Wonderful celebration of Georgian heritage

The Age of Wonder was alive and well in Stamford over the weekend as the town hosted its fourth Georgian Festival.

Tens of thousands attended South Kesteven District Council's spectacular four-day event celebrating Georgian England's period of discovery and invention.

An estimated 6,000 people packed St George's Square on Saturday night after a lantern parade through the streets ended with live performances and a stunning animation by Electric Egg projected on to the walls of Browne's Hospital telling the story of Millicent Stanley, a Stamford girl whose dream came true when she won a flight in a hot air balloon.

One of the highlights produced an audible gasp as a huge balloon appeared floating over the heads of the crowd complete with an aerial acrobatic display performed beneath the basket.

Hundreds of schoolchildren lit up the night as they took part in the lantern parade led by Army Redcoats.

The family-friendly festival featured lots of free attractions and performances with military re-enactments and dancing on the Meadows, street entertainers, stilt walkers, guided town walks and tours of the Town Hall.

Many visitors entered into the Georgian spirit, dressing up in period costume, following the example of festival guest Zack Pinsent, the Brighton tailor who dresses as a Regency gentleman every day.

Horse-drawn carriage rides were one of the most popular attractions, both around the town centre and the grounds of Burghley Park.

Full house signs went up on many of the festival events, with Friday night's costume ball attracting costumed guests from all over the UK.

The previous evening's opening events were all packed, from Graham Dixon's talk on Georgian Art at the Oswald Elliott Hall, to an organ recital at Burghley House and the Eboracum Baroque in St Martin's Church.

Local playwright Hilary Spiers' specially commissioned promenade play, Mrs Siddons' Dressing Room, was sold out across its ten performances as were Robert Loomes' The Art and Mystery of Clockmaking tours. Actors Robert Powell and Susan Jameson attracted a full theatre for A Celebration of Jane Austen and the festival sign-off, with Adrian Lukis reprising his Mr Wickham role, played to another packed audience.

The Leader of SKDC, Cllr Kelham Cooke, said: "This has been another superb Georgian Festival, part of the council's commitment to supporting cultural events across South Kesteven, providing something for everyone, with opportunities for real community spirit.

 "It is testimony to the success of Stamford Georgian that despite the awful weather, people from near and wide still took to our cobbled streets in their thousands to make this year's festival a resounding success."

SKDC's Head of Arts Michael Cross said: "We would like to thank the residents of Stamford for their support and patience during the festival. None of this would be possible without their co-operation.

"It was a pleasure to see how many town residents and visitors embraced the Georgian spirit. There was delight on people's faces and the feedback across the whole programme, in terms of quality and variety, has been fantastic."