Pontefract Civic Society stages WheelFest24 to boost town centre footfall

Recent findings from the High Streets Task Force in England reveal a concerning trend: over 60% of areas lack sufficient evidence of place activation. Place activation is a crucial aspect of regeneration, encompassing various activities such as events, festivals, markets, and the creative use of vacant shops or buildings.

Not only does place activation drive footfall and attract diverse communities to town centres, but it also fosters confidence and enhances pride in local areas. That's why we're passionate about highlighting the efforts of civic societies that engage in activities to activate the places they call home.

On Saturday, Pontefract Civic Society successfully staged WheelFest24, featuring nearly 80 exhibiting vehicles, 20 outdoor displays, rides, and vendors, 22 indoor craft stalls, and 20 craft and charity stalls around Market Place. The parade, led by Town Crier John Turner and including 16 costumed characters, was a highlight. A full day of music was hosted by Rhubarb Radio at the Buttercross and on Ropergate, with Channel 4’s Clare Brooke and Alex McHale at The Old Post Office providing support. Highlights included a youth dance flash mob from DA Dance and jive demonstrations from Want2Jive. The society partnered with KLH Craft Fair, relocated to St Giles Church, which managed all additional vendor and charity bookings, excluding vehicles.

Phil Cook, vice chair and event organiser, expressed his pride in the team effort and partner support that made their biggest community event to date possible. He noted that businesses on Ropergate embraced the 1940s spirit by decorating their windows and, in some cases, dressing up themselves. The street displays from the Decoration Squad and the stage entertainment were particularly well-received.

The event was officially opened at 10 am by Cllr Darren Byford, Mayor of Wakefield Council, who toured the exhibits, stalls, and craft fair accompanied by Civic Society Chair Paul Cartwright in the morning. Buttercross acts included the Liquorice Singers, Northern Music Academy, and popular local acts organized by Brad Jack and Little Bellows Events. Meanwhile, Ropergate Entertainment featured D-Day Darling’s Jessica Poole, the Castleford branch of the George Formby Society, Altofts & Normanton Brass Band, and Joseph O’Brien.

Paul Cartwright, civic society chair said, “This was our most ambitious event to date, and in spite of early rain and the wind, the feedback for everyone has been really positive and encouraging. Once again, we want to thank all our business sponsors.

You can watch a short tour video of the event via YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdC58JIgse8

If your civic society is involved in activating your town centre, please do let us know so we can feature it in other places.