I’m in the Yorkshire Dales. More precisely I’m in the large village/small town of Grassington in Wharfedale. Tonight the curtain raises on this year’s fortnight long Grassington Festival and I’m here for the first half of it. A couple of months ago I did not even realise that Grassington held a festival but the idea of a combined walking destination and arts venue appealed to me and here I am on a beautiful summers evening, threatened by a black cloud that looks down as if under orders to precipitate but lacking the heart to do so on such an anticipated occasion.
So what to expect? The professional website boasted of a varied but quality line-up, including music acts, film, arts, spoken word and comedy. My eye was immediately drawn to the visit of the I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue team and also folk singer Kate Rusby but these second week features were both sold out. My advance bookings have been a Dry Stone Walling course, an old black and white film a jazz band and a folk band. But tonight I want to share with you the events of opening night.
The thrust of tonight is a parade in which local schools are heavily represented. I hadn’t been sure what to expect but this was a personal and charming affair involving every generation of local people.
The parade is followed by an enthusiastically received band in the square. The local pubs are doing a good trade and the festival is clearly a boom time for local businesses.
As the evening proceeds people start to think about food and the quaint local chippy has a long queue stretching out of the door…
I retire to The Foresters Arms for ale and reflection and it turns out to be a great place to listen in on the locals. The ease of snooping is another great advantage of solo travel. A local couple draw me into their conversation and they tell me that most of the festival visitors come from relatively local areas. This is born out by a stroll of the local streets that reveal two B&Bs with vacancies – something of a surprise but more plausible if people are just visiting for the day.
I’m here for 9 nights. The weather forecast has pronounced 10 days of rain. Tonight’s events have reassured me that the weeks entertainment will not hinge on the weather.