Home Travel Pictures, picnics, festivals and freedoms – a year in the life of a Wiltshire market town

Pictures, picnics, festivals and freedoms – a year in the life of a Wiltshire market town

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For a small rural market town, with a population of just more than 7,000 people, a lot has been crammed into 2023 by the good folk of Malmesbury.

And as residents sit back and reflect on the year, it is notable how many events have been ‘firsts’ for the town, which nestles in the north of Wiltshire, on the edge of the Cotswolds.

Led by Malmesbury Town Council, often working in partnership with other local organisations, not a month goes by without something going on.

So, just what has been happening during 2023?

As the oldest borough in England, the town likes to hold a ceremony or two. March saw a Jubilee Tree Dedication take place, then in May the annual Mayor’s Ball was staged, followed a few days later by the Mayor’s Robing Ceremony.

April saw a ‘first’ organised by the Town Council. In an effort to support and thank the many clubs and community groups which had continued to provide a service during the pandemic, a Community Day was organised.

The town has strong ties with servicemen and women at 9 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, and in May they were awarded the Freedom on the Town of Malmesbury. People turned out in droves to watch the regiment parade through the town.

June was big month for the versatile Town Hall building, which is used as a venue for productions and cinema screenings. Malmesbury Town Council officially opened its new retractable tiered seating, to replace the old dining style chairs, so now audiences can watch in comfort, with much improved viewing.

Malmesbury has a strong cultural heritage, and August saw the month-long High Street Arts Gallery, with retailers displaying the work of local artists, creating a trail of artwork around the town.

Another ‘first’ came in September, and hitting a high note, was the town’s inaugural Folk & Roots Festival. Organised in record time, and staged in the Cloister Gardens of Malmesbury Abbey, the event was a sellout and plans are already underway for an encore in 2024.

November saw 9 Regiment RLC on parade in the town again, for the Service of Remembrance.

Then onto December, and the annual Christmas Late Night Shopping, officially opened by son of Malmesbury, BBC Health Editor Hugh Pym.

Dotted amongst all this, throughout the year, were celebrations of Ukraine’s festival of Ivana Kupala, organised with Malmesbury Stands by Ukraine and the many Ukrainian refugees in the town. German schoolchildren visited Malmesbury School to strengthen the 70-year-old ties with Malmesbury’s twin town, Niebull. There was a town picnic to mark the King’s Coronation, and Malmesbury Town Council ran its annual Malmesbury in Bloom competition for residents, traders and schoolchildren.

“We are nothing if not busy in Malmesbury,” said Town Mayor Cllr Gavin Grant. “Our town councillors and local groups work together to ensure there is plenty going on for residents, businesses and visitors, and thanks to their hard work our small market town is really on the map.”

The late Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman loved Malmesbury, calling it, “A city set on a hill which cannot be hid.” The town is certainly making sure its activities are in the spotlight.

So what’s planned for 2024? More of the same, with one special ‘first’. Next year marks 1100 years since King Athelstan was named the first King of England. And guess where he lived and is reputedly buried? Malmesbury.

*Image shows BBC Health Editor and son of Wiltshire Hugh Pym opening the Late Night Shopping early in December.  Many thanks to Robert Peel for the picture.


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