The Shelley Garden Festival has been held every 2 years since 1999.
Photographs from the 2021 Garden Festival, can be found on the right (Click on the picture to launch the slideshow). Photographs from past festivals can be found at the bottom of the page and it's worth remembering that John Pearman created 3 Shelley Calendars (2009, 2011 and 2013), They can also be found at the bottom of the page. Members of the SCA went door to door selling them for village projects - and HSBC helped create the calendar and match-funded us.
Shelleys First Garden Festival
Shelley's First Garden Festival was in 1999 - and it really was a Festival with a Palm Court Evening the night before using plants donated by Armitage's Garden Centre.
I had visited another village Open Garden the summer before in Oxfordshire and wondered if it would be a community event that would be possible in Shelley…the enthusiasm from the first steering group was infectious - Ann and John Littlewood, Malcolm and Lorna MacDonald, Barbara Wadsworth and Bernard Hanson all got behind the idea - there would be no horticultural bar to opening - if you were happy to open we were happy to have you on-board - and in fact my garden was the worst of the lot..I was the bench mark to encourage people to 'have-a-go' - there was little disguising the childrens swings and wendy house!
About twenty gardens opened that year - well I always over-egg so it was about that number….and none of us had ever been into each other's gardens - but that didn't deter us from sending in a Poster to Gardener's World the popular national gardening Magazine!
You can only imagine our shock on seeing the information in print in their June issue - our small village in a national magazine making out we were on a par with Chatsworth! And my eye fell on the rusting swing….
The day of the Open Gardens - 18th July 1999 - saw us all waiting for our first visitors with a thrill of apprehension. We were now locked in an isolated position just seeing a long trail of people from the village holding aloft their yellow tickets - some we knew and are still regular visitors - but many had seen the Magazine - and the Examiner - oh yes we were in there too - and we had visitors from all over the north of England - Cumbria, Manchester, Leeds and north Midlands and someone from Kent visiting up here…and not one was disappointed! It is hard to remember but I think there were 300 visitors at least - one gardener had a clicker! With amazement I heard our visitors telling me that Garden 2 was so inspiring, that Garden 4 had offered them wonderful cakes, that Garden 7 had 'staff' dressed up as old fashioned waitresses and waiters , Garden 1 had an amazing engineered water swirl and Garden 6 had happily dug up plants for them to take home….
It wasn't until the next night when we toured each other's gardens that I was saying 'Wow' - the gardens were amazing!!!! No wonder the visitors had been so impressed! We are all gobsmacked and amazed!!! And the ticket was such good value….It served to show me once again what a lovely village this is - with such generous and contented people - and to allow us to make use of their beautiful gardens was a real privilege!
With the first profit - this was something we hadn't really foreseen - we made enough to use to obtain a matching grant for the baseball court on the Rec - still in use today - and a portable stage for the Village Hall which became the basis for fund-raising first class concert evenings, fashion shows, jazz nights and party nights… and we have supported village projects with the proceeds every Garden Festival since: from a new roller for the Cricket Club, to a Greenhouse for the First School, to the Trim Trail, to helping with the new organ at the Methodist Chapel and now the new play area on the Rec we have manged to bring to fruition some big village projects which we are very proud of.
The Palm Court was held for a few festivals - as was competitions for eg photography and Gardens in a Shoebox …but over time it was refined to just the one day - and the 7pm finishing time was scaled back to 5pm because no-one could move at the end of the day! But the serenity of the Palm Court lives on in the bands and musicians now playing in the gardens..and the odd spot of art too.
The spirit of competition was fierce in the Festival - not over who grew the biggest marrow - but who could tempt their visitors to think their garden was superlative through old-fashioned bribery…when one Garden offered Pernod there was an answering sally of Pimms, and when garden offered 007 there was a riposte of an offer to use the hot tub! We could have had a personal Cake-gate - but undercut with home-made lemonade! All's fair…..We had an ice-cream barrow at one Festival and there is talk of a Pizza oven at the next one….But the epithet written by a visitor in a Visitor's Book is the one that we should all cherish - they wrote - 'This is the Friendly Festival'…and for that we have to thank everyone involved!
So many of the original gardeners are still happy to open their gardens - and I can tell you it becomes much harder as time passes - that it would be lovely to have some new people come forward to open up….we are very lucky that Damian Stansfield has joined our steering committee and we had new and enthusiastic gardeners join us two years ago - in fact that made our biggest profits (£5,680!) because some gardeners chose to donate some of their 'takings' to their personal charity such as Yorkshire Air Ambulance, Diabetes UK and Brain Tumour research which means that the village is actively fund-raising for these important charities as a community.