Corby's once-every-20-years Pole Fair celebration will take place on Friday, June 3 - planned to coincide with Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.
Part-funded by a Heritage Fund grant of £158,000 the volunteer-led steering group, alongside project partners Made With Many, are planning to mark the tradition with a spectacular day-long community event.
Starting with bell ringing and a dawn parade, people will be able to get involved in the historic day.
From a teddy bears' picnic to a car rally, market stalls to concerts, dancing and re-enactments, the whole community is being asked to take part.
Denise Westwood, chairman of the Pole Fair steering group, said: "The Corby Pole Fair is a really significant event that only happens every 20 years. We'd love the whole community to get involved to help create a spectacular event and fantastic memories to pass on to the next generation."
Centred on the Old Village the major community celebration is said to have been marked in some form for more than 1,000 years. There are many historical stories associated with the Pole Fair and Corby village, from its evolution as a small Viking settlement, to the right to hold fairs granted by Henry III in 1226, and the story of why Elizabeth I granted the Corby Charter after an accident in a bog.
Helen Willmott, programme director of Made With Many, said: "There are numerous traditions that take place at every fair, including a dawn parade with a reading of the town’s charter, floral gateways to the old village area of Corby, and a greasy pole competition.
"At the celebration of the Pole Fair in Corby every person entering the village has to pay a toll of £1 or be carried over the 'stang' to face the stocks.
"We have ambitious plans to engage the whole town - and beyond - in a full day of heritage, arts and community activities to make the fair a day for all to enjoy and remember for years to come.
"We envisage that at least 30,000 people will attend the event, with many ex-residents coming from afar to take part in the festivities. As such a unique event, we will also be working with both local and national press to promote the event and enhance the positive reputation of our area."
Groups will also be invited to make decorative archways to adorn the three gateways to the Old Village, where the local vicar will carry on the tradition of reading the Corby town charter at dawn on the day of the fair.
• Knitters, crocheters and felters will be stitching the floral arches with St John the Baptist Church, Corby, leading a town-wide call to get crafty in the lead-up to the fair. Home-crafted flowers of any colour, any size, and any pattern will be used to start to build a spectacular archway that will welcome people to the fair.
• A vintage car rally and show for pre-1960s cars or service vehicles will take place at West Glebe Park. Owners can sign up before May 25 and the meet will be from 9am - 6pm. Contact Ann on 01536 267895 or [email protected] with any queries.
• Songwriters can help compose a song for Corby Pole Fair with folk duo Mayor & James. Local musicians and music lovers will come together in Corby Old Village Community Centre to pen a new song to perform on the day.
• Perform at the Pole Fair - anyone wanting to express an interest in performing at the Corby Pole Fair should contact Made With Many by March 22.
• Ring in the dawn with St John's bell ringers, starting at 5am on June 3. Anyone interested in learning how to bell ring can contact Andrew Gunstone at [email protected]
• Morris Dancing will feature at the fair with Corby Conspiracy appealing for musicians, as well as new recruit Morris Dancers, with a view to performing at June’s Pole Fair. Contact David Ball at [email protected] or 07789381991.
• People with calligraphy skills are being asked to volunteer for a couple of hours on June 3 to write names on teddy bear adoption certificates at the Pole Fair Teddy Bear’s Picnic. Contact Judy Caine on [email protected] or 07962879928 to volunteer.
• A parade on the theme of 'Pole Fair Through The Years' is to be held with individuals or groups needing to register by May 27.
Following the 2022 Pole Fair in June, video footage of the event will be made into a film to capture this special day in Corby history, which will be shown through local and online screenings. A film has already been released to preview the event.Permanent heritage boards will also be installed across the Old Village and a digital archive will be stored in the Corby Heritage Centre as a legacy for the enjoyment and education of generations to come.
Anyone wanting more information about booking a market stall, or charities or community groups who would like to run public activities at the Pole Fair should email [email protected] or call 01536 267897.
WHAT IS CORBY POLE FAIR?
The fair’s origins are shrouded in mystery but it’s believed the custom of ‘riding the stang’ was established by the town’s a Viking settlers.
The stang - a horizontal ash pole - would be held aloft and men who had committed minor offences would have to sit astride it, carried through the Old Village, with missiles being thrown at them.
They’d then be taken to the village stocks.
Since 1862, the fair has been held every 20 years and attracts thousands to the Old Village. Visitors have to pay a toll T the three entrances to the village or face being hauled to the stocks.
The town’s Royal Charter, granted in 1568 by Elizabeth I, is read at the three entrances to the village.
A ‘greasy pole’ climb is one of the attractions and the rector of the village - currently Rev Paul Frost - is traditionally carried around on a chair and taken to the stocks, as are the chairman of the council and the oldest person known to be born in the village.
It is also traditional for the bells of St John’s Church to be rung to wake the villagers for the celebration and parishioners have been raising money for bells for this very purpose.
After the charter is read, and blessings bestowed on the fair, give blessings for the success of the fair, the day's activities are officially opened and anyone wanting to enter the village must do so on foot and pay a toll.