In 2015 the Court Leet took over the running of the Warwick Beer Festival, but whereas the planning for the event took the best part of a year, the organisers only had six weeks to make the event happen as the previous organisers backed out at the last minute.
A hastily arranged meeting with Huw Williams the Race Course manager to check the availability went ahead and luckily there had been no booking for the marquee, so we had a venue and the clock was ticking to arrange a Beer Festival. Next on the list was to organise a committee and start work and to order the beer and cider, build and develop a website, start Facebook and Twitter pages, find some sponsors for the event, arrange printing and publicity, find a willing workforce to man the event, sell advance tickets, arrange for some musicians to play during the sessions and lastly some racking to put the beer onto and some coolers to keep it cool as it gets very hot in the marquee.
So five weeks to festival time and a huge undertaking by the Court as we had never run an event like this, as well as a huge financial risk as well. One of the many people who was looking forward to the event was the Court Leet Ale taster, Graham Sutherland, as he was going to have over 40 beers to sample and make sure they were ‘fit and wholesome and suitable for the townspeople of Warwick to drink’. To this day I’m pretty unsure as to whether he managed the feat or not.
Time marched on and suddenly the event was here, as at 4pm on Friday 17th July we opened to the beer drinkers of Warwick and everyone had their fingers crossed it would be a success. All the worry was soon put to one side as people started arriving and the musicians were playing and glasses of beer and cider were being sold and enjoyed. To say the event was a success would be an understatement, we had to arrange for more beer and cider to be collected from some breweries on the Saturday morning and we still ran out Saturday evening. In fact the attendance was double the previous years. Everyone who attended had enjoyed themselves and many said they looked forward to the following year.
The most enjoyable part was counting the money and we had raised more than any previous Warwick Beer Festival, but this then gave us another problem, what to do with the money. So the Court Leet formed a Grants Committee and invited local needy people and charities to apply for a grant. It was found that this became the most rewarding part of the festival helping our fellow townspeople.
When the dust had settled and we had raised over £15k the committee felt really proud of such a successful first event. The ironic thing was that none of the committee drank beer and had never even been to a Beer Festival, except one (guess who that is), but helped make it a success and looked forward to planning the next year’s festival, but at a more leisurely pace.
The event continued to grow over the next few years with attendance up and the choice of beers and cider to drink increased as well.
In 2016 and 2017 we continued to use the Racecourse marquee as at the time it was felt it was the perfect venue, well where else can you find a marquee with chandeliers in it. Unfortunately good things always come to an end and a new venue had to be found for the 2018 Festival. We moved just along the Hampton Road to the West End Centre and the home of the Warwick Marching Band. Superb facilities that had all just been freshly refurbished, a huge stage for the musicians to play on and a Prosecco Bar. The event and venue promised so much, unfortunately the only obstacle in making the event a huge success was England playing in the World Cup. Even though attendance was down on previous years we still made a good profit, which meant more money for our grants Committee to distribute to Warwick needy and Charities.
In 2019 we had a major change in the direction of the Festival and shank the size of the event as it had become virtually a full time job for the committee. We planned to go from 86 beers to 45 and 26 ciders to 16 but retaining the prosecco bar and the musicians. The event was also moved to a town centre venue, Pageant Gardens, which is the spiritual home of the Court Leet. We had come home.
It was a huge success, and even heavy rain on the Friday did not deter the Warwick people turning out in the hundreds to support us, never have I seen so many people standing in the rain queuing to get into the gardens, to then stand or sit , drink and listen to the music. A wonderful sight and again everyone is enjoying themselves.
The 2020 festival was cancelled due to the Covid Pandemic and with vaccine and rates of infection dropping its planned to return there in July 2021 to continue what has become a firm favourite with Warwicks townspeople who have helped raise well over £50,000 in the 5 years the Court Leet has run the event.
As a spin off from our beer festival, the Master of the Lord Leycester Hospital Heidi Meyer who was helping one year suggested that she would like a festival there to help raise funds for the Hospital. So the Lord leycester Hospital Beer Festival was invented and in three years almost £15,000 has been raised. The Court Leet runs the event but all the profit goes to the hospital to help maintain the buildings etc.
So in five years the Court Leet has raised £65,000 that has all gone back to supporting the town we all love helping people and to make it a nicer place to live in.
There are countless people who without their help, support, sponsorship etc the Court Leet would not have raised this vast amount of money, and to them I would like to say a huge thank you and hopefully will see you all on 9th and 10th July 2021 in Pageant Gardens.