs themselves, who all gave a resounding thumbs-up to the festival and its organisers.

Sean Wilson, of Coronation Street fame and now a cheese-maker demonstrating at the festival for the third year in a row, said: “I say this every year, but this is the best festival in the world!”

Gerard said: “If people of their calibre are saying things like that about our festival, then we must be doing something right.

“But I always say that if we get things 100 per cent right, then it’s time to call it a day. There are things I would change and things we can learn from, and canceling The Lottery Winners’ set [on Sunday afternoon due to the Dynamo re-shuffle] was one of the hardest decisions we’ve had to make. They are an incredible band.

“But we had to change things when we saw the demand for Dynamo, and safety comes first and we couldn’t guarantee safety if he had gone out onto the harbour.

“But those with wristbands got into the arena and hundreds were able to see his magic close-up and he showed what an outstanding and unique performer he is.

“There is something either genuinely magic or spooky about him – I can’t decide which. It was all impromptu and I guarantee that there were no set-ups, and I saw him do things that simply can’t be explained. It’s not often I am star-struck, but I was with Dynamo.

“But the whole festival has been a stunning success. To look out across the harbour and see happy people enjoying themselves is amazing, and reward for all the hard work that goes into the organisation.

“I have been totally blown away, not just by the weekend itself but the response from the public.

“This has been a difficult year and a trying time for the country, but the response from individuals, sponsors and the public has been phenomenal.

“The fact that the chefs keep coming back year after year is testament to the people of Whitehaven and the warmth they show to our visitors. Jean Christophe and Ainsley don’t just want to sit back in the VIP tent, they want to walk around and meet people and all the celebrities have again commented about the wonderful reception they have had. But the highlight for me has to be Titan the robot. There’s something about an eight-foot robot that brings out the big kid in everyone, and it certainly does me!”

Have your say

welldone to Gerard Richardson for giving whitehaven hope for the future and yes he would be a good mayor. however, what about the other agencies involved how did they fair. Not to good the town looked dirty with pavements both at the harbour and around the town broken uneven and filled with make do tarmac. This is a time we should showcase whitehaven but the three major agencies always let us down with no cooperation between them. where were the hanging baskets around the town it may be earlier but planning and flexibility is essential. un painted lighthouses of course the harbour commisioners oh and the wave did it once change colour. all of this investment for the renaissance of whitehaven has fallen flat due to lack of maintence and planning. no lights on the candlestick? do they walk around with their eyes closed or may be there all shopping in carlisle/workington. some of the private shops on the market place need painting especially above ladbrooks who has stole the crown from the old kinselas. some are trying but others moan that no ones coming to the shops take a walk outside and see why. Private lanlords are also letting down our community by not maintaing the buildings. therfore whose to blame cumbria county council,copeland and the harbour commisioners. are these peopole doing their jobs for u the community looking around copeland the answer is no.

Posted by g short on 13 June 2012 at 22:02

If youv'e never left whitehaven or left the county you would think this was the bees knees if you aint seen anything to compare it with,Eastbourne has a free airshow and events weekend every year,rochester in kent (a similar size to Whitehaven) puts on about 4 of these a year,i thought the organisers were a business this is not voluntery so they would give their best efforts,but the reason we get so out of date musicians is because all the good ones are already booked up.I would'nt say it was a diamond event more of a pebble with glitter sprinkled on it ya need to get out more.

Posted by James O on 11 June 2012 at 15:19

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