Community hopes to revive cancelled Woodhall Spa 1940s festival

A sense of hope amongst the uncertainty
Joseph Verney

Joseph Verney

Community hopes to revive cancelled Woodhall Spa 1940s festival

The cancellation of the cherished Woodhall Spa 1940s Festival struck a chord with locals and businesses, casting a shadow over what many saw as the end of an era. Rising operational costs forced an abrupt halt, but the community's spirit may just bring the event back in a new form.

At The Mall pub on November 10, a gathering of over 100 people, burning with questions and ideas, reflected the village's resolve to keep the festival's spirit alive.

Lincolnshire Police recently confirmed an investigation into an allegation of fraud connected to the popular two-day festival, but this has not quenched the community’s enthusiasm. Police said the investigation is at an early stage.

Trevor Glenn, owner of The Mall, chaired the meeting.

Hope for the future of the festival

Trevor Glenn, owner of The Mall, chaired the meeting and told us it was “absolutely wonderful with a fantastic turnout.” The meeting’s panel included the likes of East Lindsey District Council Leader Craig Leyland and a representative of the festivals’ former committee.

Trevor said: “When I asked for a show of hands for those in favour of the show going ahead, it was unanimous.

“There was also standing room only in the marquee and only two hands didn’t go up. There were a minority of objections and uncertainties, and hopefully we allayed those fears at the meeting — it was a very positive outcome for us.”

As an ex-Royal Navy veteran, the 1940s Festival is “very important” to Trevor who is “extremely passionate” about the event.

The Mall used to put on live entertainment on both days of the Woodhall Spa 1940s Festival.

Trevor said: “It is probably the best 1940s event in the world, never mind England, and I think, along with others at the meeting, it should continue, but we need to take stock of how and when we can proceed.

“We need to sit down and work out all the many volunteers who have left their details and get people together and work out a way forward.

“The Mall is the epicentre for the High Street when the 1940s event is on, and we put on live entertainment on both days and have embraced it as best we can.

“Numbers have grown exponentially year on year, but you have to think about safety, which is paramount. The infrastructure is quite complex and there are events going on across Woodhall Spa.

“It has to be co-ordinated and run professionally. I am very passionate about it and don’t want to see the 1940s Festival end — and I got the feeling at the meeting that nobody else does either.

Soaking up the atmosphere of the Woodhall Spa 1940s Festival from The Mall.

“I think anything is achievable if you have the right people in the right places, and I am extremely hopeful we can reinstate the 1940s Festival.

“Whether it means a downscaled version next year and then get together for 2025 is something we all need to sit down and discuss to make sure we have the means to go ahead.”

Regarding the fraud allegations, he added that it was “a very sad thing,” but did not want to comment further.

Miss Sarah Jane sings across the UK, including in her local village of Woodhall Spa, as well as playing the clarinet.

Commercialising the event could be the way forward

Sarah Jane Paul has lived in the village for seven years and performed at the event for a decade under her professional name of Miss Sarah Jane.

Sarah, who also attended the meeting, said: “It was an amicable discussion to air thoughts and feelings.

"There is a general feeling that the village has a responsibility, as people will come whether the event happens or not and we need to move forward with that and see what we can do instead.

“People will still have expectations of it being something massive, so if it does happen it will have to be at the same level and finances and infrastructure will need to be discussed.

“The initial festival started as a fun close-knit community event with no intention to be commercial, but given the size of it, it may become more business-like if it’s reinstated.”

A new committee will be formed at some point in the future to discuss and plan the way forward, and Sarah came out of the meeting with “hope”.

Singer Miss Sarah Jane with her husband Craig and children, Henry, 6, and Holly, 4.

She said: “I went in with two questions in my head, which were very much answered and I was surprised.

“One of the facts is that it costs over £85,000 to put on the event and my question was about the funding. I was assured that the money is achievable with plans that are being looked at.

“My other question was what could a new committee do that an old committee could not. The old committee should be appreciated for their work but because it was a team of volunteers it may have gone beyond their expertise.

“We need to take on board their integral knowledge, but also to have professionals who run events for a living.”

With Lincoln Christmas Market and Boston Bike Night also cancelled for good, it raises questions about events in Lincolnshire and the wider issues of the unsustainable nature of hosting large-scale events in the current economic climate.

Sarah added: “We are very lucky in Lincolnshire to be so full of heritage. Some say the 1940s Festival put Woodhall Spa on the map, but it was already on the map before that with its connections to wartime Britain and the Dambusters.

“There was a lot of passion on Friday night to keep the event going, and I’ll support the decision for whatever happens. I’m still keeping the weekend available (to perform) as if something does happen I want to be part of it.”

Miss Sarah Jane loved performing at the Petwood Hotel during the Woodhall Spa 1940s Festival.

Regarding the fraud allegations connected to the festival, Sarah said: “The meeting was open and we didn’t discuss that and can’t comment on what was in the past.

“There’s been a lot of speculation online, which is sad. The main reason for cancelling the event was the committee were out of their depth and had had enough, and the cash flow from the bad weather on the Saturday (this year) was not there to support a future the following year.”

We also reached out to East Lindsey District Council to get a statement about their plans regarding the Woodhall Spa 1940s Festival.