Friarwood Festival

by Rachel Riley

As a Pontefract lass with a passion for the great outdoors, the Valley Gardens has always played a significant part in my life. Now, as a mum of two young boys, it’s a pleasure to be one of the dedicated volunteers who helps to make sure it stays clean and safe for everyone. 

Along with maintaining its beauty, Friends of Friarwood Valley Gardens set out to create a free family-friendly day to celebrate the park and the people of Pontefract. 

Working to a tight budget and with no experience, we encountered many unexpected challenges along the way. The logistical demands of organising such a large event proved difficult to fit around our daily lives. 

However, we remained committed to our goal of hosting a joyous, gentle festival starring talented local musicians. And so last August, the Friarwood Festival was born.

On the day of the festival, a handful of volunteers worked intensively to decorate and set-up the park before we nervously threw open the Friarwood Festival gates at 2pm. We had hoped that at least a few hundred people would come and have fun. More than treble that turned out in the sunshine to dance the day away and we knew we had to do it again. 

On Saturday 17th August the Valley Gardens will host the second Friarwood Festival. Myself and co-organisers, Colin White and Phil Cook, are determined that this year will be even bigger and better – and yes, that means even more portaloos! 

A vibrant and diverse line-up of live music features some of Pontefract’s most gifted artists, while non-stop children’s entertainment includes real life fairies and lawn games. Food and drink offerings – from pizza and beer to noodles and Prosecco – should suit every taste.  

Local primary schoolchildren have also helped to create an exciting art exhibition for the festival that will be unveiled on the day. 

The generosity of last year’s festivalgoers and vendors meant we raised more than £2,000 to put back into the park. This year, residents of Pontefract and beyond voted for Friarwood Valley Gardens to be awarded a tremendous £4,000 from Tesco’s Bags of Help grant. The funds will be used towards our summer events, with the rest earmarked for playground improvements and a permanent structure honouring the park’s 70th birthday next year.

We’re so grateful to all the people who have supported us through donations of money, services and volunteering their time. We hope the Friarwood Festival will become a long-standing annual fixture for the town and generate many wonderful memories for people in our area. 

Whether you’re a regular visitor to the Valley Gardens or a relative stranger to the park, why not dust off your camping chairs and join us to support our glorious community space with a day to remember.

Friarwood Festival will be held on Saturday 17th August 2019, 2pm-9pm. 

If you would like to support or volunteer at the Friarwood Festival, or become a Friend of Friarwood Valley Gardens, email

This article was featured in Issue 7 – August 2019.

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