IT is one of the highlights of the year in Lymm.

And the 11-day Lymm Festival launches on Thursday, June 20, offering a spectacular programme of events.

Ann Johnstone is one of the organisers.

“I’m a bit like a swan – doing all my pedalling underwater,” Ann admits, “but everything is in hand. I organise Foodfest, which is the first event on our 11-day programme; it sets the tone for the whole festival. It’s like a giant outdoor café – serving street food with fun and free entertainment. Come rain or shine it goes ahead and we get thousands of outside visitors.”

Only local traders are permitted to have a stall at Foodfest. There are 17 taking part this year and each one gets two trestle tables from which to sell their wares – including Italian, Turkish, Indian and Chinese cuisine.

“We’ll be selling local ice cream from Cheshire Farm and possibly wraps,” says restaurant-owner Fikret Aslan, who has lived in Lymm for 11 years. “Lymm Festival is the best advert for Lymm businesses. There’s no substitute for having people able to come and physically try your food.”

Preparations for the festival began, as always, in September with the committee members only taking two months off throughout July and August. Ann is already looking forward to welcoming her son for a visit from Norway this summer, but there is much to be done before then.

“I’ve lived in Lymm since 1979 and it was a quainter, quieter village back then!” she recalls. “What hasn’t changed is the community spirit you see in action. We have around 50 festival volunteers – all of whom are unpaid. We bring a big group together – teachers, accountants, you name it – and use their skills from other areas of their lives.”

Ann’s own contribution makes best use of her expertise in PR and marketing. Having worked with the outdoor leisure industry in her professional life, she has already met one of the stars of the festival, the explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who will be delivering a talk entitled ‘Living Dangerously’ at Statham Lodge on June 24.

“I’ve been to the Arctic Circle twice with a team of climbers including Rebecca Stephens, who is known for being the first British woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. I met Sir Ranulph on a separate occasion – and although I don’t suppose he will remember me, I am very excited to hear his talk.” laughs Ann.

Warrington Guardian: Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Ranulph Fiennes

Securing Sir Ranulph is a coup that the committee are very pleased with – having set their guest speaker sights high for the festival’s 21st year. Dubbed the ‘World’s Greatest Living Explorer’ by The Guinness Book of World Records in 1984, the British Army veteran shares top billing with former Communard The Reverend Richard Coles and Professor Michael Garrett, who is the director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics.

“We thought: ‘Who can we bring who will take things to the next level?’” says committee member Keith Halsall. “Our overall theme is ‘Exploration’ and we’ve got three fantastic people to embody that. I saw The Rev Coles at The Edinburgh Fringe last year; he really is very funny and his stories from the pulpit are every bit as shocking as they are from the world of pop music.”

Keith is also looking forward to Historic Transport Day taking place on June 23, which will include a flypast of the RAF’s last Dakota C47.

“I walk round the vehicles on the May Queen Field thinking: ‘I used to have one of those.’” laughs Keith, who is a former director of Performing Arts for the Arts Council for the North West. “What’s historic to some is living memory to me.”

Warrington Guardian: Lymm Transport Day

Lymm Transport Day is a festival highlight

Keith has lived in the village since 1993 – having moved there so that his children could grow up being able to take a walk from their doorstep.

“There are a number of guided walks on the festival programme,” explains Keith, who has toured with theatre and opera companies all around the UK. “Lymm is very beautiful walking country; you see baby swans and ducks on the water. The Pennine Trail cuts straight through the village, which is a linear oasis of nature.

“We get runners and orienteers, walkers and canal boat owners coming to Lymm, so we wanted to create a programme that reflects the vibrancy of the village and the widespread interest people show in it.”

With more than 50 events including art exhibitions, live music and poetry secured on the bill, the committee members can feel proud of accomplishing their mission.

Others in Lymm appreciate that the festival acts as a showcase for the village to the outside world.

We find Raffi Der Haroutunian in Collect Art – a gallery at 29 The Cross, which is home to such notable pieces as a genuine LS Lowry (‘Two Figures in Snow’, 1968) and a £30k sculpture by Emma Rodgers entitled ‘Large Raging Bull’, which appeared in the Marvel movie Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Warrington Guardian:

The bull is on show

“Lymm is an incredible village,” says Raffi, who runs Blackmore Gallery, which is located inside Collect Art. “I worked here for 25 years; then after we had my little one, we moved from Manchester to be here. I want my kids to be brought up in a place like this.”

Art lovers would do well to take the opportunity of the festival to call in at Collect Art, which is home to stunning pieces that come under the umbrella of 20th century modern. As an agent to the estate of Theodore Major, who was a contemporary of Lowry, Collect Art offers the opportunity to drink in his moody monochrome originals, as well as pieces by Ghislaine Howard, Geoffrey Key and Blek le Rat.

Over at ladieswear store Jessobel, Natalie Holt is also looking forward to the festival. A Wilmslow resident, she pops over to Lymm to help her friend Karen Taylor, who named the boutique after her daughters Jessica and Isobel, with Isobel being crowned this year’s Lymm May Queen.

“Someone has already been in to hide a clue on the treasure hunt,” smiles Natalie. “There’s a real sense of community here… you can feel it.”

Jessobel have recently introduced a new clothing line, Laurie & Joe, which is favoured by reality TV stars; however, the floaty beach dress Natalie points out retailing at £220 is an anomaly rather than the rule. “We offer current, on trend, wearable clothes at affordable prices,” she explains.

“Ladies like to go into the village for lunch and then pop in to see what’s new. We tend to only stock one of each size and one of each colour in every design so people aren’t wearing the same thing. The stock moves very quickly and we have a full range of accessories to complete your look.”

Whether visitors want to shop for high fashion, explore great works of art or simply to lose themselves in a calendar of activities for people of all ages, Lymm Festival is the perfect springboard to discover the “very nice village” that Ann Johnstone calls “home”.

“We want to deliver a great festival, but that’s only one event on our calendar,” she adds. “From the Duck Race and May Queen to the Lymm Dickensian Christmas Festival, there’s always something happening here.”