Family fun and games at festival

This Is Wiltshire: Performers from Romanska School of Dance put on a colourful display of creative dance Performers from Romanska School of Dance put on a colourful display of creative dance

RAIN failed to keep people away from the first full day of the Old Town Festival and Armed Forces Day in Lawns Park and Wood Street on Saturday.

The heavens had opened long before the opening events in Wood Street at 10am, but people continued to flock to the area with health and fitness on the agenda for festival chiefs.

The day started with street theatre from Commonweal School, a juggling display, a street sprint race, a formal festival opening outside 20 at the Kings, a drummers’ lead parade to Lawns Park and the inaugural family fun run.

An array of stalls and activities were on offer at the park itself, where the festival hit its stride. Arguably the most popular corner of the site was populated by Swindon Needy Dogs.

The volunteer group was fronting a dog show which attracted owners from across the town to parade their pets, with token prizes on offer.

Lisa Newman, events and fundraising manager with the group, said: “They walk around and show their dogs off.

“I have been doing a few of these events this year and I’ve seen some of the same dogs. A lot of people take it quite seriously.

“They just like to show off their pets.

“The rain did have an impact early on because it was quite heavy. It passed at a vital time and hasn’t stopped people from coming along later.”

One of those with more than one dog at the show was Aaron Pickett, 42, of Victoria Cross Road in Wroughton.

He said: “I’ve mainly come down to support Swindon Needy Dogs. My dog is an ex-Needy Dog. I know it’s being run with Eastcott Vets and people are here to support them too though.

“But mainly it’s to show my support for the organisation and pay the entry fee they ask for to enter your dog.”

One of the more eye-catching, and rather more violent, attractions of the festival was put on by the College of Chivalry, a group based at Roves Farm which provides medieval knight and archery training to novices.

On Saturday there were rolling sword fights throughout the day between the college’s members, which drew in large crowds, especially children.

Alan Knowles, 43, is a founding member of the college and fencing coach from Purton. He said: “The rain’s made it a little more dangerous for us with the risk of slipping, but we are all trained to take that into account to keep it safe.

“We also have the shelter here which keeps people dry if they do want to spectate. The younger ones can get quite involved in it because, for them, it’s quite a spectacle.

“I remember being a kid when I saw a re-enactment in the 70s and I remember it to this day. It was gripping.

“That’s why we all do this now and why we want to train others to do it safely.”

Armed Forces Day also made the festival its temporary home this year. Territorial Army vehicles were on-show, along with stalls from the Royal Air Force Association, Royal British Legion and SSAFA.

l There are more events planned for the festival until its final day this Saturday. For more information, visit: www.oldtownfestival.co.uk

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