After spending two years as a Digital Intern for the Wantage Summer Festival. I have learned a lot about how a Grassroots Festival involves the wider community in a way that successfully showcases this town’s, and the surrounding area’s, best qualities. A Grassroots Festival is an event that is run purely by a community of people and Wantage is certainly a perfect example of this.
I spoke with one of the co-chairs of the Festival, Sylwia Korsak, who on top of taking on the task of organizing the Festival alongside Linda Baines, is a social media marketer who works with international NGO’s. Interestingly, Sylwia said that despite the past few years’ increase in awareness, the involvement of the community has not increased largely, having always been just as successful in previous years. This indicates just how close-knit the local area is and how dedicated everyone is to showcase their work. Within the local area, the majority of businesses are small and sustained within a family. This makes for a very supportive collection of people.
In particular, during this year’s Festival, Sylwia visited the Unami Food and Craft Fair and she mentioned that the people there, alongside the “quality art”, created a “safe and unique” environment that she feels comfortable for her son to go and take shelter from the rain, knowing that he will be taken care of by the wonderful people. This is the kind of example that the Wantage Summer Festival brings to light. As it states on the website, the Festival’s values are community, respect, and inclusiveness. Each and every event aims to bring people together and raise awareness of the talents and opportunities the people can offer within the community.
This Festival, having been started over twenty years ago stands for everything the area around Wantage is and the fact that it is still going after this many years is a sign of the resilience that keeps this town going despite it not being a sprawling metropolis of tourism or popularity. This town is different. This town centers around the people who live here and how we work together as a community. The Festival is just a symbol of that. Sylwia stated after attending events such as the Lego Exhibition last year and the Challow Music Festival, that the inclusiveness of these gatherings and how there was something for everyone, whatever gender or age is really what sets this town a part and the Festival, for her, is a symbol of that. I attended the opening of the Wantage Tennis Club last year and after seeing everyone participating in some way, I agree with her. This is what community means; we each respect each other and make sure everyone plays a part in the celebration of our town.
Sylwia Korsak and Linda Baines, as well as the rest of the team and those who organise their own events, deserve a massive amount of gratitude for showing everyone that we can all work alongside each other in a way that we all enjoy and that brings people together and creates new friendships just like Sylwia and those at the Vale and Downland Museum.
Written by Chloe Aston