Thousands flock to city for Alban Weekend: with gallery

The start of The Alban Pilgrimage story

The start of The Alban Pilgrimage story - Credit: Archant

ST ALBANS proved it can certainly party last weekend when thousands of people flocked to the city to lap up everything from 12ft parading puppets to hours of live music.

The first Alban Weekend has been hailed a great success by those who attended the two-day event which began with The Alban Pilgrimage and ended with a community party.

Things got off to a flying start on Saturday when a procession of carnival puppets, pilgrims, dignitaries and local children made their way from St Peter’s Church through the city centre to St Albans Cathedral, retelling the story of Britain’s first Christian martyr, Alban.

The cathedral was full for the afternoon services with preachers the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nick Holtam and Roman Catholic writer and speaker, Fr Timothy Radcliffe.

For the first time in its history, the pilgrimage was filmed by the BBC as part of a special episode of Songs of Praise that will air on Sunday, July 28.

Canon Kevin Walton said: “It was wonderful to bring the story of Alban back into the streets of the town which bought and saved the Abbey after Henry VIII had dissolved the monasteries.

“The positive feedback has been overwhelming. Pilgrims, visitors, participants, onlookers, local residents and civic representatives were all caught up in this absorbing spectacle.”

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And then St Peter’s Street came to life on Sunday when food stalls and tables seating 500 lined St Peter’s Street for the first Alban Street Party.

Cllr Annie Brewster, Mayor of St Albans, who led a procession along with 200 schoolchildren on the day, said: “I think for me it was lovely to meet so many residents and it felt like an enormous party and the city centre was buzzing with life.

“One needed the full nine hours to appreciate everything that was on offer.”

She added: “It was a great way to showcase the city’s heritage and show it in its contemporary form.”

Party-goers were dazzled by an array of street performers and kept entertained well into the evening by musical acts including Soca performer Ms Desire and tribute band Kazabian.

Among the crowds was Apprentice hopeful and Dixie’s Cupcakery owner Luisa Zissman who observed: “The town was very lively and everybody was having a great time. It was a bit cold but nobody seemed to care.

“It is good when street parties happen because it feels like we are all getting together and supporting each other. When St Albans does something, it does it properly!”

This year’s Alban Weekend, which was supported by the Herts Ad as media partner, was themed ‘Medieval St Albans’ and aimed to showcase the city’s 2,000 years of history.