Settle Flowerpot Festival Celebrates 10th Year
The residents of Settle, a small market town in the Yorkshire Dales, have been pottering about for a decade, drawing visitors from far and wide. As the annual Settle Flowerpot Festival gets underway this summer, the community has been reminiscing how this whimsical initiative has become one of Yorkshire’s favourite summer-long attractions.
Running from 15th July through to 3rd September, part of the Festival’s attraction is that it’s free and genuinely appeals to all ages. This year more than 150 flowerpot displays adorn the streets of the town and it is estimated that several thousand flowerpots have been used to create the diverse and entertaining exhibits, ranging from a tiny bee to a very large Plantpotosaurus.
The Festival unites the town each year as Individual households, business and community groups come together to contribute their creative installations guaranteed to raise a smile.
The idea for the Festival was originally conceived in 2013 by the Vibrant Settle Community Partnership, an initiative spearheaded by local residents, Steve Amphlett and Tony Hardwick, who were later joined by Richard Handscombe and a small team of enthusiastic volunteers. The objective then and now is to encourage the economic sustainability of Settle, a town with an ageing demographic of just 2,500 people which has not significantly increased in over 100 years. The hope is that the festival helps to support the many independent shops to survive by not only attracting visitors to the town but also keeping them entertained there for a few hours. It also aims to encourage exploration beyond the picturesque market square.
Rather than limiting the event to a fleeting or intensive weekend or week, the nature of the Festival means that it can run all summer to support and boost the normal running of the town. After the initial effort in creating each exhibit, it runs without expensive financial overheads or huge demands in terms of volunteers’ time.
Steve Amphlett explains “We had no idea it would take off the way it has done. We’re delighted that here we are celebrating 10 years of the Festival and everyone is still just as enthusiastic and creative. As organizers we do little other than encourage people to get involved and get creative. There is no theme for the festival other than ‘make people smile!’, so people can create whatever takes their fancy. There are no prizes, and no permissions required, so visitors are also welcome to have a go themselves, bringing along their own exhibit to take a photograph of it in situ and post on the Festival’s Facebook page.“
The Festival has attracted attention over the years from The Great Exhibition of The North, which celebrates great art, culture, design and innovation and was featured on Susan Calman’s Grand Day Out series on Channel 5 last year.
There have been some amazing creations, including, in 2018, a 10ft climber mounted on the face of Castleberg Crag overlooking the town which lit up with 600 LEDs at night, and a large blue crayfish suspended from the ancient Settle Bridge over the River Ribble in 2021.
The nature of the festival meant that it was of the few that were able to keep going through the COVID pandemic as all the exhibits are outdoors and as no one had to touch anything, people could just visit to enjoy the creative fun on display. The town’s setting on the edge of the Three Peaks places it firmly in fabulous walking country which added to the appeal.
The Festival this year promises to be as popular as ever. Three different trails have been created to help visitors armed with a free town map to discover the latest exhibits; the Town Centre trail, Riverside & Giggleswick, and Upper Settle. Optional detailed trail quiz sheets are available at £3, each with around 50 varied educational and entertaining questions aimed at all ages and naturally relating to the exhibits.
The sponsor of the 2023 Festival is Watershed Mill Visitor Centre, who have generously provided space dubbed The Potting Shed” where many of the displays have been made and which hosts flowerpot workshops for children run throughout August on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. These must be pre-booked due to their popularity.