Ghosts and ghouls, witches and warlocks, dragons and monsters – Whitefield will have it all as the town’s second annual Halloween Festival begins this weekend.
The festival, running from October 20 to October 31, will have plenty to keep the old and young of the estimated 10,000 people entertained.
The non-religious festival will provide educational and creative entertainment for all ages over the half term period, including Halloween-themed dance workshops, tarot card sessions and creative pumpkin carving.
Ruth Shedwick, Senior Planning Officer for Town Centres Events and Promotions at Bury Council, is the chief organiser behind the event.
She said: “We wanted something unique to draw in the footfall, there is nothing like this in the North West.
“Whitefield can be seen as a drive through, but I’m hoping this puts our town on the map.
“I was so delighted with the response at last year’s event that this year I’ve rolled it out over half term week to engage children with interactive and creative activities.
“There’s so much going on during the festival that you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Ruth believes the festival is about fostering community spirit, and parents can be assured that their children are enjoying the festivities in a quality controlled environment.
“It is about bringing in the community – everyone is so excited. It’s amazing what you can do working together,” she added.
Ruth said that the benefits for local businesses are tantamount, as the festival is a chance for them to get themselves known.
At least fifteen businesses from the area are involved, with traders not just from Whitefield but from the whole borough of Bury getting involved.
Alex Stacey, Chairman of Whitefield Business Group, is also keen on giving young people something to do over the Halloween period in order to reduce antisocial behaviour.
“The festival is not only about community engagement but about putting forward the idea that antisocial behaviour is not acceptable through working with the police and fire service on Operation Treacle,” he said.
“It was our original aim for last year’s festival to engage with young people and we had lots of families turn up too because it was the end of half term, so this year we’ve grown it to encompass the whole week.”
Organisers are working closely with Greater Manchester Police and Fire service in promoting Operation Treacle, and it is hoped that the festival itself will again steer youngsters away from trouble after last year’s event heralded a reduction in antisocial behaviour in the area.
Since the initiative – now in its fifth year – started, police say that crime over Halloween and bonfire night has gone down.
Richard Garland, Whitefield’s local community police officer said: “The festival helps us out a lot. The figures show that Operation Treacle has driven antisocial behaviour down.”
He added: “I think it is important that kids get a positive impression of us.”
Community Safety Officer Katy Swierczynski and her team have visited Bury schools with local community volunteers in order to educate youngsters about the importance of staying safe over Halloween and Bonfire Night.
CSO Swierczynski added: “It is important that children are aware of the dangers that fire can pose.”
Ivan Lewis, MP for Bury South, said the Halloween Festival is the perfect opportunity for galvanising community identity and encouraging Whitefield residents to celebrate their local area.
“There is a great appetite here for a sense of community pride,” he said.
He added: “Whitefield has lacked a community hub and Ruth has done a remarkable job reconciling that, Bury’s communities all want a centre of their own.
“This is something everyone really believes in. Times are tough, so bringing people together is very important. We should support local businesses in the choices we make, shopping locally and putting something back into the community.
“This is about small businesses servicing the community and bringing in outside custom in difficult economic circumstances as well as the community pride and community engagement.”
Mr Lewis believes that it is great to have a positive event on the horizon when people are worried about austerity.
He sees Halloween as something which has the potential to appeal to all ages, bringing together sometimes three or four different generations.
Mr Lewis has also been impressed by the scale of the voluntary work that has gone into the event.
“People are going the extra mile,” he said. “They are volunteering, and they are proud of the fact.”
Councillor Joan Grimshaw, Mayor of Bury, is equally pleased local independent businesses are getting involved to help make the event a success.
She said that after Whitefield town centre was virtually demolished overnight, people did not feel like they had a town centre and so holding events in the area’s public parks is a great way of developing a sense of community spirit.
“The businesses are pulling things together – it’s fantastic,” she said.
“All businesses should be involved in the community they’re working in, wherever they are.”
“I’m sure it will be successful – I know it will. Things can only get bigger and better!”
The festival runs until October 31 but will culminate in the main festival day on Sunday October 28, with an event in Hamilton Road Park between 11 and 4pm.
This will feature a 12ft animatronic dragon, a medieval story teller, medieval surgeon, special effects makeup, creepy creatures, bats, hawks and owls display, hog roast and much more.
The Witch Way bus will be operating a circular route from Metrolink car park to the festival destinations of Hamilton Road Park, Victoria Park and The Goats Gate pub, with free travel on production of the festival programme.
Other events to look out for include a chilli pepper cookery contest chaired by Masterchef finalist Jackie Kearney, on October 25 at Whitefield Fire Station.
Local schools are getting creative too, with Tottington High School writing and performing horror plays.
On Saturday October 20 there will be a midnight vigil above wine bar The White Room where paranormal investigators Mysteria Paranormal will investigate reports of paranormal activity in the building with specialist equipment.
The festival also has its own specially blended beer, a ginger, cinnamon and treacle flavoured ale, which will be available to purchase from The Goats Gate PH throughout the festival and from the beer tent in Hamilton Road Park on October 28.
There is also the chance to win two places at a children’s chocolate workshop with John Slattery, the wizard behind Slattery Patissier and Chocolatier.
To enter send the child’s name and age to [email protected]. The winner will be announced on October 22.