by Wakefield Council’s Major Events and Festivals Team
Sunday 7 July marks one of the busiest days in the town’s calendar, as the Pontefract Liquorice Festival returns for its 24th year.
The annual festival celebrates Pontefract’s historic links with liquorice, which is thought to have originally been brought to the town during the Crusades by a member of the De Lacy family who built Pontefract Castle.
Another theory is that it was brought by Benedictine monks in 1090. First used for medicinal purposes, the liquorice plant was grown in the grounds of Pontefract Castle before becoming the favourite of many a sweet lover when the famous Pomfret cakes were produced.
Sponsored by Tangerine Confectionery, this year’s fun and festivities are once again shared across the town centre and Pontefract Castle, along with a wide array of activities in Friarwood Valley Gardens.
In the town centre the speciality market features a wide range of food, drink, arts and crafts – with many products featuring liquorice or having a liquorice theme.
There are also plenty of fun family activities to enjoy including face painting, liquorice pet making workshops, reptile encounters, funfair rides, sand art, a climbing wall, and movie cars including the Ghostbusters Ecto-1 car and a Batmobile.
Many of these activities are free, although in some cases there may be a small charge.
In the meantime, there is plenty of street entertainment on the community stage and throughout the town centre – including comic street theatre performances from Plunge Boom’s ‘Smoke’, which is appearing in the Cornmarket at 11.30am and 2.30pm.
There is also a selection of hot street food to enjoy, with many vendors offering meals with a liquorice twist!
At Pontefract Castle, visitors can enjoy free huge cinema screenings of the Lego Ninjago Movie at 11am and the Lego Movie 2 at 1.40pm, along with a host of free activities including balloon modelling, soft play, giant Lego bricks and giant Jenga, a ball pool pit and face painting.
There will also be singing performances and dance aerobics workshops on the bandstand, along with food vendors.
Visitors can travel between the town centre and Pontefract Castle by hopping aboard the Liquorice Land Train. The Land Train will be travelling between the castle and the Town Hall every 15 minutes, from 10am to 4pm.
There is much more to explore across the town during the festival. Friarwood Valley Gardens is only a five-minute walk from the town centre, where fun activities include a bouncy castle, donkey rides, have-a-go archery, face painting, food vendors, and performances from the Knottingley Concert Band, Liquorice Singers and the Strange-Twig Theatre Company. There will also be many local charity and community stalls.
Pontefract Museum will be celebrating its ‘Golden Age of Satire’ exhibition with Georgian re-enactors wandering around town for selfie opportunities and encouraging people to become part of a satirical print.
At Pontefract Library youngsters can join the Summer Reading Challenge, design their own space rocket and create their ultimate Sphero warrior, along with building Lego confectionery and make their own photo frame images.
This year’s festival will see Ropergate closed to vehicles, following work between Wakefield Council and Pontefract Civic Society, with the aim of encouraging more people to visit shops and businesses along the parade.
Car parks in and around the town centre are expected to be extremely busy on the day of the festival, especially as parking is free on Sundays at Wakefield Council car parks and on-street bays. Those travelling into town by car have the alternative option of using the festival’s Park and Ride service which travels between Pontefract Park, Stuart Road and Pontefract Castle, leaving roughly every 10 minutes.
For those who can’t wait for the fun of the Liquorice Festival, there is also plenty to enjoy at Pontefract Castle thanks to the Picnic and Play event on Saturday 6 July.
Picnic and Play is the official curtain-raiser to the Liquorice Festival, with an array of free fun activities and workshops along with huge outdoor cinema screenings of The Lego Movie at 11am followed by the Lego Batman Movie at 1.40pm.
To find out more or to keep updated on this year’s festival, visit www.experiencewakefield.co.uk/liquorice or the ‘Events in Wakefield’ Facebook page.
This article was featured in Issue 6 – July 2019.