St Albans gets into the festival spirit

Alban Street Festival 2015

Alban Street Festival 2015 - Credit: Archant

St Albans has lots to celebrate this year: its pivotal role in the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta; the project to create a fantastic new museum in the city centre; the work to add a visitor centre to the Cathedral and a packed schedule of events planned for weekends through to the end of the year – there is a lot going on that will mean many visitors coming to enjoy our city.

The last couple of weekends alone have demonstrated this. Thousands flocked to the streets of the city last weekend to take part in the annual Alban Pilgrimage followed by the Alban Street Festival on Sunday, which saw St Peter’s Street transformed into a summer extravaganza with music stages, a performance piazza, a designer maker market, craft activities for children and a kaleidoscope of stalls serving up food from all over the world.

The previous weekend, the city celebrated its role in the journey of the Magna Carta with a medieval market in the town centre.

The University of Hertfordshire is currently undertaking research on the impact of festivals and community events on individuals and the quality of family life. Events like these, the University believes, promote family togetherness, socialisation and bonding, which in turn impact upon our lives.

I have a young family myself, and so I can appreciate this. But I am also a businessman, with a shop right in the middle of the city. And my direct experience is that these events could also be brilliant for local business, with huge numbers of potential customers attracted to St Albans who may never have been here before, and don’t know what it has to offer. This is why it is so important for local companies and retailers to get involved and support these events: so that the city can continue to run them and justify their costs.

I became involved with the St Albans Food and Drink Festival when I set up Dixie’s Cupcakes in 2011, and although my shop is now an interiors and lifestyle shop, I am still involved with SAFDF, and am very keen to support this year’s Christmas Market too – because I understand the positive impact these initiatives can have on my business.

The organisers of the Food and Drink Festival are working hard already to make sure it is a great success this year. There are plans to bring a little bit of the countryside into the city with a pop-up Village Green just outside the town hall on the grand finale day, with local independent pubs setting up stalls to serve up real ale and pub grub.

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There are also plans for a Children’s Chocolate Factory, a Chef’s Theatre and a Kitchen Garden Zone with sustainability community group Transition St Albans and the council’s allotments team taking a role.

And with walking pub tours and a food and drink quiz and dinner as well, this year more than any other year there will be opportunities for local businesses to get involved. The Food and Drink Festival is looking for sponsors, and also businesses to host their own food and drink related event, which can be of any shape and size.

A great way to get involved with events such as these, which bring thousands of visitors to the city centre, boosting the local economy, as well as developing the local community’s sense of pride, is to connect with the Visitor Partnership - a group of local businesses who count visitors to the area as part of their customer base. For more information about the VP contact Jenny Swatton, on 01727 819492, or join the Facebook page (St Albans Visitor Partnership), and help give our city more to celebrate in 2015.